No secret ingredients, just love, at North Texas’ Starship Bagel

The shop recently won Best Bagel at New York BagelFest.

By Michael MarksNovember 3, 2023 12:02 pm,

If you’re looking for the best brisket or barbacoa you can find, then Texas is certainly the place to be. But if you’re in the mood for a really good bagel, that might be a tougher ask.

There is an exception, however, in North Texas. With locations in Lewisville and Dallas, Starship Bagel is turning heads in the bagel world. The shop won the prestigious “Best Bagel” award recently at the New York BagelFest.

Its founder, Oren Salomon, spoke to the Standard about making great bagels. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: Congratulations on this extraordinary recognition for your bagels. How did you get into this business in the first place?

Oren Salomon: Oh, really I was just trying to make a great bagel for myself. This started in my home kitchen about six years ago. And when I made the first batch, I had friends over, and they tried them, and they put money on the table and forced me to be their bagel guy and make bagels for them next Sunday.

Had you had experience with good bagels versus bad bagels before?

Well, growing up in Dallas, you know, it was mostly bad bagels for me, but I was born in Brooklyn and I had family in New York, so I’d go back like every year. So I always had a good reference point for what a good bagel was. But sadly, I only get to eat them once a year.

Well, so what qualities were lacking in the bagels that you had tried before you did your own experimentation?

Well, I mean, I have a different perspective now as someone who’s worked on this recipe extensively. But at the time, from the customer’s perspective, all the bagels just tasted like white bread. And, you know, they worked as bread vehicles to get cream cheese in your mouth. You still could enjoy the tradition of all the accouterments. But the bagel piece specifically, it was really lacking. 

Well, what makes a good bagel? I guess that’s what you’re sort of hinting at here. But strip it down for us, if you could. What makes a great plain bagel?

Yeah, and you know, that’s the competition that I won in New York. The best bagel was a blind taste test of the plain bagel. And the plain bagel is the bagel I always try when I go to other shops to evaluate their quality.

And to me, it’s quite simple. It’s the most bagel bagel, you know? Everyone is going to have access to similar toppings, you know. You can dial the difference between the poppy, sesame, onion and garlic, but when you strip it down to just a plain bagel, you really get into, you know, the dough and the baking and the technique and the qualities that you’re trying to get out of the bagel. They’re all there and, honestly, most present in the plain bagel.

What you’re looking for is the duality of these two textures, this amazing crunch that you get right when you bite into the crust of the bagel and then a very, very chewy crumb. And this leads to a bite that, you know, lasts in your mouth a little bit longer. And you really get a chance to appreciate the flavor of the dough, which if it’s properly fermented, you’ll get this nice harmony between sweet, salty malty and a little bit of yeasty flavor.

And I think that that combination that’s evident in every bite – that kind of lasts longer than just that initial tear into it and just fades away to the cream cheese of the lox – like that’s what you’re looking for, is a bread that can really balance all of those flavors.

So that’s what a perfect plain bagel is to me and that’s what I’ve been pursuing for six years, and that’s what we serve every day at Starship Bagel.

I’m not going to ask you for any trade secrets or anything, but when it comes down to one ingredient, do you have like a secret ingredient, something locked away in the safe that you’re not going to reveal that kind of puts yours over?

No, honestly, we’re really open. We don’t really have any secrets. We try to just promote, you know, an open bagel and baking culture in general. I think there’s not enough good baked goods out there. So I’m actually trying to help people get to that level with whatever their product is.

But when it comes to bagels, it’s really not a secret. It’s just most people are not willing to use these ingredients. But the two ingredients that you really need to make a really good bagel are high gluten flour and malt serum.

But really the main ingredient, I have to say, for bagels or any other food is going to be love. And you have to be able and willing to put your passion into it and to just keep working at it until you get the qualities that you want.

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