Milwaukee Chosen for Bruegger’s Next Generation Bakery
The “next generation
bakery prototype,” as Bruegger’s calls it, features an inviting interior with
cushy seating, warm lighting, free Wi-Fi and a large community table. A rustic
brick and stone hearth in the bagel display area gives the bakery an Old World
European feel, while the glass bakery “theater” offers visitors an opportunity
to watch as the bagels are kettle-boiled and baked in the traditional style.
“We’ve learned over
the years that people are fascinated by the bagel-making process,” Greco
explains. “We’ve had bakeries where people couldn’t see the process and they
didn’t like it. Our customers like to be able to see how the bagel is made and
know that it’s fresh.”
One of the reasons
Bruegger’s is such a success—and it is, with 295 locations in 26 states, D.C.
and Toronto serving 87 million bagels and 2.5 million pounds of cream cheese
last year—is that it offers authentic New York-style bagels. This distinction
lies in whether the dough is boiled in water before being baked in an oven
(many devout New York bagel lovers will say
it’s the New York
water that makes the difference, but chef Smith deems this factor a myth).
During his “bagel
cuisine” demonstration, Smith explained that Bruegger’s makes its dough with
five basic building blocks: flour, salt, malt, yeast and water. After it’s
made, the fresh dough is stored in a walk-in cooler aerated by a fan where two things
happen: The yeast starts to develop a stronger flavor, and a tacky skin starts
to develop on the outside of the dough. Because the dough behaves differently
according to temperature and humidity, the experienced Breugger’s bakers rely
on the dough’s texture, sort of like taking a person’s pulse, to determine
whether it’s ready to move on to the next stage.
The bagels are then
submerged in a 50-gallon kettle of boiling water where the yeast activity stops
and the oxygen within the dough starts to expand, forcing the bagels to rise to
the surface. The bagels are pulled from the water, placed on a burlap-covered
surface and flavored with ingredients like sesame or poppy seeds. They are
placed on rotating shelves in an oven the size of a Volkswagen Beetle and
heated to 470 degrees. The end result: a firm, chewy bagel with a golden-brown
Rather than go
through the hands-on process of boiling the dough, many bagel purveyors employ
ovens that inject the bagel with steam to puff up the crust, a method that
results in “a roll with a hole,” Smith says.
While Bruegger’s is known mostly for its New York-style bagels, the fast casual restaurant chain offers a broad menu that includes a number of unique cream cheese flavors, Fair Trade-certified coffee, sandwiches, panini, salads, soups, breads and desserts.