Driving to the bagel store while still in my pajamas has been a tradition I’ve enjoyed many a Sunday morning. Smeared with cream cheese and finished with lox, red onion and tomato, bagels are simply delicious. You probably enjoy them, like me, from your local bagel shop or grocery store. But how about bagels made by an 11-year-old? That’s right, an 11-year-old. After making bagels at home, Eli started a small business selling them to friends, Baagels by Eli, the double “a” mimics a sheep’s baa. I was fortunate enough to be one of his first customers and can honestly call them the best bagels I’ve ever tasted. You might be used to harder bagels or perhaps very chewy ones with little flavor, but Eli’s bagels were pleasantly fresh and soft bursting with flavor. They were more similar to a croissant than any other bagels I’ve had and that was a plus. The mix of salt and seed on top was the perfect way to top off an already delicious bagel. And, after munching through the bagel delicacy, I had the chance to interview Eli about his bagels.
The question you’re probably asking is how did an 11-year-old start making bagels this good? I’ll let Eli answer: “I made bagels with my family and that was fun and they were really good and I thought it would be a good thing to start a business from…and I thought it would be fun.” Throughout my conversation with Eli, it was obvious that he simply enjoys making bagels and that the basis for the business really was his passion for making the bagels.
Eli says his bagels are fresh and “maybe taste better” than the bagels you’re accustomed to getting at the grocery store or local bagel shop and I can attest they are. But, how he achieves that final taste is a bit of a process. “First, you make a sponge,” Eli says. “You let that rise till it’s bubbly and then you mix that with more flour, yeast, flavorings, and salt. You knead that and cut it into balls. You let them rest and then form them into bagels. Then, you put them in the fridge overnight which allows them to develop flavor more slowly. When you take them out in the morning, they’ve risen a tiny bit and you plop them in a pot of boiling water, flip them over a minute in.” The final step, he told me, was loading on the toppings and putting them in the oven for 10-15 minutes.
I also had the chance to ask Eli some non-bagel related questions, including if he had any memorable meals. He told me when he went to Greece his mom’s cousin caught an octopus and cooked it for him. Since that experience, he’s enjoyed eating octopus. More recently, Eli has also been making ramen. Thanks to his dad becoming interested in the art of the noodle, Eli and his dad spent a full day prepping for a bowl of ramen a few weekends ago. In the end, he assured me it was worth it.
When asked what his future plans for the bagel business are, Eli says he wants to keep it small. He doesn’t plan to start mass production any time soon, no, he’s happier doing a couple orders a weekend. And I’m fine with that, as long as I get my bagels.
Photo credit: Bro D for photo of Eli and bagel with lox. Tina Tryforos for bagel stack.