“I always wanted to eat. I wanted to understand food from outside the environment in which I grew up,” says Brooklyn-born Mushka Haskelevich, 24, who grew up in an ultra-Orthodox family. At 14, she left home to go to school in Maryland, still in a religious framework, but far from her parents’ eyes. Although she no longer consider herself religious, at 18 she came to Israel to study at a girls’ seminary. “It wasn’t a very strict place. I loved it in Israel and I felt I’d be freer here, so I decided I would make aliya.” She went back to New York to save money, worked in various restaurants (“Not as a cook, but I learned a lot about food and the restaurant business”) and on the last day of 2013 she moved to Israel and settled in Jerusalem.
Here she worked in restaurants as a bartender, waitress and shift manager before finally deciding to enter the kitchen. “I got tired of the constant interaction with people, and by then I’d learned a lot about food and cooking. Eventually I was ready to take this step.” It happened when she met Yoav Mizrahi, who is still her partner today, and whose family owned the well-known Café Mizrahi in Mahaneh Yehuda (which has since closed). “They needed help in the kitchen, so I started working there as a baker. Everything I know about dough I learned from Moran, his sister, who was the restaurant’s pastry chef.” She went on to work at Anna restaurant as a cook, and even after leaving, her passion for cooking never waned.
Her choice of a bagel recipe has significance for her, and the filling connects her childhood with her adult life: “For me, the bagel is something that life always revolved around. I grew up in a Haredi home, and bagels were a regular thing. Every Sunday we would eat bagels with lox and cream cheese. When I started leaving religion, I discovered that the bagel was also a very New York food – I had no idea. Since I left home I haven’t gone back to eating cholent or gefilte fish, but bagels have stayed with me. It’s a kind of food I’m very fond of.”
The day before we took the pictures for this column, the famed New York chef Anthony Bourdain committed suicide. Hezkelwitz says, “Through him, I discovered New York. I was a little girl. I didn’t know where to go. I’d grown up in the city, but in a bubble. I started watching all his shows and reading his books. I discovered that half an hour from my house there was a whole affordable world out there that I could experience just as he did. I followed him a lot. Through him I discovered the bagel with bacon, egg and cheese. It was an exciting discovery – the bagel that I was familiar with but in a whole new form. A bagel sandwich is something that every New Yorker eats and can afford, even if you’re homeless or hungover. It’s something that everyone can experience. It’s tasty and it’s inexpensive. It’s great.”
Don’t be alarmed – the recipe is a bit long, but it’s quite simple and just requires some patience. The result is definitely worth it.
Ingredients (for 10 bagels):
For the dough base:
350 ml (1/3 cup + 2 tbsp) water
250 gr (2 cups + 1 tbsp) bread flour (rich in gluten)
3 gr (1/2 scant tsp) dry yeast
For the dough:
400 gr (3 cups – 2 tbsp) bread flour (rich in gluten)
25 gr (2 heaping tbsp.) white sugar
10 gr (1/2 tbsp) salt
1 tbsp baking soda
2 tbsp honey
Whatever toppings you like: sesame or poppy seeds, sea salt, garlic powder
Prepare the base for the dough: Combine the flour, water and yeast with a spatula or mixer. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place a moist towel on top. Let the bowl sit in a shaded spot outside the refrigerator for three hours, then check that the base has doubled in volume and that bubbles have formed (The bubbles burst when you rap the bowl on the counter). If it doesn’t look like that yet, give it some more time. When the base is ready, combine the remaining dough ingredients – 400 gr bread flour, 25 gr white sugar and 10 gr salt in the bowl of a mixer. Mix on medium speed using the dough hook and gradually add in the base. Let the mixer work for 15 minutes until a smooth and uniform dough is obtained.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and brush it with a little olive or other oil. Divide the dough into 10 pieces, forming each into a ball (Do not flatten the balls). At this stage it’s important to work quickly because we don’t want the dough to warm up. Place the dough balls on the oiled parchment paper, cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate for half an hour.
Remove the baking sheet from the refrigerator and form the dough balls into bagel shapes: Roll the ball in your hands and gently start to form a hole in the middle. Use two fingers to create a hole that’s not too small and not too big.
Return the bagels to the lined baking sheet (They are now a bit larger than before, so an additional sheet may be needed). Cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (or 10 hours). This last step is optional, but Mushka Hezkelwitz says that, after much experimentation, she has found that the long refrigeration produces a better texture and crust and a richer flavor.
Remove the baking sheet from the refrigerator and let sit for two hours (still covered). Bring 5 liters of water to boil in a large pot. When the water is boiling, add the baking soda and the honey. With a slotted spoon, place the bagels in the boiling water three at a time (so as not to crowd them). Let them boil for two minutes then flip them and let them boil for another two minutes. Remove them from the water with the slotted spoon and place on a rack. At this stage, you can sprinkle on the toppings you like: poppy seeds, sesame, coarse salt, garlic powder and so on.
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius. When the oven is hot, bake the bagels for 8 minutes. Then turn the baking sheet around and let them bake for another 8 minutes. Keep a close eye on them in the last couple of minutes, as they may be ready before the second 8 minutes are up. As soon as they are nicely browned, they can be taken out.
Let the bagels cool before slicing (otherwise the texture will be less than ideal).
Bagels with cream cheese, lox and pickled onion
Ingredients (for 10 bagels):
10 slices lox
10 tbsp cream cheese (30 percent fat or more)
1 small jar pickled capers
pinch of coarsely ground black pepper
dill or chopped chives for topping
For the pickled onion:
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 bay leaves
5-6 allspice berries
To make the pickled onion: Peel the onion and cut in half lengthwise. Slice as thinly as possible and place the slices in a small jar. Pour in just enough wine vinegar to cover the onion. Add the bay leaves and allspice berries. Close the jar tightly. The onion will be ready in just 15 minutes (and will keep in the jar in the refrigerator for two weeks).
Slice a bagel and spread it with cream cheese. Place a slice of lox on the bagel and sprinkle on a few capers, some pickled onion and black pepper. Add dill or chives if desired, close the sandwich and serve.