For at least the past decade, Minnesota has become a tremendous outlet for foodies with numerous high-end, high-level restaurants that have gotten national acclaim. But one of the areas that the Twin Cities has fallen woefully short in is bagels. The bagel dates back more than 400 years to Poland’s Jewish community and is considered one of the staple Judaic foods, but we’ve yet to find a truly great one in Minnesota.
I’m convinced the search is over, thanks to two non-Jews and their passion for crafting a better bagel.
Sisters Kate and Jen Lloyd spent better than a year perfecting their recipe, founded Rise Bagel Co. and are in their third summer at local farmer’s markets. But with so many really good bakeries in the Twin Cities, why has no one taken on the bagel?
“That was our question,” Jen said. “Is it a bigger challenge than we even think? Are they tougher to make? That kind of led us to see if we can even make a bagel we were happy with. Through that process, we started working on a recipe.”
Said Kate: “We spent at least a year on that. Maybe more. Getting together on the weekends, consulting the internet and YouTube videos and cookbooks. There was a lot of trial and error.”
Added to the process was that the Chanhassen natives kept all of this was top secret; the Lloyd’s kept their hobby quiet from friends and family until they had a product they were happy with. Recipe development started in 2013 and went into 2014. Once they settled on a recipe that they liked, they knew they had a business that could get off the ground.
“Very early on, that’s what prompted the whole idea, was us going into business ideas together,” Jen said.
Part of the process of creating a better bagel was travelling the continent to sample the marquee bagels, including trips to New York, Montreal and San Francisco. Their travels gave them an opportunity to not only taste, but to see how the shops operated, scaled recipes up, and get advice.
“We looked at a lot of artisan bagel-makers around the country to see how they came to have a shop or were selling their products,” Jen said. “A lot of them used farmer’s markets to test their products, and the advice we got from a lot from other bakers around town was to test them there and see if people like them.”
They do. The Lloyds alternate their weekends between the Fulton Farmer’s Market (4901 Chowen Ave. S.) and Kingfield Farmers Market (4310 Nicollet Ave. S.). At their Aug. 14 trip to Kingfield, the pair sold all 745 bagels that they had prepared, a process that takes a lot of time in their commercial kitchen space at City Food Studio that they share with 25 other artisan food purveyors. If that isn’t enough, they have day jobs: Kate works at Room & Board doing public relations and marketing, while Jen works at Nordicware in product sourcing. On market days, Kate typically works the “front of the house” taking orders, while Jen assembles.
Farmers markets make for long days. For a Saturday market, the duo will be in the kitchen from 4-9 p.m. on Friday, go home, shower, pack up, sleep for a few hours and go back to the kitchen at 2:30 a.m. They will then bake off all the bagels and then pack up and head to the market. It’s a 12-hour day from the time we get to the kitchen and come back to clean up.
However, the handmade, organic bagels are worth the work. The Lloyds bring six different flavors: plain, salt, poppy, sesame and everything – their biggest seller by far – each week, plus a rotating specialty bagel. Recently that flavor was asiago, but it has, in the past, been jalapeño-cheddar, cinnamon-raisin or onion. They also use organic cream cheese which they hand-blend to make flavors like chive and toasted walnut-honey, in addition to plain. No matter which topping, the bagels won’t taste like anything else offered in town.
“From our perspective, the bagel has gone from what we’re creating to what we call an oversized ‘roll-with-hole,'” Jen lamented. “There is no texture, there is no contrast between the exterior and interior. You see that coming back.”
The salt bagel with plain cream cheese offered a great balance of saltiness and creaminess. The salt has the potential to overpower without the shmear, but the contrast of flavors and textures together is excellent. I picked a sesame bagel that was slightly more browned on the top which brought out a really nice nutty flavor from the sesame seeds, but also a great crust while keeping a soft, chewy inside. It’s everything you expect a bagel to be.
“It’s crisp and chewy, where there’s a contrast between the interior and exterior,” Kate said. “We feel like your jaw should hurt a little bit when you’re done.”
Just because farmer’s market season is (sadly) nearing the end, doesn’t mean you won’t still be able to get their bagels. The Lloyds are contemplating limited High Holiday pre-orders, they’ll have pop-up stores around town as well as indoor farmers markets. Your bagel fix won’t have to wait until next spring.