How This Gluten-Free Kosher Bakery Creates Some of New York’s Tastiest Bagels

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(New York Jewish Week) – Orly Gottesman started selling gluten-free flour out of love when her then-boyfriend, now husband, Joshua Borenstein, was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2007. During the decade that followed, she went from hobbyist to skilled baking professional, selling her unique blends to various bakeries and home bakers across the country.

But Gottesman really hit their stride in 2018, when the couple was visiting family in New Jersey and decided to take a trip to the Upper West Side. There, near the corner of 82nd Street and Columbus Avenue, they passed a bagel shop for rent.

“I think we should take that,” Borenstein told Gottesman. “You have all these people buying your flour mixes and the bakeries using your mixes. No one can execute the end product like you can.

That’s when the idea for the gluten-free and kosher restaurant and bakery Modern Bread & Bagel was born. The restaurant opened at 472 Columbus Ave. in February 2019 and now produces some 2,250 gluten-free bagels every day to rave reviews. Former New York Times restaurant critic Mimi Sheraton once wrote that a good bagel should give your jaw “a Sunday morning workout” — thanks to intense chewing that’s almost always courtesy of High Gluten Flour – Modern Bread & Bagel’s Gluten Free Bagels prove there are exceptions to the rule.

In fact, its bagels have been named among the best in town by such a prominent authority as Mike Varley, an intrepid New Yorker who recently published the results of a massive bagel-tasting project, Everything Is Everything. After sampling and reviewing bagels from 202 stores on epic treks through the five boroughs, Varley placed Modern Bread & Bagel in a tie for third place for all of New York City and ranked it the second best bagelry in the borough of Manhattan.

“The store experience is wonderful, clean and contemporary,” Varley told New York Jewish Week of Modern Bread & Bagel. “The staff are warm and welcoming and the bagel itself has a different quality to regular bagels. It’s pasty and crispy. The composition of the filling is fantastic. And the fact that it does not contain gluten makes the experience much less cumbersome.

Gottesman relished the criticism. “It was a true testament to the fulfillment of our mission to open a bagel shop that ‘happens to be gluten-free,'” she said. “Bagels are what put us on the map.”

While “gluten-free” has become a hot health trend – similar to the “fat-free” craze of the 1990s – the need for gluten-free products stems from a very real medical condition: celiac disease. , in which the body has an immune response to gluten. When Borenstein was diagnosed, it was relatively rare, although awareness of celiac disease has increased dramatically since then. According to recent estimates, more than 2 million Americans have the condition.

In 2007, however, the celiac diagnosis was devastating for Borenstein, then 20 years old. “Josh told me he was lucky to have met me before all this happened,” Gottesman recalled. Borenstein, Gottesman said, is “a real foodie” whose family owns Chompie’s, a chain of bagel restaurants in Arizona. Having celiac signaled the end of his consumption of any kind of wheat product.

But Gottesman wasn’t ready to let go of Borenstein’s love of bagels. In 2010, the couple were married and living in Paris for Borenstein’s work. Gottesman didn’t speak French and didn’t have a work visa – so he had plenty of free time. “I thought, when in Paris, to do pastry,” she said. Gottesman found an English-speaking pastry chef and she took baking lessons there.

Gottesman was a natural and eventually became the store owner’s apprentice. After about a year, she decided to enroll in culinary school – landing at the Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts Institute in Sydney, Australia, where the couple moved, again for work at Borenstein. The move to Sydney “ended up being a blessing in disguise,” Gottesman said. “The program in Australia was much more open to me to explore the gluten-free side of baking than the program in Paris was.”

By 2014, Gottesman had finished her baking studies and moved to Arizona for a year to develop gluten-free products for Chompie’s. She created a line called Orly the Baker and made gluten-free bagels, challah rolls, rugelach, babka and cookies.

She returned to Australia in 2015 and worked in a commercial bakery, wholesale a variety of gluten-free items for local bakeries and cafes. At the same time, it is developing a range of gluten-free flours, Blends by Orly, intended for use in many bakery applications. She introduced her line of specialty flours to the market by regularly traveling to the United States to attend trade shows and cooking demonstrations.

Prior to opening Modern Bread & Bagel, Orly Gottesman developed a line of gluten-free flours, Blends by Orly, designed for use in various baking applications. (Courtesy Modern Bread & Bagel/Facebook)

But when the couple stumbled upon this Manhattan rental sign, they decided it was time to open their own boutique. They both felt the Upper West Side was the right place to start. “It has a large Jewish clientele and we’re dealing with bagels and Jewish food,” Gottesman said. They decided to make Modern Bread & Bagel kosher to “more reflect our values,” she said.

Gottesman’s bagels are made from its Manhattan Blend, which contains ancient grains of millet and sorghum. This particular variety of gluten-free flour includes high-protein, gluten-mimicking ingredients, and it adds xanthan gum to the mix to give the dough elasticity.

The amount of water Gottesman uses in his bagel dough is also carefully calibrated. “If there’s too much, it gets fluffy. Too little will dry it out. You need the right balance of water to dough to yeast ratio,” she said. It took Gottesman three years to develop the right proportions.

Gottesman’s efforts paid off, and Modern Bread & Bagel now has a significant niche. Jessica Hanson is a celiac disease advocate who was diagnosed 11 years ago, and she clearly remembers the taste of “regular” bagels. “We’re a family that really loves bagels,” she said. “When I was diagnosed with celiac disease, I mourned the loss of bagels.”

Hanson, who lives in Woodside, Queens, calls Modern Bread & Bagel “a magical place.” As she told New York Jewish Week, “My husband eats gluten and he loves bagels too. He can’t tell the difference between that and a gluten-containing bagel.

“People with celiac disease are used to having to ask a million questions about food preparation,” Hanson added. “When you get something that’s so family and culture and New York specific and you know it’s safe to eat, that’s really meaningful.”

For Gottesman, who now lives in Englewood, New Jersey, such accolades represent the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. “It was really important for us to have a space that didn’t stigmatize gluten-free foods,” she said. “There are times when I get really jaded and discouraged. It’s a tough business. But then you hear people saying this product is life changing. They’re so grateful.

Just as gluten-free bagels are a lifesaver for people with celiac disease, during the pandemic lockdown, bagels also saved Gottesman’s business. “We were inundated with people asking if we could ship the bagels to them,” she said. “Bagels were the focus of our business. They set us apart. »

These days, Modern Bread & Bagel sells its bagels almost every day – through a combination of in-store orders, mail order and orders from its wholesale customers, Black Seed Bagels and Ess-A-Bagel. A second Manhattan Modern Bread & Bagel location opened earlier this month on West 14th Street, and a third location will follow in Woodland Hills, Calif., next month.

“Everyone wants to do something meaningful in their life,” Gottesman said. “The series of events that have happened in my life, from meeting Josh to his celiac diagnosis to our travels around the world, culminated in this moment.”

“God,” Gottesman added, “has a plan.”

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