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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

S.F. Rising: Bagels from Sour Flour

Posted By on Wed, Mar 2, 2011 at 5:27 PM

One of Danny Gabriner's free bagels. - JONATHAN KAUFFMAN
  • Jonathan Kauffman
  • One of Danny Gabriner's free bagels.

Sour Flour Bagels

Source: Mondays at La Victoria Bakery, 2937 24th St. (at Alabama), 642-7120.
Price: free (delivery may be available for a fee; contact Sour Flour for details)
Toast-appropriateness: 8/10


Danny Gabriner started making bagels in the middle of 2009, not long after he started up Sour Flour, his quixotic bakery. Gabriner was giving away everything he baked for six months, but even after he began charging for the breads, he continued Bagel Monday, setting them out on a table at La Victoria and letting people take as many as they'd like. SFoodie finally got to the bakery last week in time to snag the last two bagels on the tray, and found that they're not just free but good: Their glossy golden exterior that cracks when you press down on it, and the rounds have just the right solidity and heft; there's a faint prickle of sourness to the crumb, the only signal they're naturally leavened.

Making the bagels, says Gabriner, begins every Sunday morning, when he mixes the dough and lets it rise, occasionally tightening or folding the dough throughout the day. At six o'clock, he returns to the kitchen for the most labor-intensive part: shaping 180 bagels. "We cut the dough into strips and weigh them, pre-shape them by rolling out logs, then let them rest," he describes. "Once we've finished, we start at the beginning, wrapping each strip around the hand and sealing the ring." The bagels then proof throughout the night; in the morning, Gabriner returns to La Victoria's kitchens to boil them for a few minutes, then bake them for 15 to 20 more.

Gabriner says he tweaks the formula every time, and plays around with everything from the basics ― plain, poppy seed, onion ― to salt or even chocolate chip. Does he have an ideal bagel he's trying to replicate? No. "I have an idea," he says, "but since I started making bagels I haven't gone out and done too much tasting. I went to school in New York, and I've always eaten bagels, but I don't know which bakery's bagels I'm trying to emulate." In their sturdiness and robust flavor, Sour Flour's remind us most of Ess-a-Bagel, only smaller and more compact, without the malt-sweet tinge. (It's not missed.)

Gabriner's still not sure where he wants to take his bagels and breads ― weekly bicycle delivery is proving expensive, but that's still his favorite option. If you'd like to register as a (paying) delivery customer, sign up through Sour Flour's website; as an aside, Gabriner also teaches small and individual-instruction break-baking classes. Or stop in at La Victoria on Mondays and hope you get there before the bagels are gone.

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Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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Jonathan Kauffman

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