Meet In Your Kitchen | Berlin’s Best Bagel Baker

by meike peters

This post is part of my new Meet in My Kitchen podcast series:

How did we get to where we are in life and what does food have to do with it.

For months, a friend who knows how much I love to talk, question, and discuss has been bugging me to start a podcast. So thanks to my friend Anne’s persistence, here’s my new baby: the Meet in My Kitchen podcast!

For this new series, I invite people to my tiny Berlin kitchen whose journey in life I find inspiring, to find out how they got to where they are in life, to learn about the struggles they had to overcome, how the highs and lows shaped them – and what food has to do with it. My guests are chefs and home cooks, farmers, bakers, and artists, they are all curious adventurers who share a deep zest for food and life. I also visit each guest in her or his kitchen, or restaurant, or bakery, where they share a recipe with me, which you can find in my blog’s Meet in Your Kitchen series.

You can listen to the Meet in My Kitchen podcast on all common podcast platforms (click here for the links), there will be English and German episodes.

“Food is making other people love me, it’s very manipulative. That’s how I use food!” – Laurel Kratochvila / Fine Bagels

Many years ago, I discovered a small book shop in my Berlin neighborhood, specializing in English literature. It was a quiet, dark space with wooden floors and vintage furniture, and a little counter filled with the loveliest loaf cakes. I came back almost every week, mainly for the sweets, and soon found out that the shop was run by an American/ Czech couple: Laurel from Boston, responsible for baking, and her husband Roman Kratochvila from Prague, taking care of the books.

They left my neighborhood too soon, creating a void that could never be filled, but they re-opened a much brighter and bigger spot just as charming. This became the famous Shakespeare and Sons / Fine Bagels on Berlin’s lively Warschauer Strasse, praised and loved for Jewish baking classics – and good books. Laurel’s bagels, babka/ challah knots, and rugelach are known across town and get me to hop on my bicycle regularly to enjoy her sweet and savory treats.

I’m intrigued by Laurel’s passion and dedication, and her irresistible smile that wipes away all sorrows. She started as a home baker and then deepened her knowledge and education in French bakeries, but she still has this relaxed aura of ‘a friend who’s just baking in her kitchen.’ Laurel treats her dough like a baby, she knows it well, watches and works it precisely, until it unfolds its true beauty.

For this podcast episode, Laurel shared her recipe for Brick Lane bagels with me (named after London’s famous Brick Lane Beigel bakery). She calls it a mix of a New York and a Montreal bagel. Quick to prepare, a little chewy, and perfect for a luscious sandwich filled with salt beef, mustard, and gherkins, you can now satisfy your bagel cravings in your own kitchen any time.

The podcast episode with Laurel Kratochvila is in English. You can listen to the Meet in My Kitchen podcast on all common podcast platforms (click here for the links); there are English and German episodes. You can find all the blog posts about my podcast episodes including my guests’ recipes here on the blog under Meet in Your Kitchen.

Listen to the podcast episode with Laurel on:

Spotify / Apple / Deezer/ Podimo

On Instagram you can follow the podcast @meetinmykitchenpodcast!

Laurel’s Brick Lane Bagels

Makes 12 bagels

  • 1 kg / 7 2/3 cups bread flour or all purpose flour (type 550 in Germany, T55 in France)
  • 50 g / 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 envelope (7 g / 1/4 ounce) fast-acting yeast or 18 g / 2/3 ounce fresh yeast 
  • 10 g / 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 420 ml  / 1 3/4 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 large egg
  • 15 ml / 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • sugar for boiling the bagels
  • sesame and / or poppy seeds for the topping

For the sandwich

  • salt beef, very thinly sliced
  • mustard
  • gherkins, sliced

Preheat the oven to 230°C / 450°F (or the highest temperature setting of your oven). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt then, in a medium bowl, whisk together the water, egg, and vegetable oil, and add to the flour mixture. Mix into a shaggy mass by hand or with a wooden spoon. Then knead by hand for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth. Avoid adding more flour as you knead it. Form the dough into a ball and set into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp cloth and let rise for 30 minutes in a warm environment. Meanwhile, set a large pot of water on the stove to boil.

Divide the dough into 12 pieces and roll them into tight balls, cover with plastic wrap. After ten minutes, press a hole through the middle of each ball of dough with your thumb or elbow (see pictures below). Stretch out the bagel a bit and place on a lightly floured work surface.

Add a couple spoonfuls of sugar to the boiling water. In batches (2-3 bagels at a time), boil the bagels for 30 seconds to 1 minute, flipping them once. Don’t overdo it! Using a slotted spoon or spatula, remove the bagels from the water and transfer to the prepared baking sheets. Top with seeds of your choice. Bake the bagels for about 10 minutes or until golden.

To make the sandwich, cut a bagel in half, stuff it generously with thinly sliced salt beef, drizzle with mustard, top it off with a few slices of gherkins, and close the bagel with its top.

Enjoy!