reprinted from JWeekly.com | Hardly Stickly Bagels
By Andy Altman-Ohr
Jews with gluten intolerance, rejoice! A determined, stay-at-home dad in Oakland has created a gluten-free bagel that you can really sink your teeth into. It’s got a discernible crust and a spongy, springy middle. And — most importantly — it tastes really good, even to a rampant wheat eater such as myself.
“Probably the best gluten-free bagel I’ve ever had,” said my cousin, Jason Forman of San Francisco, a longtime avoider of wheat gluten. “The key is the heft. They have the proper heft. [Other gluten-free bagels] are too light, too soft.”
Odd Bagels, boiled and baked in a communal kitchen in downtown Oakland, are available daily in Berkeley at Saul’s Deli and Berkeley Bowl West and in Oakland at Farley’s East café, and two days a week at Faye’s Video & Espresso in San Francisco.
They also are available via the online delivery service Good Eggs, and will be sold at a pop-up market from 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 26 at 2145 Broadway in Oakland.
The bagels are made with three kinds of rice flour, potato flour and tapioca starch, plus some other ingredients and a touch of molasses (to replicate the distinctive barley malt flavor found in most good bagels). Unlike many gluten-free baked goods, no eggs are used, so Odd Bagels also are vegan.
After tasting them two weeks ago, and enjoying them plain and not toasted (the true test of a good bagel), as well as toasted, I shared my enthusiasm with Saul’s co-owner Peter Levitt. “I was surprised myself,” he replied. “Good bagels are unique for Jews who are gluten intolerant. We’re getting a good response.”
As of last week, Saul’s was stocking about a dozen every weekday, two dozen on weekends (compared with 10-15 dozen per day and 35-40 dozen on Sundays for their regular bagels from Baron Baking).
Odd Bagel was started by Brent Woodard, a 43-year-old who grew up in Santa Cruz and fell in love with bagels when he started at U.C. Berkeley in the late ’80s, when Noah’s was new and making a quality product. Fact is, he had always loved bread, consuming four slices of sourdough a day, he said.
Until April of last year, that is, when found out he was gluten intolerant. An extensive search for good gluten-free bagels left him wanting.
Odd Bagel bagels
“A bagel has a certain look, feel, heft, smell and chew, and none of the gluten-free bagels addressed that. They were just bread with a hole. So I went into the kitchen and started cranking through recipes, mainly for myself,” said Woodard, who isn’t Jewish. “I just wanted to solve it for myself.”
Having left his job in tech support so he could stay at home with his toddler daughter while his wife worked, he had time to keep on trying different flours, ingredients, proportions and combinations.
“I was just cranking through batches and batches of really, really bad bagels,” Woodard said. “They were lumpy. They were gooey.” (That’s when the name Odd Bagel was hatched.)
Finally, after four or five months, he arrived at a smallish (4-5 ounces), hand-rolled bagel that is chewy with a good crust and smell. Another point of pride, he noted: His bagels don’t contain any of the top eight food allergens.
His dough ferments for only a few hours, well short of the 24-hour or even longer processes used by some bagel makers, but they still come out more bagel-y than most chain-store bagels. He makes eight or so varieties (all the standards).
As of last week, he was making about 10-12 dozen a day, but as word gets out on gluten-free blogs and other Bay Area food blogs, Woodard’s life could get a whole lot more hectic. Indeed, he’s already looking to hire a helper.
“I feel I’ve gotten very close to what a bagel is,” he said. “It’s not a bagel, but it’s a bagel.”
$1.50 each at Saul’s Deli, $1.79 at Berkeley Bowl West, $7.50-$8 for a four-pack on GoodEggs.com
www.oddbagel.com; OddBagel on Facebook; @OddBagel on Twitter