Growing up I used to think all bagels were the same. I mean what did I know? I was a small-town girl living in the outskirts of Pittsburgh. Bagels weren’t a ‘burgh thing. We were pierogies, sandwiches with fries on them, chipped ham, stuffed cabbages, jumbo (that’s bologna for you non-burgh folks), Pittsburgh salads, and Devonshire sandwiches (God I love those!). But Bagels? No, bagels were meant for New York. It was one of those things that I just knew ‘how it was’ meaning only the best bagels come from New York even though I had never tried one… that is until I got a job that required me to travel extensively to Manhattan.
I can still remember my first meal when I arrived there. It was about 7:30 am as my plane was super early and I didn’t have to be in the office until 9. Starving and wonder-eyed – I mean it was the Big Apple here people after all I found my way to this little coffee shop about 2 blocks from the office. I sat down at the counter, laptop bag around my knees, and looked at the menu. Eggs, toast, bagels, fruit, yogurt, and milk/juice. Honestly, it was pretty much that bleak.
Kinda reminded me of that scene from ‘My Cousin Vinny’ where they sit down at the local restaurant and ask for a menu. They open it up and see 3 things – Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. That’s pretty much how this place was. So I ordered a bagel with a schmear (cream cheese – I asked for cream cheese and the waitress said “okay schmear!”) and a juice. $27 later – yes twenty-seven dollars for a bagel with cream cheese and a glass of juice, I was biting into one of the best, no wait… THE BEST bagels I have ever had in my life.
This thing was chewy but tender, so flavorful but not heavy. And the taste. Unlike any bagel, I had ever had. I think that trip I must have eaten a dozen myself because they were just addictive. For years I tried to replicate them and can come really, really close but it’s just not quite the same. Honestly, when folks say it’s the water, IT’S THE WATER! Seriously if I didn’t live that far from NY I’d fill up jugs and bring them home just to make my own bagels. I’d need like a bagel freezer! So instead when we visit Mr. Fantabulous’ family that is still there we stock up.
Now another thing that’s different about their bagels is the cream cheese they use. It’s light and airy. For years we didn’t have ‘whipped’ cream cheese but thankfully you now can buy it in the store or make your own (like I explain below). For me, the cream cheese spread/schmear is just as important as the bagel itself.
It’s kind of like that old argument of what makes a pizza good – is it the crust, is it the sauce or is it the cheese? For me, it’s everything. You can have an awesome crust but absolutely horrific sauce and just blah cheese. A good chef will know that while the sum of the parts ultimately defines the outcome of the dish, it’s the quality and taste of each ingredient that matter the most. If you start with sucky parts you end up with a sucky or at best, mediocre dish.
So even though I’d bring home 2-3 dozen of their face-sized bagels I still had ‘Pittsburgh’ cream cheese. And while it was good, it wasn’t the same as the NY stuff. Well since I hadn’t any trips planned to NY anytime soon I decided to ‘whip up’ my own. I started with just whipping standard block cream cheese. Yeah, wasn’t quite the same. It didn’t dawn on me to try adding cream to it until I was in the middle of starting to make my cream cheese frosting. It was like that ‘AH-HA!’ lightbulb moment. By whipping the cream cheese and very slowly whipping in a teensy bit of cream it allowed me to incorporate air into the cream cheese and make it light and fluffy just like the New York stuff.
Once I figured that out I was golden and one happy, fat carb-laden camper. Yeah… carbs. Those evil but oh-so-delicious things! Carbs, specifically bread/bagels are my downfalls. Like I’d be happy with a bowl of hot pasta sauce sprinkled with cheese and a big fat chunk of warm, buttered bread. No noodles, no meatballs – just that. HOWEVER, carbs are my nemesis. They are the reason why my thighs have way more jiggle than I like, I’ll get that peaking over the top muffin top that drives me NUTS at the gym, or when Mr. Fantabulous wraps his arms around me and says ‘Oh, what’s this???’ as he pinches a chub roll. LOL
Unfortunately, this is that one food that I struggle with in my mantra of everything in moderation. I can do a bagel maybe once every 3 weeks because they are so heavy, have a bajillion calories (though I don’t count calories), and super high in carbs. Now sure you’re probably saying “But Lor, eat the carb-free stuff” Um no thank you. I’d prefer not to eat cardboard or a brick. Plus um.. no, simply put, no. When it comes to bagels and bread there is no substitute.
Anywho.. back to this story and my Everything Bagel Cream Cheese spread. My all-time favorite bagel is the everything bagel followed by an asiago cheese one. For years I just went with the plain cream cheese as that’s what Mr. Fantabulous likes. Well, the one morning as I was in the process of making our bagels when some of the everything bagel toppings fell off of my bagel and into my cream cheese. And that’s when it hit me! Everything Bagel Cream Cheese Spread (Schmear)! As you read in my Everything Bagel Seasoning Blend, that blend took me a while to develop but once I did I was set!
I whipped up 8 ounces of cream cheese and then started adding in the seasoning. I started off with just a teaspoon and found for me about 2 Tbl was perfect for the consistency. I like a good seasoning blend in mine but if you start off slow and taste as you go. But watch, before you know it you’ll have ‘tasted’ it all before it’s even done. Not that I would know anything about that happening *wink*
Now full disclosure Mr. Fantabulous will not eat this blend. It’s not a ‘New York’ thing. The man is very traditional when it comes to his New York ways though he has admitted that my bagels are about the best he’s ever had outside of New York. So I’m completely fine keeping his bagels plain with schmear and loading up mine with a healthy schmear of this blend!
When I first came up with this recipe I had a friend that was coming home from New York so I had her pick me up some bagels. Dear God how they are awesome! Now a true test, for me, was to test this spread on an authentic New York bagel. I mean it is after all a LEGIT bagel here people. And if it wasn’t worthy enough, it meant I was sacrificing one of the precious gems (granted still delicious) but what if it wasn’t good enough? Well, folks let me tell you what – this EXCEEDED my expectations for this New York bagel. It was utterly PERFECT! Like I wanted to shut off the lights, light a candle, pour a glass of wine (yes with a bagel), put on some Frank Sinatra, and relax.
IT. WAS. PERFECT!
So yes when I say this is the ONLY cream cheese spread worthy of a New York bagel, believe it!Print
- 16 ounces whipped cream cheese *see note
- 3–4 Tbl Everything Bagel Seasoning Blend
- 3–4 Tbl heavy cream or half & half (only if using block cream cheese)
- In a bowl gently stir together the whipped cream cheese and the Everything Bagel Seasoning Blend.
- Cover and place in the fridge for an hour in order for the flavors to marry.
- Enjoy your favorite bagel!
I buy whipped cream cheese. If you are using block cream cheese, ensure that it’s at room temperature and then place in a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Start on low to cream then eventually whip. Add the cream or half in half in gradually to allow it to be smoother and creamier with a light and airy texture.