Little did I know that my modest apartment in Brooklyn was blocks away from Rainbow Bagel ground zero. It’s a craze that swept Instagram in 2016 with delicious headlines proclaiming that Rainbow Bagels were the new Cronut. But what is a Rainbow Bagel exactly? It’s a trippy, brightly-colored swirly bagel that’s slightly sweet – it’s a sight to behold! The bagels are sold by the Bagel Store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. A few months ago, I recall wandering in on a Sunday morning to order my everything bagel, toasted with scallion cream cheese and I spotted the beautiful rainbow bagels. Colored food isn’t really my thing, so I passed, not knowing the media storm that was to come. Since then, the second location of the Bagel Store on Bedford Ave has shut down due to high demand. Did I mention there’s funfetti cream cheese? When I went back to taste one, the server declined to toast my bagel. “It burns the colors,” he said.
If you don’t happen to live within 5 blocks of the rainbow bagel shop, perhaps you’d like to know how to make them for yourself? Epicurious has a wonderful bagel recipe which I combined with one brave blogger’s rainbow bagel attempt. My rainbow bagels looked NOTHING like the real thing. There must be some sort of secret industrial food dye that makes the colors so bright. No amount of baker’s food coloring could have produced the stunning yellow, pink, blue and purple shades of the rainbow. The recipe is actually easy to produce if you have two days to spare. The ingredients list is short: bread flour, yeast, barley malt syrup, salt and baking soda. Good luck finding bread flour and barley malt syrup at your local grocery store! Bread flour was shockingly hard to find so I ordered it online.
The recipe instructs you to make the dough first and then let it proof overnight. It’s important to note that you’ll need a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment to get it elastic enough to rise into delicious bagels. I used food coloring to dye four separated dough balls four different colors, and then rolled them all together in one long snake. The rolling part was actually sort of fun, as was the poaching and baking. The eating part was… not so fun. Making bagels requires a serious commitment to perfecting your own recipe. My attempt was certainly not delicious: barely sweet and tasted way too much like flour. My rainbow bagels looked more like a toddler’s Play-Doh project than a psychedelic pastry.
Verdict: Not Worth It.