The NYC Bagelry That Uses 'Spiritual' Vegetable Yeast (And How It Tastes)

In New York, bagels aren't a rarity. In fact, they're kind of iconic and you'll find a bagel shop in pretty much every neighborhood. Like many foods in New York City, the original bagel recipe came from outside the U.S. — in this case, during the Eastern European immigration of the late 1800s (per Untapped Cities). Since then, the bagel has been associated with New York City, with the city's bakeries and shops continuing that long tradition.

In SoHo, Baz Bagel makes a splash with specially customized tie-dye bagels, while Shelsky's Brooklyn Bagels go beyond mere sesame and pumpernickel with pretzel bagels and one studded with Sichuan peppercorns. Meanwhile, mainstays like Absolute Bagels and Utopia Bagels have been serving fans from near and far for decades (via The New York Times and Eater).

With so many bagel shops to choose from, it clearly takes something special to get the attention of New Yorkers. One Brooklyn baker has done just that.

Spirituality in a bagel

Sakura Smith is the resident baker at Salter House, a café and boutique in Brooklyn Heights. She's also the brains behind Bagel Bunny Bagels. These aren't your typical New York bagel. Like sourdough bread, they're made with a starter dough, but hers is different. Smith's starter feeds off rice, apples, carrots, and Japanese mountain yam, what she refers to as "bunny food," hence the brand name.

Smith brought the starter in her suitcase when she moved to New York City. She makes the bagels in her apartment late at night, explaining, "baking has become somewhat spiritual for me, a time to take time for myself and actively care for others." (via Thrillist).

It makes sense that Smith finds spirituality in her bagels. A Japanese Buddhist monk created the original starter. He gave some of it to Smith's preschool teacher, who gave some to Smith's mother, who passed it down to her daughter. According to Ayurvedic teachings, just like other fermented foods, sourdough is believed to flush toxins from the body and cleanse the stomach.

Sakura Smith considers the dark of night the perfect time to create her baked goods (per Delecious Food). She starts with the standard process for bagels — mixing and kneading the dough. But while many bakers only allow their dough to rise for a couple of hours (per King Arthur Baking Company), Smith lets it rise overnight before forming the dough into bagels, boiling them, and then baking them early the following morning.

What Bagel Bunny bagels taste like

You may ask yourself what bagels fermented with rice, apples, carrots, and Japanese mountain yam taste like. Reviews on Sakura Smith's website describe them as "so good" and "the best bagel I've ever probably had!" Thrillist describes them as slightly speckled, fluffy, and having the "subtle funk" of sourdough bread but with a hint of sweetness.

Smith's bagels aren't cheap. They cost $5 each (per Bagel Bunny) and are available in Plain, Everything, Black Sesame, or Cinnamon Turmeric Raisin. The bagels are sold three to a bag, and no mixing of flavors is allowed because, really, who wants to taste garlic when you're eating a Cinnamon Raisin Turmeric bagel?

If you find yourself in Brooklyn Heights, Bagel Bunny bagels can be ordered and made available for pickup, or you can head to Salter House or Dimes Market in Chinatown. But don't waste any time getting there. The bagels sell out quickly. Until then, you can drool over pictures of Sakura Smith's bagel creations on her Instagram page.