| The bagel (or sometimes beigel, in Poland also bajgiel, bajgel, precel, obwarzanek) is a food traditionally made of yeasted wheat dough in the form of a roughly hand-sized ring which is boiled and then baked. The result is a dense, chewy, doughy interior with a browned and sometimes crisp exterior.
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It often features seeds, such as poppy or sesame, baked on the outer crust. Other flavor varieties include: salt, onion, garlic, egg, pumpernickel, cinnamon-raisin, "everything", cheese, caraway, whole wheat, multigrain, blueberry, muesli and others.
A related bread product is a bialy, which has no hole, is often onion or garlic-flavored, and is less crispy on the outside. A key ingredient is it's high-gluten flour.
Though often made with sugar, malt syrup or honey, bagels should never be confused with doughnuts (donuts).
New York, Montreal and Quebec City are North America's bagel capitals.
The ideal way to eat a bagel is fresh out of the oven from a reputable and friend-recommended bagel shop.
Refrigerator Storage: If your bagel is not eaten while exiting your favorite bagel shop, let it cool in a paper bag. To keep bagels 5-7 days, they should be stored in a carefully closed paper bag, then wrapped tightly in a plastic bag, and placed in the fridge.
Proper Revival Method: To properly revive a refrigerated bagel to near fresh-baked status, remove bagel from the fridge, slice in two and lightly moisten, or 'banetz' (Yiddish term for 'moisten') surfaces with a small amount of cold water. Toast or bake the bagel until hot throughout and slightly crispy on surfaces. Keep bagels away from microwave ovens as these machines are not a proper means of reheating bagels.
Freezing: Bagels can be frozen quite reliably. Remove air from freezer-bag of room-temperature bagels, freeze. To thaw, moisten lightly banetz (see above) with cool water and bake in toaster-oven or stove. Once half-baked you may cut open then toast to perfection. You may freeze bagels pre-cut to save a step. Bagels that are frozen are good up to six months.
The bagel's history
The bagel originated in Central Europe, probably in Poland. A 1610 document from Krakow mentions "beygls" given as a gift to women in childbirth. This is often cited as the earliest known reference to the bagel, but the document is not clear what a "beygl" is; it may be what is now known as a bagel, it may be something related to the word for stirrup "beugal", or something else the meaning of which is lost to history.
Bagel slicerAn often repeated story says that the bagel originated in 1683, when a baker from Vienna created them as a gift to King Jan Sobieski of Poland to commemorate the King's victory over the Turks that year. The baked good was fashioned in the form of a stirrup to commemorate the victorious cavalry charge. That the name bagel originated from "beugal" (stirrup) is considered plausible by many both from the similarities of the word and due to the fact that traditional handmade bagels are not perfectly circular but rather slightly stirrup shaped. More prosaically, the name may simply originate from the Yiddish word "bugel" or the German word "bugel", meaning a round loaf of bread (see Gugelhupf for a German cake with a similar ring shape).
Immigrants in the 1880s brought the bagel to New York City, where it continues to flourish. Until the 1920s it was rare in other parts of the United States other than a few cities with large Eastern European Jewish communities. The bagel came into much more general use throughout North America in the last quarter of the 20th century. Specialized devices have even been invented to allow for easy slicing of bagels without "squishing" them (a perceived "danger" when using a knife and hand).
The two most prominent styles of traditional bagel in North America are the Montreal bagel and the New York bagel. The Montreal bagel contains malt and egg and no salt; it is boiled in honey-sweetened water before baking in a wood oven; and it is predominantly either of the noir/"black seed" (poppy) or blanc/"white seed" (sesame seed) variety. The New York bagel contains salt and malt, is available in a wider variety of flavors (though Montreal's oldest bagel institution is quickly catching up), and is also boiled prior to baking in a standard oven. The resulting New York bagel is puffy with a noticeable crust, while the celebrated Montreal bagel is smaller (though with a larger hole) chewier, sweeter and even less like a frozen supermarket-variety "roll-with-a-hole" than the New York bagel is.
In addition to the plain bagel, there are variants with seasoning on the outside, including sesame, garlic, poppy seed, onion, rye and the "everything" bagel, a mixture of all of the above. Other versions which change the dough recipe include cinnamon, raisin, pumpernickel, egg and sourdough. In New York City green bagels made with food coloring are sometimes created for St. Patrick's Day. In Montreal, places that sell "New York-style" bagels rarely become popular with the local populace.
In the late 20th century, many variations on the bagel flourished, including those made with different types of doughs, and with new non-traditional foods and seasonings added to the dough. Breakfast bagels, a rather softer, sweeter variety usually sold in fruity or sweet flavors (cherry, strawberry, blueberry, cinnamon-raisin, chocolate chip, ...) are commonly sold by large supermarket chains; these are usually sold pre-sliced and are intended to be prepared in a toaster and often are served with jam (though they may also be eaten with the more traditional cream cheese as well, especially fruit-flavoured cream cheese). More traditionally flavoured bagels (e.g., plain, or onion) are commonly used to make sandwiches with egg, cheese, ham, and other popular breakfast foods.
A recent addition to New York City bagel stores are "flagels," a flat bagel sprinkled with usual bagel toppings, favored by low-carb dieters.
Bagel chips are a snack food variant on the bagel.
The bagel around the world
In Russia, the bublik has become so mainstream that most Russians aren't aware that it was originally a Jewish bread.
The Uighurs of Xinjiang, China enjoy a form of bagel known as girde nan, which is one of several types of nan, the bread eaten in Xinjiang (Allen, March 1996, p. 36-37). It is uncertain if the Uighur version of the bagel was developed independently of Europe or was the actual origin of the bagels that appeared in Central Europe.
In Turkey, though narrower and larger, simit is very similar to sesame seed bagels.
The bagel sandwich, where a sliced bagel substitutes for the two slices of bread, has become common nowadays, although the bagel sandwich with cream cheese, lox, tomato and onion had already been a tradition among Jews for some time. McDonald's created a line of bagel sandwiches for their breakfast menu, but have recently scaled back the varieties available; however, key ingredients are some form of egg/cheese/meat combination, sandwiched between the bagel slices.
Another interesting and popular bagel dish is the pizza bagel. The bagel is sliced, topped with tomato sauce and cheese and then toasted or re-baked. It is an ideal toaster oven food.
Sliced bagels are often (and best) toasted. Spreads may include: cream cheese, butter, peanut butter, jam, marmelade, apple butter, maple butter and more.