Here in North America we have the New York style and the Montreal bagel. The New York-style bagel is fairly large with a tight center hole. The Montreal bagel is smaller but with a larger hole. They are also sweeter, and denser. They contains malt, egg, containing no salt, and boiled in honey-sweetened water. Authentic Montreal bagels are always baked in a wood-fired oven. Over in Europe, The traditional London bagel (or “beigel” as it is called) is harder than the North American varieties, with a coarser texture and filled with air bubbles.
Now getting closer to the Slavic areas, in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, the bublik is essentially a very enlarged bagel. Other ring-shaped pastries known among East Slavs are baranki (smaller and drier) and sushki (even smaller and drier).
How the the Bagel got it’s start…
The bagel is historically associated with Poland but the actual time period or the facts leading up to its origin is up for debate. It seems to have early beginnings in the once powerful Polish Empire. The first documentation of the obwarzanek dates to a mention in a summary of the Polish court from the year 1394. Another printed mention occurred in Krakow in 1610 and found in a list of community regulations that stipulate that bagels are to be given to pregnant women.
Others support the theory that an Austrian baker created a rolled dough to represent a stirrup (or ‘beugal’) to give to King John III Sobieski of Poland in 1683, in thanks for his help in defeating the Turks and as an honor of his great horsemanship. This could actually be closer to the facts based on both from the similarities of the word and because traditional handmade bagels are not perfectly circular but rather slightly stirrup-shaped.
In ancient Poland, material found also point to regulations in laws about who is or must eat bagels. Interestingly, given the bagel’s association as a ‘Jewish’ food, there is no mention of any religion or in any printed material of the “regulation” discovered as apparently Christian women in Poland were the ones who ate bagels. The bagel has been regarded as a Jewish specialty, in part because its method of preparation made it popular among Jews as a convenient form of bread making that they could be baked without breaking the rule of no work on the Sabbath.
The dough would be prepared on the day before, chilled during the day, and then cooked and baked only after the end of the Sabbath. Using the Sabbath as a productive time in the bagel-making process , as the dough needs to slowly rise in a chilled environment for a time before cooking. The most basic of ingredients and the waiting time made the bagel an ideal bread food.
The bagel came into its use throughout North America in the last half of the twentieth century, at least partly due to the efforts of bagel baker Harry Lender, who pioneered the frozen bagel around 1954, had a portion of his garage converted into a storage freezer. The family attempted to keep the frozen nature of the bagels a secret, well, until about two years later when there was an accidental delivery of frozen bagels which exposed them. Today, bagels are enjoyed all over the world, and have become one of the most popular breakfast foods.
So, now the bagel itself. A bagel is still a bread product traditionally made of yeast, wheat dough, and water. No matter the way the bagel is formed it’s roughly a hand-sized ring. After the rising forming and rising again methods, it is boiled in water and then immediately baked. Some processes today use steaming or steam baking to replace the boiling step especially in commercial bakeries. The boiling (or steaming) result in a dense, chewy, doughy interior with a browned and sometimes crisp exterior. Beside the usual plain variety, bagels are often topped with seeds baked onto the outer crust with the most traditional being poppy, sesame seeds or a mix of seeds. The dough is sometimes mixed with berries which are in season or with raisins.
I purchased the Diastatic Malt Powder and Vital Wheat Gluten from kingarthurflour.com who I have great trust in their products. Disclaimer: I am not advertising for nor do I have any financial interest in the King Arthur Flour Company but I am a customer.
- 20 oz Flour
- 0.1 oz Yeast
- 0.35 oz Diastatic Malt Powder
- 0.35 oz Vital Wheat Gluten
- 24 oz Water
- 0.1 oz Yeast
- 0.7 oz Salt
- 0.5 oz Vegetable Oil
- 18-19 oz Flour
- 8 cups water
- 2 Tbsp of non-diastatic malt powder or barley malt syrup
- 1/8 cup of coarse salt
- In a large mixer bowl combine all the dry ingredients and mix well.
- While mixing stir in the water until blended well.
- Allow to sit for about 2 hrs.
- To the frothy sponge add the yeast and stir.
- Then add in the oil and stir well.
- Using a dough hook, add 1/2 of the flour and mix well on low (Kitchenaid use #2).
- Add the salt and slowly add the remaining flour (the dough will be stiff).
- Turn the mixer on med (#4) and knead for 5 to 6 minutes.
- Divide into equal portions if needed and then add flavorings (raisins or onion) to each dough's portion during the final 2 mins. of mixing (See Notes).
- Transfer to oiled bowl (or bowls) and allow to rise 60 to 90 mins.
- For raisin-cinnamon bagels, mix in 1 1/3 cups (8 oz) of raisins during the final 2 minutes of mixing. Then stir 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon into the flour just before you start mixing.
- For onion bagels, mix about 1/4 cup PARTIALLY re-dehydrated chopped onion. The remaining re-hydrating process will continue during the rising.
- You can top your bagels with any combination of the following garnishes: poppy seeds, sesame seeds, coarse salt, or re-hydrated dried onions.
- If topping with dehydrated onions, first soak about 1/8 cups of dehydrated chopped onions in warm water to cover for at least 1 hour before applying.
- If using coarse kosher salt as a topping, remember that a little goes a long way.
- The seed toppings will stick even better if you first brush the top of each bagel with an egg wash made by whisking 1 egg white with 1 tablespoon of water.