Everything you ever wanted to know about the bagel

November 28, 2014

Bagels are a many-splendored food, but what’s behind that crunchy chewy bread? Get the lowdown before you chow down and impress your friends with your newfound knowledge.

Everything you ever wanted to know about the bagel

The dawn of the bagel

The history of the bagel dates back to the 1600s, but it’s a little murky.

  • Some sources attribute this delicious roll to a Viennese baker who created it in honour of King Jan Sobieski III of Poland, after his victory over a Turkish invasion.
  • However, there are mentions of the word “bajgiel” as early as 1610 in the Community Regulations of the city of Crackow in Poland, where bagels were given to women in childbirth.
  • The circular shape is thought to represent the cycle of life.

The traditional bagel

  • Traditional bagels are large in circumference and have a big hole in the middle.
  • Their dough, which is comprised of wheat flour, salt, water and yeast, is dense, soft and chewy.
  • The crust is a bit crunchy and is usually covered in sesame or poppy seeds.
  • You can find these bagels in traditional bakeries in Europe and North America, though most bakers experiment with different types of dough and garnishes as non-traditional bagels have become a popular breakfast food and snack.

North American bagels

In North America, Jewish Eastern European immigrants are responsible for bringing over their love of bagels in the late 1800s.

  • Interest in bagels was mainly contained within these communities until the second part of the 20th century.
  • Bagels are served in all kinds of restaurants, from large national chains to independent cafés and local diners.

Two bagel types

There are two famous bagel types.

  • New York-style bagels are soft and fluffy.
  • Montreal-style bagels are dense and chewy with a crunchy crust and a subtle sweetness.

5 fun facts about bagels

  1. No other bread is poached before baking.
  2. The first bagel in space was brought to the International Space Station by Montreal-born astronaut Gregory Chamitoff in 2008. It was a Fairmount (Montreal) Bagel.
  3. The largest bagel ever made weighed 868 lbs and measured 6 ft in diameter. It was made for the New York state fair.
  4. The bagel’s ring shape made this bread easier for street vendor to carry around and sell. They would stack bagels on a dowel or tie them with a rope.
  5. Traditional bagel dough is dense and tough to stir, which is why raisin bagels probably didn’t become a thing before the Industrial Revolution. Now that we have machines to help stir, we have bagel flavours ranging from raisin, chocolate chip and blueberry to even crazier ones like Hawaiian-style.

Now go out and discover these delicious rolls!


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