Schmeared with cream cheese, toasted with a bit of butter, covered with lox, made into a breakfast sandwich with egg and cheese … who doesn’t love a bagel? Smooth and glossy on the outside, chewy
and delectable on the inside, bagels are one food that has made the jump from ethnic to ubiquitous in the span of about 100 years.
Folklore has it that the bagel was created after Polish King John III Sobieski saved Austria from invading Ottoman Turks in the Battle of Vienna in 1683. A baker made a roll in the shape of a stirrup (called a beugel) to commemorate the victory. Others maintain that the bagel was given to women in Krakow during this same period as a gift after having a baby.
What is clear is that Eastern European Jews brought the bagel to New York at the turn of the century. In 1907, bagel bakers unionized, forming the International Beigel Bakers’ Union, thereby monopolizing and controlling their handmade product. In the 1950s, Murray Lender figured out that he could mass produce bagels, freeze them and deliver them to grocery stores. And with that bold move, bagels became mainstream.
We personally have made it our mission to try bagels all over the country but in our opinion, it’s pretty hard to beat a New York bagel (some attribute it to the fantastic NYC water). If you live in a part of the country where bagels are not so great, try this recipe. You won’t be disappointed.
A couple of pointers: Just use your finger to make the hole in the
bagel. Twirl the dough around your index finger. It’s fun!
Also, bagels get their unique texture from both boiling and baking. The bath the bagels take is not long. For a chewier version that is
more like NYC bagels, boil for 2 minutes in each side. If you want a softer bagel, reduce to one minute on each side.
For a unique look at the working class immigrant in the early half of the 20th century, visit the fantastic Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side in Manhattan. The museum has many tours and offerings, you can visit multiple times and not see the same thing.
- 2 teaspoons of active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of granulated sugar
- 1 1/4 cups warm water (plus or minus ¼ cup more)
- 3 1/2 cups bread flour or high gluten flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Egg white from one large egg
- 1 tablespoon water
- Caraway seeds (optional)
- Coarse salt (optional)
- Poppy seeds (optional)
- Sesame seeds (optional)
In a small bowl, add ½ cup of warm water, sugar and yeast. Do not stir. Let it sit for five minutes, and then stir the yeast and sugar mixture, until it all dissolves in the water.
In a large mixing bowl, add flour and salt. Make a well in the middle and pour in the yeast and sugar mixture. Pour half of the remaining warm water into the well. Mix and stir in the rest of the water as needed to form a moist and firm dough.
On a floured work surface, knead the dough for about 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Work in as much flour as possible to form a firm and stiff dough.
Lightly brush a large bowl with oil and turn the dough to coat. Cover the bowl with a damp dish towel. Let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in size. Punch the dough down, and let it rest for another 10 minutes.
Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Shape each piece into a round ball. Coat a finger in flour, and gently press your finger into the center of each dough ball to form a ring. Twirl the dough around on your finger, stretching the opening to about ⅓ the diameter of the bagel and place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough.
After shaping the dough rounds and placing them on the cookie sheet, cover with a damp tea towel and let rest for 10 minutes.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Reduce the heat. Working in batches, use a slotted spoon or skimmer to lower the bagels into the water. Boil for 2 minutes, and then flip them over for another 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and let drain before placing onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat with remaining batches.
Combine the egg white and tablespoon of water. Brush tops and sides of bagels with egg wash. Top bagels with caraway seeds, coarse salt, sesame seeds or poppy seeds.
Bake for 20-30 minutes at 425 degrees, or until bagels are a golden caramel color. Let sit for 30 minutes so the interior continues to bake.