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For other uses, see Bagel (disambiguation).
A plain commercially produced bagel (as evidenced by grate marks used in steaming, rather than boiling)
Alternative names Bajgiel, beigel, beygl
Type Bread
Place of origin Poland
Region or state Central & Eastern Europe, North America, Israel
Main ingredients Wheat dough
Variations Montreal-style bagel, pizza bagel
Cookbook: Bagel  Media: Bagel

A bagel (Yiddish: בײגל beygl‎, Polish: bajgiel), also spelled beigel,[1] is a bread product originating in Poland, traditionally shaped by hand into the form of a ring from yeasted wheat dough, roughly hand-sized, which is first boiled for a short time in water and then baked. The result is a dense, chewy, doughy interior with a browned and sometimes crisp exterior. Bagels are often topped with seeds baked on the outer crust, with the traditional ones being poppy, sunflower or sesame seeds. Some also may have salt sprinkled on their surface, and there are also a number of different dough types, such as whole-grain or rye.[2][3]

Though the origins of bagels are somewhat obscure, it is known that they were widely consumed in East European Jewish communities from the 17th century. The first known mention of the bagel, in 1610, was in Jewish community ordinances in Kraków, Poland.

Bagels are now a popular bread product in North America, especially in cities with a large Jewish population,[4] many with different ways of making bagels. Like other bakery products, bagels are available (either fresh or frozen, and often in many flavor varieties) in many major supermarkets in those countries.

The basic roll-with-a-hole design is hundreds of years old and has other practical advantages besides providing for a more even cooking and baking of the dough: the hole could be used to thread string or dowels through groups of bagels, allowing for easier handling and transportation and more appealing seller displays.[5][6]


Bagels with cream cheese and lox (cured salmon) are considered a traditional part of American Jewish cuisine (colloquially known as lox and a schmear).

Contrary to some beliefs, the bagel was not created in the shape of a stirrup to commemorate the victory of Poland's King John III Sobieski over the Ottoman Turks in the Battle of Vienna in 1683. Linguist Leo Rosten wrote in "The Joys of Yiddish" about the first known mention of the Polish word bajgiel derived from the Yiddish word bagel in the "Community Regulations" of the city of Kraków in 1610, which stated that the item was given as a gift to women in childbirth.[7]

In the 16th and first half of the 17th centuries, the bajgiel became a staple of the Polish national diet,[8] and a staple of the Slavic diet generally.[9] Its name derives from the Yiddish word 'beygal' from the German dialect word 'beugel,' meaning 'ring' or 'bracelet.'[10]

Variants of the word beugal are used in Yiddish and Austrian German to refer to a somewhat similar form of sweet filled pastry (Mohnbeugel (with poppy seeds) and Nussbeugel (with ground nuts), or in southern German dialects (where beuge refers to a pile, e.g., holzbeuge, or woodpile). According to the Merriam-Webster's dictionary, 'bagel' derives from the transliteration of the Yiddish 'beygl', which came from the Middle High German 'böugel' or ring, which itself came from 'bouc' (ring) in Old High German, similar to the Old English 'bēag' '(ring), and 'būgan' (to bend or bow).[11] Similarly another etymology in the Webster's New World College Dictionary says that the Middle High German form was derived from the Austrian German 'beugel', a kind of croissant, and was similar to the German 'bügel', a stirrup or ring.[12]

In the Brick Lane district and surrounding area of London, England, bagels, or as locally spelled "beigels", have been sold since the middle of the 19th century. They were often displayed in the windows of bakeries on vertical wooden dowels, up to a metre in length, on racks.

Bagels were brought to the United States by immigrant Polish-Jews, with a thriving business developing in New York City that was controlled for decades by Bagel Bakers Local 338, which had contracts with nearly all bagel bakeries in and around the city for its workers, who prepared all their bagels by hand. The bagel came into more general use throughout North America in the last quarter of the 20th century, which was due at least partly to the efforts of bagel baker Harry Lender, his son, Murray Lender, and Florence Sender, who pioneered automated production and distribution of frozen bagels in the 1960s.[13][14][15] Murray also invented pre-slicing the bagel.[16]

Preparation and preservation

Three Montreal-style bagels: one poppy and two sesame bagels

At its most basic, traditional bagel dough contains wheat flour (without germ or bran), salt, water, and yeast leavening. Bread flour or other high gluten flours are preferred to create the firm and dense but spongy bagel shape and chewy texture.[2] Most bagel recipes call for the addition of a sweetener to the dough, often barley malt (syrup or crystals), honey, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, with or without eggs, milk or butter.[2] Leavening can be accomplished using either a sourdough technique or using commercially produced yeast.

Bagels are traditionally made by:

  • mixing and kneading the ingredients to form the dough
  • shaping the dough into the traditional bagel shape, round with a hole in the middle, from a long thin piece of dough
  • proofing the bagels for at least 12 hours at low temperature (40–50 °F = 4.5–10 °C)
  • boiling each bagel in water that may or may not contain additives such as lye, baking soda, barley malt syrup, or honey
  • baking at between 175 °C and 315 °C (about 350–600 °F)

It is this unusual production method which is said to give bagels their distinctive taste, chewy texture, and shiny appearance. In recent years, a variant of this process has emerged, producing what is sometimes called the steam bagel. To make a steam bagel, the process of boiling is skipped, and the bagels are instead baked in an oven equipped with a steam injection system.[17] In commercial bagel production, the steam bagel process requires less labor, since bagels need only be directly handled once, at the shaping stage. Thereafter, the bagels need never be removed from their pans as they are refrigerated and then steam-baked. The steam-bagel is not considered to be a genuine bagel by purists, as it results in a fluffier, softer, less chewy product more akin to a finger roll that happens to be shaped like a bagel. Steam bagels are also considered lower quality by purists as the dough used is intentionally more basic. The increase in pH is to aid browning, since the steam injection process uses neutral water steam instead of a basic solution bath.

If not consumed immediately, there are certain storing techniques that can help to keep the bagel moist and fresh. First, cool bagels in a paper bag, then wrap the paper bag in a plastic bag (attempting to rid the bags of as much air as possible without squishing the bagels), then freeze for up to six months.[18]

Bagel quality

The quality of a bagel may be evaluated by considering the experience it provides as it is eaten and its nutritional content.[19]

The ideal bagel should have a slightly crispy crust, a distinct "pull" when a piece is separated from the whole by biting or pinching, a chewy inside, and the flavor of bread freshly baked.[19] The taste of a bagel may additionally be complemented by additions cooked on the bagel, such as onion, garlic, sesame seeds, or poppy seeds.[19] The appeal of a bagel may change upon being toasted.[19] Toasting can have the effect of bringing or removing desirable chewiness, softening the crust, and moderating off-flavors.[19]

A typical bagel has 260-350 calories, 1.0-4.5 grams of fat, 330-660 milligrams of sodium, and 2-5 grams of fiber.[19] Gluten-free bagels have much more fat, often 9 grams, because of the presence in the dough of ingredients that supplant wheat flour in the original.[19]


Saturday morning bagel queue at St-Viateur Bagel, Montreal, Quebec.

Traditional bagels in North America can be either Montreal-style bagel or New York-style bagels,[20] although both styles reflect traditional methods used in Eastern Europe before bagels' importation to North America. The distinction is less rigid than often maintained.

The "Montreal style bagel" contains malt and sugar with no salt; it is boiled in honey-sweetened water before baking in a wood-fired oven; and it is predominantly of the sesame "white" seeds variety (while, for instance, bagels in Toronto are similar to those made in New York in that they are less sweet, generally are coated with poppy seeds and are baked in a standard oven).

In distinction, the "New York bagel" contains salt and malt and is boiled in water before baking in a standard oven. The resulting bagel is puffy with a moist crust, while the "Montreal" bagel is smaller (though with a larger hole), crunchier, and sweeter.[21] There is also a belief that "New York bagel" are the best due to the quality of the local water.[22] However, this belief is still heavily debated. For instance, Davidovich Bagels, made in NYC, are a recognized wholesale manufacturer of bagels that still use these traditional bagel making techniques (associated here with the "Montreal-style bagel"), including kettle boiling and plank baking in a wood fired oven.[23]

As suggested above, other bagel styles can be found in other places, akin to the way in which families within a given culture employ a variety of methods when cooking a specific indigenous dish. Thus, Chicago-style bagels are baked or baked with steam.[24] The traditional London bagel (or beigel as it is spelled) is harder and has a coarser texture with air bubbles. Furthermore, in Canada the distinction is made between Montreal and Toronto bagels as opposed to the one cited here between Montreal and New York bagels.

Poppy seeds are sometimes referred to by their Yiddish name, spelled either mun or mon (written מאָן), which is very similar to the German word for poppy, Mohn, as used in Mohnbrötchen. American chef John Mitzewich suggests a recipe for what he calls “San Francisco-Style Bagels”. His recipe yields bagels flatter than New York-style bagels, characterized by a rough-textured crust.[25]

Around the world

"Vesirinkeli" from Finland.

The bublik in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, and the obwarzanek in Poland are essentially larger bagels, but having a wider hole. Similar to bagels, these breads are usually topped with sesame and poppy seeds. Other ring-shaped breads known among East Slavs are baranki (smaller and drier) and sushki (even smaller and drier). In Lithuania, similar breads are called riestainiai, and sometimes by their Slavic name baronkos.

In Finland, vesirinkeli are small rings of yeast-leavened wheat bread. They are placed in salted boiling water before being baked. They are often eaten for breakfast toasted and buttered. They are available in several different varieties (sweet or savoury) in supermarkets.

German pretzels, (which are soft and are either formed into rings or long rectangular shapes) are somewhat similar to bagels in texture, the main exceptions being the shape and the alkaline water bath that makes the surface dark and glossy. In addition, traditional Mohnbrötchen, which are covered in poppy seeds, have a similar flavour to many bagels in that they are slightly sweet and rather dense in texture.

In Romania, covrigi are topped with poppy, sesame seeds or large salt grains, especially in the central area of the country, and the recipe does not contain any added sweetener. They are usually shaped like pretzels rathen than bagels.

In some parts of Austria, ring-shaped pastries called Beugel are sold in the weeks before Easter. Like a bagel, the yeasted wheat dough, usually flavored with caraway, is boiled before baking. However, the Beugel is crispy and can be stored for weeks. Traditionally it has to be torn apart by two individuals before eating.[citation needed]

A "girdeh" (the hole does not go all the way through) from a Muslim restaurant in Guangzhou, China

In Turkey, a salty and fattier form is called açma. However, the ring-shaped simit, is sometimes marketed as Turkish bagel. Archival sources show that the simit has been produced in Istanbul since 1525.[26] Based on Üsküdar court records (Şer’iyye Sicili) dated 1593,[27] the weight and price of simit was standardized for the first time. Famous 17th-century traveler Evliya Çelebi wrote that there were 70 simit bakeries in Istanbul during the 1630s[28] Jean Brindesi's early 19th-century oil-paintings about Istanbul daily life show simit sellers on the streets.[29] Warwick Goble made an illustration of these simit sellers of Istanbul in 1906.[30] Surprisingly, simit is very similar to the twisted sesame-sprinkled bagels pictured being sold in early 20th century Poland. Simit are also sold on the street in baskets or carts, like bagels were then.

The Uyghurs of Xinjiang, China, enjoy a form of bagel known as girdeh nan (from Persian, meaning round bread), which is one of several types of nan, the bread eaten in Xinjiang.[31]

In Japan, the first kosher bagels were brought by BagelK (ベーグルK) from New York in 1989. BagelK created green tea, chocolate, maple-nut, and banana-nut flavors for the market in Japan. There are three million bagels exported from the U.S. annually, and it has a 4%-of-duty classification of Japan in 2000. Some Japanese bagels are sweet; the orthodox kosher bagels are the same as in the U.S.

In New York City, the "bagel brunch" became popular circa 1900.[32] The bagel brunch consists of a bagel topped with lox, cream cheese, capers, tomato and red onion.[32] This and similar combinations of toppings have remained associated with bagels into the 21st century.[33][34][35]

Non-traditional doughs and types

While normally and traditionally made of yeasted wheat, in the late 20th century many variations on the bagel flourished. Nontraditional versions which change the dough recipe include pumpernickel, rye, sourdough, bran, whole wheat, and multigrain. Other variations change the flavor of the dough, often using blueberry, salt, onion, garlic, egg, cinnamon, raisin, chocolate chip, cheese, or some combination of the above. Green bagels are sometimes created for St. Patrick's Day.

Many corporate chains now offer bagels in such flavors as chocolate chip and French toast. Sandwich bagels have been popularized since the late 1990s by bagel specialty shops such as Bruegger's and Einstein Brothers, and fast food restaurants such as McDonald's. Breakfast bagels, a softer, sweeter variety usually sold in fruity or sweet flavors (e.g., cherry, strawberry, cheese, blueberry, cinnamon-raisin, chocolate chip, maple syrup, banana and nuts) are commonly sold by large supermarket chains. These are usually sold sliced and are intended to be prepared in a toaster.

A flat bagel, known as a 'Flagel', can be found in a few locations in and around New York City, Long Island, and Toronto. According to a review attributed to New York's Village Voice food critic Robert Seitsema, the Flagel was first created by Brooklyn's Tasty Bagels deli in the early 1990s.[36]

The New York Style Snacks brand has developed the baked snacks referred to as Bagel Crisps and Bagel Chips, which are marketed as a representation of the "authentic taste" of New York City bakery bagels.[37]

Though the original bagel has a fairly well defined recipe and method of production, there is no legal standard of identity for bagels in the United States. Bakers are thus free to call any bread torus a bagel, even those that deviate wildly from the original formulation.

Large scale commercial sales

United States supermarket sales


According to the American Institute of Baking (AIB), year 2008 supermarket sales (52 week period ending January 27, 2009) of the top eight leading commercial fresh (not frozen) bagel brands in the United States:

  • totaled to US$430,185,378 based on 142,669,901 package unit sales.[38]
  • the top eight leading brand names for the above were (by order of sales): Thomas', Sara Lee, (private label brands) Pepperidge Farm, Thomas Mini Squares, Lender's Bagels (Pinnacle Foods), Weight Watchers and The Alternative Bagel (Western Bagel).[38]

Further, AIB-provided statistics for the 52 week period ending May 18, 2008, for refrigerated/frozen supermarket bagel sales for the top 10 brand names totaled US$50,737,860, based on 36,719,977 unit package sales.[39] Price per package was $3.02 for fresh, $1.38 for frozen.


The AIB reported US$626.9 million fresh bagel US supermarket sales (excluding Wal-Mart) for the 52 weeks ending 11 April 2012.[40] Fresh/frozen supermarket sales (excluding Wal-Mart) for the 52 weeks ending 13 May 2012 was US$592.7 million.[40] The average price for a bag of fresh bagels was $3.27, for frozen it was $1.23.

Cultural references

"Bagel" is also a Yeshivish term for sleeping 12 hours straight—e.g., "I slept a bagel last night." There are various opinions as to the origins of this term. It may be a reference to the fact that bagel dough has to "rest" for at least 12 hours between mixing and baking,[41] or simply to the fact that the hour hand on a clock traces a bagel shape over the course of twelve hours.

In Tennis, a "bagel" refers to a player winning a set 6–0, and winning a match 6–0, 6–0, 6–0 is called a "triple bagel".[42]

See also



  1. ^ Definition: Beigel, retrieved from website July 11, 2011
  2. ^ a b c Encyclopædia Britannica (2009) Bagel, retrieved February 24, 2009 from Encyclopædia Britannica Online
  3. ^ Roden, Claudia (November 1996). "The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand to New York" Excerpt [1], retrieved April 7, 2015 from My Jewish Learning
  4. ^ (2001). "World Jewish Population, Analysis by City". Retrieved 2008-02-17. 
  5. ^ Nathan, Joan (2008) A Short History of the Bagel: From ancient Egypt to Lender's Slate, posted Nov. 12, 2008
  6. ^ Columbia University NYC24 New Media Workshop website History of the Bagel: The Hole Story, retrieved February 24, 2009.
  7. ^ Filippone, Peggy Trowbridge. Bagel History: Bagels date back to the 1600s, website, retrieved March 27, 2013.
  8. ^ Altschuler, Glenn C. (2008) Three Centuries of Bagels, a book review of: 'The Bagel: The Surprising History of a Modest Bread', by Balinska, Maria, Yale University Press, 2008, Jewish Daily Press website, published on-line November 05, 2008 in the issue of November 14, 2008
  9. ^ Zinovy Zinic,'Freelance,' in Times Literary Supplement, Nov., 18, 2011 p.16.
  10. ^ Davidson, Alan (2006). Oxford Companion to Food (2nd ed.). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. p. 49. ISBN 9780192806819. 
  11. ^ Merriam-Webster's Dictionary definition of 'bagel', Merriam-Webster Inc. online, 2009, retrieved 2009-04-24;
  12. ^ Webster's New World College Dictionary definition of 'bagel', Wiley Publishing Inc., Cleveland, 2005, retrieved 2009-04-24;
  13. ^ Klagsburn, Francine. "Chewing Over The Bagel’s Story", The Jewish Week, July 8, 2009. Accessed July 15, 2009.
  14. ^ Hevesi, Dennis (2012-03-22). "Murray Lender, Who Gave All America a Taste of Bagels, Dies at 81". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-04-19. 
  15. ^ Rothman, Lily (2012-03-23). "Murray Lender, the man who brought bagels to the masses". Washington Post. Retrieved 2012-04-19. 
  16. ^ "Murray Lender". The Economist. 21 April 2012. Retrieved 30 August 2012. 
  17. ^ Reinhart, P., The Bread Baker's Apprentice. Ten Speed Press, 2001, p. 115.
  18. ^ Jonathan, Croswell. How to Keep a Bagel Moist, Aug 8, 2011.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g Consumer Reports (July 2012). "Top Bagels - Bagel Buying Guide". Retrieved 6 March 2014. 
  20. ^ Spiegel, Alison (May 6, 2014). "Bagel Wars: Montreal vs. New York-Style Bagels". Huffington Post. Retrieved January 17, 2015. 
  21. ^ Horowitz, Ruth (October 17, 2006). "The Hole Truth: Vermont's Bagel Bakers Answer The Roll Call". Seven Days. Retrieved June 9, 2011. 
  22. ^ "Bagels, water and an urban legend". CNN. CNN. Retrieved 18 May 2015. 
  23. ^ Arumugam, Nadia. "Taste Test: Dunkin' Donuts' "Fake" Artisan Bagels vs Real Artisan Bagels". FORBES. Forbes. Retrieved January 1, 2014. 
  24. ^ "Hometown Bagel, Inc.". Retrieved 2012-04-20. 
  25. ^ Mitzewich, John (August 6, 2012). "San Francisco-Style Bagels – Taking Things to a Hole New Level". Food Wishes. Blogger. Retrieved August 7, 2012. 
  26. ^ Sahillioğlu, Halil. “Osmanlılarda Narh Müessesesi ve 1525 Yılı Sonunda İstanbul’da Fiyatlar”. Belgelerle Türk Tarihi 2 [The Narh Institution in the Ottoman Empire and the Prices in Istanbul in Late 1525. Documents in Turkish History 2] (Kasım 1967): 56
  27. ^ Ünsal, Artun. Susamlı Halkanın Tılsımı.[The Secret of the Ring with Sesames] İstanbul: YKY, 2010: 45
  28. ^ Evliya Çelebi Seyahatnâmesi Kitap I. [The Seyahatname Book I] (Prof. Dr. Robert Dankoff, Seyit Ali Kahraman, Yücel Dağlı). İstanbul: YKY, 2006: 231
  29. ^ Jean Brindesi, Illustrations de Elbicei atika. Musée des anciens costumes turcs d'Istanbul , Paris: Lemercier, [1855]
  30. ^ Alexander Van Millingen, Constantinople (London: Black, 1906)
  31. ^ Allen, Thomas B. (March 1996). Xinjiang. National Geographic Magazine, p. 36–37
  32. ^ a b Adamson, M.W.; Segan, F. (2008). Entertaining from Ancient Rome to the Super Bowl: An Encyclopedia: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 94. ISBN 978-0-313-08689-2. 
  33. ^ Parker, Milton; Freeman, Allyn (2005). How to Feed Friends and Influence People: The Carnegie Deli: A Giant Sandwich, a Little Deli, a Huge Success. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons. p. 97. ISBN 0471710350. Retrieved 2015-12-20. 
  34. ^ Clark, Melissa (2013-09-24). "Setting Out the Bagels and Lox". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-12-20. 
  35. ^ Warner, Justin (2015). The Laws of Cooking* *and How to Break Them. New York: Flatiron Books. p. 83. ISBN 9781250065131. Retrieved 2015-12-20. 
  36. ^ Browne, Alaina Flagel = Flat Bagel (review), retrieved 2009-04-24 from website;
  37. ^ New York Style Baked Snacks
  38. ^ a b Baking Management (2008) AIB website data: Bagels 2008, from Baking Management, p.10, March 2009, Statistics from Information Resources, retrieved 2009-03-23 from American Institute of Baking website: Bagels 2008 updated to March 10, 2009;
  39. ^ Baking Management (2008) AIB website data: Bagels 2008, from Redbook, July 2008, p.20, Statistics from Information Resources, retrieved 2009-03-23 from American Institute of Baking website: Bagels 2008 updated to March 10, 2009
  40. ^ a b AIB International, Bagels 2012. Data obtained from SymphonyIRI Group from scanner data from Supermarkets, Drugstores, and Mass Merchandisers (does not includeWal-Mart).
  41. ^ Balinska 2008. pp.4–5.
  42. ^ Collins, Bud; Hollander, Zander (1994). Bud Collins' Modern Encyclopedia of Tennis (2, illustrated ed.). Visible Ink Press. pp. 484–485. ISBN 978-0-8103-9443-8. 


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