Monday, May 3, 2010

Wanted Unholed Lotta Bagel

The first time I'd become aware of bagels was about the early 90s. Oh, I'd encountered "bagels and lox" in books occasionally, but never gave them much thought. Seems when I read about them and saw pictures, they mystified me. They looked like doughnuts. Sometime shortly thereafter, I bought one. I ate it as though it were a doughnut. Hmmm. Kinda plain, not sweet. (Hadn't thought about the lox; thought cream cheese sounded icky.)

Over the years, I'd eat them in spurts. Sometimes a co-worker would bring in a box of them, accompanied with little containers of specialty cream cheeses. I really liked the salmon-flavored ones, also the jalapeno ones. Now I've finally settled into eating them mostly toasted, with a layer of butter.

I sometimes wondered about bagel denseness contrasted with store bread. Whenever I occasionally bought bagels at bagel stores, the stores tended not to list caloric information. Maybe I was too much into the out-of-sight-out-of-mind mode to bother looking up nutritional information.

In any case, bagels have become another bread aisle staple, in the same area as loaf bread, buns, and English muffins, with something called sandwich rounds starting to make appearances. Not long after I started to add bagels to the weekly shopping list, I looked at the nutrition table. Wow! 300 calories! That's about the same amount of calories as four slices of bread! Now, my days of eating one whole bagel (or more) at a time are gone, hopefully not to return.

The other day as I started the butter smear on my toasted half bagel, it crystalized in my brain that the hole in the middle makes the smearing inconvenient. I then thought about other times I'd thought about bagels and their holes. Bagel shops sell sandwiches on bagels. Occasionally, I'd bought bagels that had almost no hole. (I attributed the condition to the bagel dough preparer using a small ring to cut the dough instead of using a big one.) Most times, holes seemed to be about an inch in diameter.

I had thought using a bagel absent a hole at all would make a better sandwich than using a bagel where you need to be artful with the spreader; otherwise, condiments fall through. Also, if you're going to eat bites that have bread for each bite, it seems odd to run into breadless bites. The spreading care is even more crucial if buttering or creamcheesing a toasted bagel.

Why do bagels have holes? According to, the serious answer is that the holes allow thorough cooking of the bagels. "History of the Bagel: The Hole Story" has some history of the bagel in addition to details about the hole. Googling keywords "bagels no holes" yields numerous results. Closely related to why holes is how to make them. I ran across three ways to make them, none of which involve use of a cooky cutter device as I originally thought might be the case.


Hole in the Middle Method: From a ball shape, moisten your finger with water and poke your index finger through the center to form the hole. Moisten your finger with water, if necessary to smooth and to reshape the sides. Pull gently to enlarge hole.
The Hole Around the Finger Method: Flatten the ball of dough slightly into a disk shape, folding the bottom edge under and smoothing it until it looks like a doughnut shape. Make a hole in the center of the circle from the bottom up and twirl around your index finger to widen the hole. Reshape the round into a doughnut shape.
The Tube Around the Palm of the Hand Method: To form the bagels, take each piece of dough and roll it into a ball. Flatten the ball, then fold it in half, sealing the edges with your fingertips. Then fold again to form a tight cylinder. Roll the dough into a tube about 9 inches long. Wrap this piece around the palm of your hand, overlapping the dough about 2 inches. Pinch the ends together to form a ring. I like this way because it is quite fast.

Besides explicit information about shaping bagel dough to make the holes, has lots of detailed background and techniques throughout the stages of bagel making—even a q/a section. A passage that had caught my eye was "Boil on each side, about 3 minutes or less at a time, turning with a slotted spoon or skimmer. When done, the bagel will be puffy and the center will be nearly closed." Soooo, it's possible commercial bagels might have larger holes than necessary (or for my taste, anyway. ).

Well, after having poked around some sites to find out why bagels have holes and also reading the methodologies, maybe I'll settle for the normalcy of most bagels having approximately 3/4" diameter holes. OTOH, it seems possible that homemade ones might yield almost-closed-hole results.

I have listed some promising recipes that use breadmaking machines. My criteria for recipes tend to be calls for few items and ease of the process. (Look in my blog index for any title that has "convenient" in it, then visit articles. The fewer the ingredients, the better, I say.)
Lists 6 ingredients. Features a calculator for adjusting recipe ingredient amounts to numbers of servings.
Lists 5 ingredients for the bagels, 2 additional for egg wash substitute for Pam-type spray. Also includes recipes for bagel sticks and chips.
Lists 5 ingredients, accompanied by numerous comments.

1 comment:

Karen Kreps said...

When I moved from NYC to Austin in '93 there wasn't a decent bagel to be found. Rather, they were "roles with holes." Now they are still hard to find. Einstein Bros Bagels make the best in town. If only the bagel takeout places were a bit faster. In NYC, you can step up to a counter, order a bagel and coffee and get out the door in 30 seconds. Here it takes about five minutes!

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