A glazed doughnut can always hit the spot, but bagels have a charm and unique taste that makes them memorable and fascinating. Maybe it’s got to do with the way they are prepared. Bagels are traditionally boiled in boiling hot water, but do you know why bagels are boiled?
What are Bagels?
Viewing from a purist and traditional point, a bagel is typically a kind of round yeast roll with a hole in its center, not to be confused with doughnuts though. It is first made by cooking in very hot boiling water for a few minutes to have its flavor locked in place. Only then it’s headed to the oven for browning and to give it its nice, delectable crust on the outside.
The history of Bagels.
We are by no means history experts. But what we do know is that its birth is debated. It’s no wonder because bagel-shaped bread has been around for centuries in cultures of sorts. There’s also a legend that brings us back to 1683, where a stirrup-shaped bread was presented as tribute to Polish king Jan Sobieski after a triumphant victory in defending Vienna from the Turkish conquest.
Then we have the author of The Bagel: The Surprising History of a Modest Bread, Maria Balinska, who mentioned how similar the look of bagels was to obwarzanek, a Polish bread that goes way back in the late 1300s. It was only in the ‘70s that bagels prevailed in the United States.
The love for Bagels.
At some point in our lives, we may have reminded ourselves to cut down on our carbs. Those same moments also last about a minute of two before we start daydreaming about carbo-loading ourselves with some delicious bagels filled with cream cheese or smoked salmon.
For some of us who have tasted this amazing bread, they somehow end up holding a special place in our hearts. Not surprisingly so, in the United States, a bagel sandwich is like the go-to breakfast for many after a long night of drinking. So, you can imagine when bagels were slowly introduced to Malaysia, some of us here do get curious and excited. And even though it can be so convenient to just place an order through mobile apps now from our bed, you can’t deny that the feeling of making your own freshly boiled bagels through your own effort and time, grants an indescribable satisfaction.
The beauty in all of this is that you don’t actually have to buy bagels. The ones you that you learn to make in your home will be just as good and comforting, no matter which part of the world you live in. Because really, bagels are one of the simplest breads you can make for yourself. With as little as three ingredients: water, flour, and yeast, you have yourself the staples to make bagels!
- Water and flour to make the bagel dough.
- Yeast to ensure the dough leavens and doesn’t become too hard or too chewy.
With your water and flour, knead yourself a good size of dough for the bagels. A bagel dough is usually quite firm and tough, and it’s also naturally firmer than most breads so don’t be concerned when it feels that way. Once you are done kneading the dough, leaving it to proof or rest for a little while, you can start shaping the dough into a ring. Let them get another rest or proof before plopping them into the hot boiling water. Only later then do they end up in the hot oven for the finale.
Your bagels at the end should be chewy and denser than a usual bread loaf. Of course, that goes without saying, when it comes down to the flavoring, you can always add in some sugar and salt for taste. Toppings such as pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, or anything kind of nuts can be used for added flavour and texture.
Why do we boil the Bagels?
Earlier, we mentioned about taking the bagel dough and boiling them in hot water. At first glance, it sounds odd to be placing dough in boiling water but that’s the whole point of making bagels.
Skipping the boiling process doesn’t make a bagel a bagel, it just makes it another regular loaf of bread. The entire purpose of boiling the dough before placing them into the oven is to allow the outer crust to set properly. It’s through the boiling process, the starches in the flour of the bagel dough gelatinizes. This means that water is absorbed by the starch granules causing them to swell and then breaking eventually to release more starch molecules. This process stiffens the starches and thus the bagel, starting from its exterior. Generally, the dough is boiled for about 30 to 60 seconds on each side.
Again, how long the bagel was boiled will affect its interior texture. A brief boil will give your bagels a thin and elastic crust that will still allow the bagels to rise quite a bit in the oven, resulting in a softer texture. Meanwhile, a longer boil and a thicker crust will prevent the bagel from rising very much at all, giving you a very dense interior. When you let it sit in the boiling water for an extended period, it gets the crust to be thicker and chewier.
The question is, is there an ideal boiling time? While we don’t have an exact answer for that as there isn’t a one size fits all, the biggest takeaway is knowing that larger and thicker bagels will need more time than smaller ones. This is because the heat used to penetrate the larger and thicker ones will require more
Aside from providing texture, boiling the bagels also provides taste, but that would require additional ingredient. For example, adding honey to the boiling liquid provides a slight hint of sweetness to the bagels, it also improves the browning of bagels when they are in the oven. Of course, you are free to do add in other sugars like malt syrup too if you love the taste of it. So, there you have it, you know why bagels are boiled now!
Time to make your own now.
Once you start making your own bagels, we doubt you’d ever go back. Nothing could be more satisfying than rolling the dough yourself, setting them to boil, and then popping it into the oven wait for them to be ready. And when it’s finally done, you would break open the hot, chewy dough where it releases the most heavenly scent in the air. Each bite too feels like butter on your pallet. Whatever flavors you’d want to pair it with, sweet or savory, it’s entirely up to you. Truthfully, your personal tastes in bagels and the kind of person you are as a human can completely dictate the recipe you should be experimenting with. Just how amazing is that?
Ps: Also, we hear that cream cheese complements bagels. You’re in luck! We have an article on What Can You Make With Cream Cheese and we’ve included a cream cheese recipe in there too. Do give it a read.
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