Perhaps we should have saved this post, published a few months ago, for today, because…
July 26th is National Bagelfest Day, the perfect day for that article, which features delicious bagels with different savory and sweet spreads and toppings—including those off the beaten path.
So if you want a true bagelfest, check out the article. Today, we’ll make the record clear on the history of bagels.
One legend traces the history of the bagel to the shape of a stirrup, to commemorate the victory of Poland’s King Jan Sobieski over the Ottoman Turks in 1683’s Battle Of Vienna. This is not true.
It mirrors another legend of the creation of another popular bread that allegedly commemorates this battle: the croissant.
The story is that the croissant was shaped for the crescent in the Turkish flag; that is to say, to symbolically eat the Turks. Here’s the real history of the croissant.
What is it with these legends regarding bread and the Battle Of Vienna?
The bagel was actually invented much earlier in Kraków, Poland, as an alternative (some would say, improvement) on the bublik, a traditional Polish-Russian roll that’s also very close to the Turkish simit (photo #3), and which some historians call the ur-bagel.
It looks like a sibling of the bagel, but with a much bigger hole and a recipe to make it even denser and chewier than the bagel that emigrated to New York.
The bublik was originally designed for Lent, but in the 16th century began to become a staple of the Polish diet.
The bagel was evolution, not revolution. Other countries also had round, individual-serving breads with a hole in the middle (the hole was used for convenience in delivery (strung through with a string) and space-saving at stores and homes. They were also stacked on poles and hawked in the market place).
Examples include Greek koulouri (with sesame seeds), Finnish vesirinkeli, and ciambella in Puglia, Italy.
The first documentation of the bagel is in a 1610 list of sumptuary laws.
Many food historians believe that bagel originated from the German word beugal, now spelled bügel, which has numerous meanings, including stirrup and ring.
But why? Two explanations:
Traditional handmade bagels are not perfectly circular but slightly stirrup-shaped, a function of how the bagels are pressed together on the baking sheet.
Variants of the word beugal are used in Yiddish and Austrian German to describe a round loaf of bread.
How Bagels Are Made
Yeasted wheat dough is traditionally shaped by hand into a ring shape, around four inches in diameter. In the U.S. today, they are supersized. Measure the next bagel you buy!
With true bagels, the rings are then boiled in water for about a minute. This sets the crust, resulting in the firm, shiny crust of a true bagel.
The longer the boil, the more dense and chewy the interiors—along with the use of high-protein flour to make the dough.
They then get pressed face down in the seeds or other toppings. These days, there are also different dough types such as bran, oat, pumpernickel, rye, whole-grain and gluten-free.
Bagels Arrive In America
Bagels came to the United States with Eastern European Jews, who began to immigrate to the United States in significant numbers after 1880.