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Bagel History, Tips, and Secrets
The Bagel's history
The tried and trusted favorite, bagels have been around for years!
According to legend the first bagels rolled into the world in 1683 when a Viennese baker wanted to pay tribute to the King of Poland (King Jan had just saved the people of Austria from an onslaught of Turkish invaders). The King was a great horseman, and the baker decided to shape the yeast dough into an uneven circle resembling a stirrup (or 'beugal').
Cream cheese is invented in 1872 - yay.
Thousands of Eastern European Jews immigrated to the United States in the 1880's. They brought with them a desire for bagels. Soon bagels became closely associated with New York and Chicago, both cities with large Jewish populations.
In 1907 a union just for bagel bakers is formed, the International Bakers Union, joining together 300 bakers. Only sons of union members could be apprenticed to learn the secrets of bagel baking in order to safeguard the culinary art.
Bagel production skyrocketed in the 1960's as machines capable of producing 200-400 bagels per hour were popularized.
In around 1987 bagels made their way into mainstream America, sold around the country in grocery stores and listed as standard items on fast food menus.
By 1988 Americans were eating an average of one bagel per month, and by 1993 America's consumption of bagels doubled to an average of one bagel every two weeks.
How do I look after my bagel?
Bagels stay freshest when stored in tightly sealed plastic bags. Allow to cool before transferring to plastic bag to avoid sweating. Never store bagels in paper for extended periods of time.
Several day old bagels tend to harden, they are best frozen. They may be freshened up by toasting, broiling, microwaving very briefly (15 seconds), or moisten with water and bake for 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
Bagels should be cool before freezing. Slice, place in freezer bag sealed tightly, and place all halves facing the same way (this makes them easier to separate). Sliced bagels may be popped in toaster while frozen.
Don't do it! Our bagels are made from 'scratch' unlike other bakerys or store-bought options. Keep our bagels at room temperature or freeze them. All bread products (including bagels) go stale up to 6 times faster in the refrigerator. Fortunately, stale bagels can be brought back to life fairly easily - see reviving above.
What Do We Mean When We Say We Make Our Bagels "From Scratch?"
Please, Read On And We'll Tell You The Whole Story
At New York Bagels 'N Bialys, we mix our bagel dough daily. Our suppliers deliver fresh, raw ingredients such as flour, malt and cinnamon right to our kitchen. Then we break out our proprietary recipes and begin mixing. If you ever find yourself in another bagel bakery (hey, it could happen), and they claim they have "fresh" bagels, ask to see their mixing bowl. Or, ask to see raw, unformed dough. The blank stare you get in return indicates you've successfully called their bluff. They don't have "fresh" bagels. They have bagels that were delivered frozen by a truck from out of state.
WE, on the other hand, would be glad to show you our mixing bowl. And if you show up at the right time of day, you may even get to see our expert bakers operating the bagel former. The former is the machine that takes carefully weighed pieces of dough and shapes them into raw bagels. On a typical day, we shape hundreds of dozens of raw bagels. If you're too shy to ask for a tour, just take an inquisitive peek past the counter next time you're at our restaurant. The "from scratch" process will be taking place before your eyes.
AFTER a raw bagel makes it through the former, it is only about halfway through the "from scratch" process. These newborn bagels are not yet ready to be baked (to borrow a phrase, "we will serve no bagel until it's time"). No, as a matter of fact, these bagels are about 12 - 24 hours away from the oven. This waiting period allows the yeast to do its job properly. Storing the bagels overnight at an exact temperature makes certain that when they do graduate to the oven, our bagels are ready.
THE last step for a bagel before it reaches the oven is quick swim the kettle. (This is another way to spot bogus bagel shops. Ask to see their kettle. If they can't show you a kettle, they aren't making bagels, they're making bread--it's that simple.) Why is the kettle so important? Kettle-boiling a bagel is what gives it a crisp outer shell. If you're going to have a bagel without a crisp outer shell, you might as well spread cream cheese on a hamburger bun!
Finally, after their dip in the kettle, our bagels are ready for the oven. Yes, it's a long process. But it's all worth it, wouldn't you agree?
Our mixing bowls can easily hold over 200 pounds of dough!
When the bagels have been formed, we hand place them on boards dusted with rice flour. (The rice flour dusting on one side of the bagel helps prevent it from sticking to our oven racks.) This is where they wait their turn for the swim in the kettle.
The bagels aren't in the kettle for long. Usually between 15 and 30 seconds. Altitude is a factor in how long a bagel needs to stay in there for. A baker in the Rocky Mountains will need to follow different guidelines than one in, say, New Orleans.
If you didn't know that bagels are amphibious, you aren't alone. There's a lot more involved in making genuine bagels than most people realize.
Baking at 500 degrees, most bagel varieties require 12 - 15 minutes in the oven.
The only thing better than a "from-scratch" bagel,is a "from-scratch" bagel fresh out of the oven!