The Bagel Story
The story of the bagel starts in the small villages of Eastern Europe and has travelled all the way around the globe with Jewish families to become established as one of the most popular bread products in the world.
There are many versions on the origin of the bagel. The most popular story tells that the first bagel rolled into the world in 1683 when a baker wanted to pay tribute to Jan Sobieski, 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. The Austrian word for “Stirrup” is Beugel.
Other stories argue that the shape also came about to help street vendors carry the bagels to their customers. Instead of pulling a stall around town, they would carry long poles or strings with the Bagels threaded down them. More prosaically, the name bagel may simply originate from the Yiddish and German word bügel, meaning “bale” or bow, sometimes used to refer to a round loaf of bread. Whatever the origin, they remained a best kept secret for generations to come!
How Bagels are made
The traditional bagel is boiled in hot water prior to baking, this gives it the special characteristics of a shiny crust and a soft dense crumb. The theory of the boiling can be explained by the fact that the bakers in cold Eastern Europe may have used this process in order to help with the fermentation of the dough. These days, modern methods of baking use heavy steam process to obtain the same results giving a better product.
Growth in popularity
In the late 1800s, with an influx of Jewish immigrants, the bagel found its way over to America. Initially, they were only popular amongst Eastern European Jews who settled in New York. Around 1910, the Bagel Bakers Union was formed, this led to apprenticeships with Bagel Bakers, and thus the art spread.
The Jewish bakers in Europe, kept the flame going over the years by making the traditional bagel and in the late eighties, the American style bagels started to appear in Europe in a variety of flavours with a softer texture that was more suitable for sandwich making. So the round bagels have done a full circle originating in Europe and returning as an American product.
In the 1950s, the comedy, Bagels and Yox played on Broadway with Bagels given to the audience in the intermission. As a result, the magazines, Time and Family Circle, began to feature recipes for Bagels and they have remained popular ever since.
These days bagels are available to everyone but you haven’t tried a real bagel until you’ve tried a Bagel Nash Bagel!