Living Well in Yalobusha County

How Do You Like Your Bagel

 By: Pamela Redwine

Nutrition and Food Safety

Whether you like yours with cream cheese or plain, one thing is for sure… bagels have become one of the most popular breakfast foods and are enjoyed all over the world.

The bagel is a dense ring of bread, often rather bland, raised with yeast and containing almost no fat. In fact, the average bagel is about 4 oz (113.4 g) and 200 calories and contains no cholesterol (unless it is an egg bagel) and no fat (unless it is a specialty bagel such as cheese). The bagel’s peculiar crustiness and density results from regulating the amount the yeast is allowed to rise so the bagel does not become too bready (not a desirable trait in a bagel). Whether handmade at home or with the aid of machinery in a bagel bakery, bagel dough is always boiled in water then baked until it is golden brown.

The history of the bagel is not clear. Bagel folklore tells us that the roll was devised as a tribute to Jan Sobieski, a Polish general, who saved Vienna from the invading Turks in 1683. As the triumphant hero rode through town, the grateful townspeople clung to his stirrups—called breugels. The king had baker fashion bread in the shape of Sobieski’s stirrups as a tribute. Eventually the stirrup-shaped breugel became round and was known as a bagel. Other stories indicate that the name comes from beigen, the German word for to bend, and could be a descendant of the pretzel. Still others believe the round hole was perfect for Russian and Polish bakers to skewer them on a long pole and walk the streets hawking their fresh bread.

The popularity of the bagel is staggering. The appetite for bagels has increased 37% since 1994, and it is estimated that in the near future sales may increase as much as 7% over the previous year’s figures to reach $840 million by the year 2000. Bagels are purchased by 46% of all consumers—and most purchase frozen bagels from their local supermarket. However, the fresh bagel market is expanding and the bagel bakery is visible in most communities. Once the product of small specialty bakeries in ethnic communities, the bagel is now seen on the menus of donut and cake bakeries and baked by restaurants all over the country.

There are many different flavors of bagels available.  The traditional flavors-salt, egg, poppy seed, onion, plain, and rye-are now sold alongside new flavors like chocolate chip, spinach and cheese, cinnamon raisin, dried tomato and herb, and maple walnut. The cream cheese (the schmear in Yiddish), which often imparted the bagel with some pizzazz, now comes in many new varieties, including jalapeno and vegetable.  Bagels are also being used in different ways.  Several fast food chains use the bagel as a breakfast sandwich and fill it with eggs, cheese, ham and other fillings.  Pizza bagels are another popular way to prepare bagels, in which they are sliced, then topped with tomato sauce and cheese and then toasted or re-baked.

Proper storage of bagels is important, as they tend to try out and harden quickly.  Store completely cooled bagels at room temperature in plastic bags or freeze immediately.  Refrigeration hastens staleness.  Refresh bagels by slightly wetting the exterior and baking at 350 degrees F. for ten minutes.  Frozen bagels will keep for 3-4 months in an airtight bag in the freezer at 0 degrees F.  Pre-slice bagels almost all the way through before you freeze them.  Frozen bagels need not be thawed before toasting.  And be careful slicing bagels.  If you don’t own a slicer, you can safely slice your bagel like this: place bagel fat on table with hand on top and hold firmly; use a serrated knife to slice halfway through, keeping blade horizontal to the table; stand bagel on its end, and finish slicing downward while gripping the upper sliced half.

Recipe of the Week

Onion – Parmesan Mini Bagels

4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided

1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast

2 tablespoons dried minced onion

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar, divided

1 teaspoon salt

1-1/2 cups warm water (120°F to 130°F)

6 cups plus 1 tablespoon water, divided

1 egg white

1/2 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese

1.      Combine 2 cups flour, yeast, onion, 2 tablespoons sugar and salt in large mixing bowl.   Add 1-1/2 cups warm water.  Beat with electric mixer at low speed 1 minute or until combined.  Increase speed to high; beat 3 minutes.

2.      turn out dough onto lightly floured surface.  Knead in enough remaining flour to make moderately stiff dough.  Cover with plastic wrap; let rest 10 mintues.

3.      Spray two baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.  Divide dough into 24 equal portions.  Shape each portion in ball.  Press thumbs through center of each ball.  Stretch to form 1-1/2-inch hole.  Place on prepared baking sheets.  Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in warm place 30 minutes.

4. Preheat broiler.  Broil bagels about 5 inches from heat source 2 to 3 minutes, turning once.  (Bagels should not brown.)  Bring 6 cups water and 1 teaspoon sugar to a boil in large Dutch oven.  Drop 7 or 8 bagels into boiling water mixture.  Gently simmer 3 minutes, turning once.  Drain on paper towels.  Repeat with remaining bagels.

5. Preheat oven to 375°F.  Place bagels on baking sheets sprayed with cooking spray.  Combine egg white and 1 tablespoon water in small bowl.  Brush tops of bagels with mixture.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Bake about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

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