AskDefine | Define bagel

Dictionary Definition

bagel n : (Yiddish) glazed yeast-raised doughnut-shaped roll with hard crust [syn: beigel]

User Contributed Dictionary




From בײגל < < .


  1. A toroidal bread roll that is boiled before it is baked.


toroidal bread roll


Extensive Definition

A bagel is a bread product in the doughnut family traditionally made of yeasted wheat dough in the form of a roughly hand-sized ring which is first boiled in water and then baked. The result is a dense, chewy, doughy interior with a browned and sometimes crisp exterior. Bagels are often topped with seeds baked onto the outer crust with the most traditional being poppy or sesame seeds. Some even have salt sprinkled on the surface of the bagel.
It has become a popular bread product in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom especially in cities with large Jewish populations, such as Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Montreal, Toronto and London, each with different ways of making the bagel.
Bagels were derived from the similarly shaped doughnuts and from the similarly textured bialys, primarily because of the cooking method amongst other differences. Russian bubliks are very similar to bagels, but are somewhat bigger, have a wider hole, and are drier and chewier. Pretzels, especially the large soft ones, are also very much like bagels, the main exceptions being the shape and the alkaline water bath that makes the surface dark and glossy.


The bagel was invented in Central Europe, possibly in Kraków (although now proved to be Germany) as a 1610 document mentions beygls given as a gift to women in childbirth. This is cited as the earliest known reference, but the document is not absolutely clear about what a beygl is. Also uncertain is the relationship, if any, to the sweet Hungarian pastry, bejgli.
An oft-repeated story states that both the bagel as well as the croissant originated in 1683 in Vienna, Austria, when an Austrian baker created them to commemorate the victory in the Battle of Vienna over the Turks that sieged the city. Similar to the crescent-like bend croissant (Hörnchen in German, little horn) which is said to have been inspired by the Turkish flags, the bagel is supposedly related to the victorious final cavalry charge led by King John III Sobieski of Poland. Thus, the baked good was fashioned in the form of a stirrup (, or the similar Bügel-shaped horseshoe, or saddle, tales vary).
There was a tradition among many observant Jewish families to make bagels on Saturday evenings at the conlusion of the sabbath. They would not be permitted to cook during the sabbath and, compared with other types of bread, bagels could be baked very quickly as soon as it ended.
That the name originated from beugal (old spelling of Bügel, meaning bail/bow or bale) is considered plausible by many, both from the similarities of the word and because traditional handmade bagels are not perfectly circular but rather slightly stirrup-shaped. (This fact, however, may be due to the way the boiled bagels are pressed together on the baking sheet before baking.) Also, variants of the word beugal are used in Yiddish and Austrian German to refer to a round loaf of bread (see Gugelhupf for an Austrian cake with a similar ring shape), or in southern German dialects (where beuge refers to a pile, e.g. of wood Holzbeuge)
Since the middle of the 19th century, bakeries on Brick Lane & the surrounding area in London have been selling bagels (the local orthography is "beigel"). In the East End of London, bagels were traditionally sold in groups of three, which were referred to as a "prial" , a "prangle" or (less commonly) a "frackle" of bagels. They were often displayed in the windows of bakeries on vertical wooden rods of up to a metre in length in racks. Allegedly, it was here, before the widespread use of refrigeration that 'beigels' would be stored in large crates of earth that had been prebaked to remove insects, bacteria & other contaminants in an effort to keep their moisture & freshness.
The bagel came into more general use throughout North America in the last quarter of the 20th century, at least partly due to the efforts of bagel baker Harry Lender and Florence Sender, who pioneered the frozen bagel in the 1960s. Today, bagels are enjoyed all over the world, and have become one of the most popular breakfast foods.
STS-124 passenger, and ISS Expedition 17 crewmember, Montrealer Canadian astronaut Gregory Chamitoff, brought the first bagels into space, 3 bags (18 seasame seed bagels) of Fairmount Bagels with him.


The two most prominent styles of traditional bagel in North America are the Montreal-style bagel and the New York-style bagel. The Montreal bagel contains malt and egg but no salt; it is boiled in honey-sweetened water before baking in a wood-fired oven; and it is predominantly either of the poppy "black" or sesame "white" seeds variety. The New York bagel contains salt and malt and is boiled in water prior to baking in a standard oven. The resulting New York bagel is puffy with a noticeable crust, while the Montreal bagel is smaller (though with a larger hole), chewier, and sweeter. Poppy seeds are sometimes called by their Yiddish name, spelled either mun or mon (written מאָן) which is very similar to the German word for poppy, Mohn, as used in Mohnbrötchen. The traditional London bagel (or beigel as it was pronounced) was harder and had a coarser texture with air bubbles.

Type of seasonings

In addition to the plain bagel and the standard poppy or sesame seeds, variants feature different seasonings on the outside, including garlic, onion, caraway, and salt.
The "everything" bagel (also known as a "mish mosh" or "all dressed" bagel) is topped with a mixture of a large variety of toppings; the exact ingredients depend on the vendor. Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, onion flakes, caraway seeds, garlic flakes, pretzel salt, and pepper, are all popular toppings that most vendors use on an everything bagel.

Toppings on bagels

There are several different toppings that are popular on bagels. Bagels topped with cream cheese, lox (salt-cured salmon), tomato, and onion is a popular Jewish dish. A bagel can also be substituted for two slices of bread. In London, bagels are often eaten as a sandwich filled with salt beef. Bagels are sometimes used as breakfast sandwiches, that are filled with eggs, cheese, ham, and other fillings. McDonald's has a line of breakfast bagel sandwiches that contain egg, cheese, and meat combinations between the bagel slices. 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.

Non-traditional doughs and shapes

While normally and traditionally made of yeasted wheat, in the late 20th century, many variations on the bagel flourished. Non-traditional versions which change the dough recipe include pumpernickel, rye, sourdough, bran, whole wheat, and multigrain. Other variations change the flavor of the dough, often using salt, onion, garlic, egg, cinnamon, raisin, blueberry, chocolate chip, cheese, or some combination of the above. Green bagels are sometimes created for St. Patrick's Day. Many corporate chains now offer bagels in such flavors as chocolate chip and French toast.
Breakfast bagels, a softer, sweeter variety usually sold in fruity or sweet flavors (e.g., cherry, strawberry, cheese, blueberry, cinnamon-raisin, chocolate chip, maple syrup, banana and nuts) are commonly sold by large supermarket chains; these are usually sold pre-sliced and are intended to be prepared in a toaster. A flat bagel, known as a flagel, can be found in a few locations in and around New York City and Toronto. It was initially developed by Goldberg's Famous and slowly started to span due to preferred sandwich sizes. A trademarked, sweet variant of the bagel known as the “Fragel" is produced by the Ann Arbor, Michigan based Bagel Factory, Inc. A special, bagel-based dough is fried and coated with cinnamon sugar. A sandwich chain called Così has created square bagels, or "squagels", as an alternative to round bagels in crafting bagel sandwiches which are often filled with luncheon meats.


At its most basic, traditional bagel dough contains wheat flour (without germ or bran), salt, water, and yeast leavening. Bread flour or other high gluten flours are preferred to create the firm and dense bagel shape and texture. Most bagel recipes call for the addition of a sweetener to the dough, often barley malt (syrup or crystals), honey, or sugar. Leavening can be accomplished using either a sourdough technique or using commercially produced yeast.
Bagels are traditionally made by:
  • mixing and kneading the ingredients to form the dough
  • shaping the dough into the traditional bagel shape, round with a hole in the middle
  • proofing the bagels for at least 12 hours at low temperature (40-50 degrees F = 4.5-10 ℃)
  • boiling each bagel in water that may or may not contain additives such as lye, baking soda, barley malt syrup, or honey
  • baking at between 175 ℃ and 315 ℃ (about 350 to 600 degrees F)
It is this unusual production method which is said to give bagels their distinctive taste, chewy texture, and shiny appearance. In the context of Jewish culture, this process provided an additional advantage in that it could be followed without breaking the no-work rule of the Sabbath. The dough would be prepared on the day before, chilled during the day, and cooked and baked only after the end of the Sabbath, therefore using the Sabbath as a productive time in the bagel-making process (as the dough needs to slowly rise in a chilled environment for a time before cooking).
In recent years, a variant of this process has emerged, producing what is sometimes called the steam bagel. To make a steam bagel, the process of boiling is skipped, and the bagels are instead baked in an oven equipped with a steam injection system. In commercial bagel production, the steam bagel process requires less labor, since bagels need only be directly handled once, at the shaping stage. Thereafter, the bagels need never be removed from their pans as they are refrigerated and then steam-baked.
Bagels are sometimes presliced, but other times they must be cut by the consumer. Improper cutting technique has led to many bagel-related lacerations. Mark Smith, head of George Washington University's Department of Emergency Medicine noted, "The bagel is inherently unstable because it's round. In fact there are two unstable surfaces: the knife against the bagel and the bagel against the table...I theorize that it's difficult to modulate the force needed to get through the exterior once you hit the doughy part, and you cut your finger."
In order to cut a bagel safely one should use the following technique: place the bagel flat on the table with one hand on top firmly holding the bagel in place. Using a bread knife one should slice the bagel halfway through, keeping the blade horizontal to the table then stand the bagel on its end, and finish slicing downward while gripping the upper sliced half. Photos of the described technique can be found here:

Bagels around the world

In Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, the bublik is essentially a very enlarged bagel. Other ring-shaped pastries known among East Slavs are baranki (smaller and drier) and sushki (even smaller and drier).
In Lithuania bagels are called riestainiai and sometimes the Slavic name baronkos.
The Uyghurs of Xinjiang, China enjoy a form of bagel known as girdeh nan (from Persian, meaning round bread) , which is one of several types of nan, the bread eaten in Xinjiang. It is uncertain if the Uyghur version of the bagel was developed independently of Europe or was the actual origin of the bagels that appeared in Central Europe.
In Turkey, a salty and fattier form is called açma. The ring-shaped simit is sometimes marketed as a Turkish Bagel.
In some parts of Austria, ring-shaped pastries called Beugel are sold in the weeks before Easter. Like a bagel, the yeasted wheat dough, usually flavored with caraway, is boiled before baking, however, the Beugel is crispy and can be stored for weeks. Traditionally it has to be torn apart by two individuals before eating.
The pronunciation and spelling of “bagel” varies between communities. In Canada, for instance, people from Toronto and Montreal, pronounce it like bay, the correct Yiddish pronunciation, whereas people from the smaller towns of Northern Ontario and the East coast of Canada tend to pronounce the first syllable as bag, as in in shopping bag. In addition, some American bagelmakers (particularly New England producer Zeppy's) spell the word "baigel," while maintaining the typical pronunciation.
On Brick Lane in East London there are two long established bagel shops in which the item is spelled beigel, with pronunciation to match.
In Romania, bagels are popular topped with sesame seeds or large salt grains, especially in the central area of the country. They are sold as covrigi.
"Bagel" is also referred to as a Yeshivish term to one who sleeps 12 hours straight. Thus called a bagel as the clock goes around in a full circle.


bagel in Afrikaans: Bagel
bagel in Tosk Albanian: Bagel
bagel in Danish: Bagel
bagel in German: Bagel
bagel in Spanish: Bagel
bagel in French: Bagel
bagel in Korean: 베이글
bagel in Indonesian: Bagel
bagel in Hebrew: כעך
bagel in Dutch: Bagel
bagel in Japanese: ベーグル
bagel in Polish: Bajgiel
bagel in Portuguese: Bagel
bagel in Russian: Бейгл
bagel in Simple English: Bagel
bagel in Finnish: Bagel
bagel in Swedish: Bagel
bagel in Chinese: 貝果

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Danish, Danish pastry, English muffin, Parker House roll, Yorkshire pudding, bialy, bialystoker, bun, clover-leaf roll, coffee cake, crescent roll, croissant, cross bun, crumpet, gem, hard roll, hot cross bun, kaiser roll, muffin, onion roll, pinwheel roll, popover, roll, scone, soft roll
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