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Classic Bagels

Classic Bagels is the recipe for today!

I love bagels especially with some cashew cream cheese and sundried tomatoes....yumm..

And what can be better than having some freshly baked bagels at home?

Hope you find this recipe helpful and will surprise your loved ones ;)

Grab the recipe along with the history of bagels ;)

Bagels seem simple enough when you start. In the New York Times a few years ago, Ed Levine wrote, quite factually and descriptively:

A bagel is a round bread made of simple, elegant ingredients: high-gluten flour, salt, water, yeast and malt. Its dough is boiled, then baked, and the result should be a rich caramel color; it should not be pale and blond. A bagel should weigh four ounces or less and should make a slight cracking sound when you bite into it instead of a whoosh. A bagel should be eaten warm and, ideally, should be no more than four or five hours old when consumed. All else is not a bagel.

While a bagel is accurately "a round bread" with a hole in the middle, it's really so, so much more than that. The way we see it around here is that it's always the story behind the food -- not just the bit that we hold in our hands or put in our mouths -- that makes it so much more than just something to eat. Otherwise, why not just go for some of those pills that they used to "eat" on The Jetsons instead of sitting down to enjoy equally nutritious "slow" meals that have actually been cooked?

Back to Bagels; A Hole Lotta Good History

The bagel's known history goes back at least a good six centuries, and, in practice, probably more than that. While we know them in the here-and-now of 21st-century America, the bagel's likely rollout to the world probably began in Poland. In her excellent new book, The Bagel: the Surprising History of a Modest Bread, Maria Balinska shares a couple theories of their origin.

Balinska first suggests the possibility that they came East to Poland from Germany as part of a migration flow during the 14th century. At the time, pretzels (the thick bread of the German variety, not the American kind that comes in plastic bags) were making their way out of their original home in the monasteries and being made into readily available feast day bread. German immigrants, brought to Poland to help provide people power for building the economy (immigration was then encouraged, not discouraged), brought the pretzels with them. In Poland, that theory goes, the German breads morphed into a round roll with a hole in the middle that came to be known in Poland as an obwarzanek. Written records of them appear as early as the 14th century.

They gained ground when then Queen Jadwiga, known for her charity and piety, opted to eat obwarzanek during Lent in lieu of the more richly flavored breads and pastries she enjoyed the rest of the year. While that might seem like quite a step in the context of Marie Antoinette's later "let them eat cake" comments, take note that, although Jadwiga was apparently pretty down-to-earth as queens go, obwarzanek at that time wasn't exactly the kind of inexpensive street food that bagels became a few centuries later.

Lent, then as now, was, of course, a period during which devout Christians consciously chose deprivation -- but what constitutes "deprivation" is relative. What the queen chose for her daily bread was, at the time, actually rather costly, as it was made from wheat, which was not cheap. Most Poles at that time could barely afford the cheaper, coarser breads from rye flour, so white wheat was pretty much off the table for all but the wealthy. Obwarzanek was primarily the province of princes, nobles, and men and women of means, but generally not for the poor.

Still one other version dates the first bagels to the late 17th century in Austria, saying that bagels were invented in 1683 by a Viennese baker trying to pay tribute to the King of Poland, Jan Sobieski. The king had led Austria (and hence Poland as well, since it was part of the empire) in repelling invading Turkish armies. Given that the king was famous for his love of horses, the baker decided to shape his dough into a circle that looked like a stirrup -- or beugel in German.

Bagels and the Fight Against Bias

Going back a bit, at the same time Germans were making their way to Poland, so too were a good number of Jews, which is where my ancestors would have gotten involved. In that era it was quite common in Poland for Jews to be prohibited from baking bread. This stemmed from the commonly held belief that Jews, viewed as enemies of the Church, should be denied any bread at all because of the holy Christian connection between bread, Jesus, and the sacrament. Strange though it sounds, Jews were often legally banned from commercial baking.

The bagel as Jewish food really came of age during the era of Polish history known as the "Nobles' Democracy." While intolerance and conflict reigned elsewhere, Poland was probably the preeminent country for tolerance, acceptance, education, and understanding. Unlike almost every other country in Europe, Poles identified themselves as citizens of their country rather than of any divisive framework based on religious, ethnic, or linguistic origins. This mindset created the environment where Jews were first allowed the opportunity to bake, and then sell, bread -- of which bagels were an integral part.

The shift started to take place in the late 13th century. Balinska refers to the breakthrough code that came from the Polish Prince Boleslaw the Pious in 1264 that said, "Jews may freely buy and sell and touch bread like Christians." To quote Balinska, "This was a radical step, so radical that (in reaction) in 1267 a group of Polish bishops forbade Christians to buy any foodstuffs from Jews, darkly hinting that they contained poison for the unsuspecting gentile." At some point, the theory goes, Jews were allowed to work with bread that was boiled, and they created the bagel to comply with his ruling.

Bagels, Politics, and Cultural Change

William Safire wrote in the New York Times in 1999, "A sea change in American taste took place at the beginning of this decade. The bagel overtook the doughnut in popularity. Today we spend three-quarters of a billion dollars a year on bagels, only a half-billion on doughnuts." As Mr. Safire, who is Jewish, wrote, "Although these baked goods are similar in shape, they are wholly different in character. Doughnuts are sweet and crumbly, with over 10 grams of fat; bagels are chewy and low in fat. Doughnuts are fun, with sugary smiles, sales peaking at Halloween; bagels are serious, ethnic and harder to digest." I'd agree on all counts.

Mr. Safire may be rather on the conservative end of the political spectrum, but bagels, once you examine their history, look decidedly liberal. While they started their culinary career as food for the well off, over the years bagels came to be everyday street food associated with poverty, not wealth. Isaac Bashevis Singer, in his 1969 memoir* A Day of Pleasure: Stories of a Boy Growing Up in Warsaw, wrote of a day in 1908 during a childhood trip from Warsaw to Radzymin, "Sidewalk peddlers sold loaves of bread, baskets of bagels and rolls, smoked herring, hot peas, brown beans, apples, pears and plums."

When times were very tough in Poland, many poor Jews (and note that poverty was the way of life for most Polish Jews) turned to selling bagels on the street as a last resort, a way to earn a few pennies when there was no other way available.

Bagels also lean left because bakeries back in 19th-century Poland seem to have served much the same role cafés did in other countries -- they were where young people in the Jewish community would gather to discuss new, radical political ideas. Bakeries were safe spots to talk; there was always good reason to be there, so one didn't have to make excuses for being seen there. People of all political stripes and all ages went to see the baker regularly, so stopping by to score six bagels or a loaf of rye was as normal as could be. But dreams, visions, and generally unacceptable (if not often outright illegal) ideas about socialism, communism, Zionism, and anarchism were rising along with the bagel dough.

In this past century, bagels leaned left because bagel bakers worked under very difficult conditions, often in airless basements, toiling fourteen hours or more, six or seven days a week. Bagel bakers, and later bagel bakers unions, were rather prominent in left wing politics.

Although bagels clearly had multi-ethnic origins in Poland, here in the US they came fairly quickly to be associated with Jewish culture. Like blintzes, latkes, pastrami, and rye bread, which came from the Eastern European communities so many Jews lived in, bagels came to be known as primarily Jewish. Over the course of the 20th century, bagels followed the pattern of so many other ethnic foods still superficially "Jewish" -- they got softer and sweeter as they successfully moved out of New York's Lower East Side into the middle of the country and the mass market.

The mass-market bagel world, led most prominently but not exclusively by Lenders, left behind much of the real work. Hand shaping shifted to machine rolling; boiling was switched to the less time consuming steaming; bakeries opted out of stone ovens in favor of standard steel.

The results of all these "efficiencies" were the soft, round breads more akin to a sort of savory donut than the chewy, crusty, hand shaped, boiled ones that came over with my grandparents' generation. As Mr. Safire said, "The formerly chewy morsel that once had to be separated from the rest of its ring by a sharp jerk of the eater's head is now devoid of character -- half-baked, seeking to be all pastry to all men."

Bagels and a Better Tomorrow

The first written records of the bagel date to the year 1610. They showed up then in the community regulations of the Polish city of Krakow, which dictated that bagels were to be given as a gift to women after childbirth.

Back in medieval Poland, their round shape led to the belief that bagels had magical powers. Like the round loaves of challah, we eat at Rosh Hashanah to symbolize a full and complete year to come, the round shape of the bagel was believed to bring good luck in childbirth and to symbolize long life. I'm happy to have any good luck charm I can get - it never hurts to knock on wood, and I don't mind carrying a bagel with me in my bag for good luck either.*source

Have a bagel and enjoy the day.

Find the recipe below!

Prep: 1 h 25 min

Cook time: 20 min

Level: medium

Servings: 6 bagels

Calories per serving: 207 kcal

Find the recipe & nutrition facts below :

For the yeast:

  • 3/4 cup warm plant milk (not hot) (or water)

  • 1 tsp cane sugar or coconut sugar (do not substitute)

  • 1 pc. active dry yeast (7 gr.)

For the dough:

  • 2 cups flour

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 2 tbsp olive oil (or any other)

For cooking and decorating:

  • approx. 3 cups water + 2 tbsp sugar (for water bath)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil or soy milk (for brushing)

  • different seeds (sesame, poppy, sunflower, etc.)


Step 1: In a medium bowl mix together warm milk with sugar, and add the dry yeast. Set aside for 10 mins.

Step 2: In a large bowl place flour and add in salt, oil, and yeast mixture and start mixing until you form a non-sticky dough.

Step 3: Cover with a towel and let it sit in a warm place for an hour.

Step 4: Form from your dough around 6 balls. Make sure they are perfectly round. Let them rise for 15 more minutes.

Step 5: Prepare a sweet water bath by bringing to boil water with sugar in a deep tin.

Step 6: Take one dough ball and with your finger create a hole in the middle. Repeat with other balls.

Step 7: Place 2 or 3 bagels into boiling water (depends on the size of the dish) and cook for around 1-2 minutes on each side. Repeat with the remaining bagels.

Step 8: Preheat oven to 180C.

Step 9: Transfer bagels on a baking tray with baking paper.

Step 10: Brush bagels with olive oil or milk. Sprinkle with seeds and spices of choice.

Step 11: Bake them for around 12-15 minutes.




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