Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
The bagel is a relatively small, ring-shaped bread that arose in Eastern Europe, and was introduced to the United States by immigrants to New York in the early 20th century.
Traditionally, the bagel had a shiny, thick, chewy crust and a dense interior; after its popularity grew in the late 20th century, many bakers began to make it larger and softer. Bagels are made with strong-gluten flour, which is made into a very stiff dough (a standard bread dough has 65 parts water to 100 flour; bagel dough has only 45 to 50). Traditional bagels are made by forming the dough, allowing it to rise somewhat (an 18-hour retardation gives a good crumb), immersing it in boiling water for 1.5–3 minutes on both sides to expand the interior and develop a thick crust, and then baking it. In the modern method, which is simpler to automate and takes a fraction of the usual time, the formed dough is steamed and then baked, with no slow rise and no immersion in boiling water. The steaming puffs the dough up more than rising and boiling do, and produces a thinner crust. The result is a lighter, softer ring.