A common breakfast among commuters, bagels stand alone as the only bread that is boiled before it is baked, providing chewiness instead of brittle crumbs. Yeast dough is shaped into rings, allowed to rise, then briefly tossed into vigorously boiling water for a few seconds. Then it is baked, where the prior boiling creates a chewy texture. Those that like a bit of gloss on the crust can brush them with sugar water, the traditional method, or egg, a more modern method abhorred by purists.
The origin of the bagel is up for debate, although it seems to have early taken a foothold in Poland. The first printed mention occurs in Krakow, in 1610 in a list of community regulations that stipulate that bagels are to be given to pregnant women. (Interestingly, given the bagel’s association as a ‘Jewish’ food, there is no mention of religion in this regulation-apparently Christian women ate bagels as well).
Others support the legend that the world’s first bagel was produced in 1683 as a tribute to Jan Sobieski, King of Poland.
The king, a renowned horseman, had just saved the people of Austria from a massive attack by Turkish invaders. In gratitude, a local baker shaped yeast dough into the shape of stirrup to honor him and called it the Austrian word for stirrup, beugel. The roll soon became a hit throughout Eastern Europe. Over time, its shape evolved into a circle with a hole in the center and its named was converted to its modern form, bagel.