What Makes a Bagel Different Than Other Types of Bread?

Since the beginning of civilization, bread has been a primary food making it an essential part of daily life. Over the years, different types of bread produced worldwide have significantly evolved. One bread that seems to stand out among other bread is the bagel.

A bagel is a ring-shaped yeast-leavened roll that is crispy has a shiny crust and dense interior. A Bagel is usually served with toppings like cream cheese and salmon during breakfast or snacks.

Bagels are considered a Jewish specialty and popular in counties with large Jewish populations such as Canada, the U.K., and the U.S. Its dough is like the usual bread ingredients: flour, salt, yeast, and sweetening. The gluten in flour gives the bagel its spongy, chewy texture. 

Traditionally, shaping the dough into a ring is done by hand, and then it boils in water for a couple of minutes in the water to seal the dough and ensure a compact texture before it goes into the oven to bake.

Nowadays, the rings are machine-made in mass production, and instead of boiling, steaming does the job. Either way, it is applied with a glaze of egg yolk or milk before baking to create a shiny crust. Seeds and spices can be added before baking; bagels also are made with flavorings, vegetables, nuts, or fruits mixed into the dough. There are also whole-grain and rye versions.

History

Centuries after its invention, it remains unknown why bagels were invented. Although many versions of the story surfaced, they all seem to point to central Europe.

One theory states that everyday treats in German monasteries evolved into a circular roll with a hole in the middle. The bagels appeared as a feast day bread known as an obwarzanek in the 14th century. They later became famous when Poland’s first female monarch Queen Jadwiga, gave up rich bread and pastries and switched to eating obwarzanek for Lent, a religious observance in which Catholics offer a small sacrifice up to God.

Another more popular theory is that a baker in Vienna, Austria, accidentally invented the bagel in 1683. The baker made it a tribute to the King of Poland, John Sobieski III, for successfully defending the city from Turkish invaders. Aware of the king’s love of horses, the baker shaped the dough into a circle. He then called it a beugel, Austrian for “stirrup.”

European Jewish immigrants brought bagel to the United States in the 19th century and gained popularity in New York City. By the late 20th century, the American bagel industry expanded rapidly. Bagel bakeries and frozen food distributors created numerous variations in bagel’s traditional form and texture.

Varieties

New York-style

The New York bagel has a fluffy interior and chewy crust. It contains malt and goes through cold fermentation for several days to develop the flavors and enhance the crust before hitting the boiling salted water and baking in a standard oven. 

Montreal style

Montreal bagels

The Montreal bagel has three styles: one poppy and two sesame bagels

Their bagel contains malt and sugar with no salt; it boils in honey-sweetened water before baking in a wood-fired oven.

St. Louis style

The St. Louis style bagel refers to a particular method of slicing the bagel. The St. Louis style bagels have multiple vertical slices instead of the traditional single horizontal cut. The portions are 3 mm to 6 mm thick

Asiago

The Asiago bagels are a type of bagel baked with an asiago cheese topping and served by many independent bagel bakeries and big bagel shop chains like Einstein Bros. and Noah’s Bagels. They were invented in the mid-1990s and are the most popular bagel sold at Panera Bread. The most prominent claim to the origin of the asiago bagel comes from Panera.

Bagel and Bread

bagel with sesame seeds

Bagels and bread may have so many similarities that they are usually being confused with one another. However, bagels differ from other bread in many ways too. 

Bagel

As mentioned earlier, bagels are a mixture of yeast-leavened wheat dough; it is kneaded and shaped like a ring like a doughnut. Then, it is in hot water for a minute or two before being put inside the oven to bake. A bagel displays a browned, crispy crust, but it is doughy, chewy inside. Bagel makers often sprinkle it with nuts or seeds like poppy or sesame. Ideally, bagels must have a slightly crispy crust and a unique pull while the bread breaks apart, plus the flavor of freshly baked bread. 

Sometimes, bagels are flavored with onions, garlic, or sweetened with honey, sugar, or malt. Although bagels usually use wheat flour for the dough, other flours such as rye, wheat, and whole-grain can also be as good. Barley bagels are available in fresh or frozen forms in the supermarket.

A typical bagel contains around 260-350 calories, 1.0-4.5 grams of fat, 2-5 grams of fiber, and 330-660 milligrams of sodium.

Bread

Bread is an essential food worldwide and is made by mixing flour and water into a  dough and then baking. It is one of the oldest foods of humanity. There are various methods of making bread. The taste and types of bread depend upon the process of preparation. The essential ingredient in making the dough for bread is water and wheat flour cultured with yeast, and it is allowed to rise before it is put inside the oven to bake. Bread can also use wheat varieties such as durum, emmer, and other grains such as barley, maize, oats, and rye. Various types of bread are also available today, like brown bread, crispbread, pita bread, white bread, and wholemeal bread.

Bagel Vs. Typical Bread

  • Bread dough goes straight into the oven to bake while bagel is boiled and then baked.
  • Bread is usually in the form of a loaf, while a bagel’s shape is like a ring.
  • Bread is an essential food in almost every country worldwide, while bagels are only famous in countries with a Jewish population.
  • Bread only use sugar as a sweetener, while bagel can use malt.
  • When baked in the oven, bagels don’t rise as much as other bread.

Bagel Vs. Donut

They may have the same shape, but doughnuts are healthier than gabels. Although bagels have fewer calories than bread, the chewy treat has more carbohydrates and sodium content.

Bagel Vs. Pretzels

Bagels are boiled in the water while cooking pretzels uses an alkaline solution giving them a slightly soapy flavor.