Bagels: A Recipe Beyond the Controversy

This is a guest post by Tom Nehil, who blogs about food at
Far be it from a gentile such as myself to presume to offer any kind of authoritative perspective on the bagel, a food that — in the United States, anyway — has been tied to Jewish identity since Jewish immigrants brought the breads to New York at the beginning of the last century. I’m not even from New York! But even if bagels are not in my blood, over the course of my life I have nurtured an appreciation for a well-made bagel; a bagel with the right chew is as fine a food experience as can be had — something that should be sought after.
Local food mega-site the Heavy Table recently stirred up controversy by deeming, after conducting a metro-wide tasting, the Bruegger’s bagel to be the best bagel in the Twin Cities. To have a giant national chain beat out all the local options was understandably upsetting to the many people whose culinary ethos is built around eating as locally as possible. I fall into this camp, when it comes to bagels at least, since I almost always choose Common Roots, for reasons entirely related to the cafe’s proximity to my home (this is a lazy decision, not an ethical one). Still, people are passionate about their bagel purveyors, and if you’d like to avoid the debate altogether your best bet is to make your own.
As with so many things bread-related, the first place to turn is Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. His bagel recipe takes two days: one day to mix and shape the dough, an overnight refrigerated fermentation, and the second day to boil and bake the bagels.
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