National Bagel Day 9 February 2019

Tomorrow is National Bagel Day

Bagels are pretty unique, as well as being super tasty but much denser and chewier than a roll.

Paul Merry from The Panary Bakery at Cann Mill Dorset talks about the fascinating history of this iconic ‘roll with a hole’ his wonderful memory of the Jewish bakers in his home city of Melbourne.

The bagel was probably created by a Jewish baker living in Vienna, towards the end of the sixteenth century, and indeed it has been popular in Eastern Europe for these several centuries. The earliest written record of the word "beigel" occurs in archives of community edicts in Krakow, early in the 1610, and the edict instructed that beigels were to be given to women in childbirth. There is the usual fanciful folklore which says that the name comes from an old word for ring; or from the German bugel, meaning riding stirrup, with the bagel commemorating the king of Poland’s love of riding while symbolising the Polish cavalry’s protection of Austria from the risk of Turkish invasion. As folklore goes, this is possibly the Jewish version of the mythical story explaining the origin of the croissant, also said to have been created to celebrate the repulsion of the Turks from Vienna.

Always associated with Jewish bakeries, “the roll with the hole” has become so popular that now it is a product of mainstream industrial bakeries. A real bagel, however, has its own characteristics and is not just another form of morning roll.

Indeed it is the chewiness of the bagel that sets it apart, with its crust being tough, rather than crisp. Beneath the richly glazed crust of light mahogany hues is a dense and close textured crumb that has its own particular appeal when actually being chewed.

As a young adult beginning to discover exotic food, I remember making considerable effort to pass through the Jewish quarter of my city, Melbourne, a detour that was well rewarded by visiting the Jewish bakeries, where bagels and fluffy baked cheese cake took my fancy. I find irresistible the traditional bagel with cream cheese and chopped herring or smoked salmon. Years later, as a professional baker, I would make regular trips to the city and suburbs for pleasure or to stock up at the warehouses of the wholesale importers of foreign foods. As before, the bagel held me in thrall, and those detours would again be made to visit the Jewish bakeries. By that time the lure of the exotic bagel was working its magic since a bagel is so different from a normal bread roll, one of which I could have any day in my bakery.