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Why Do Bagels Have Holes? Unraveling the Mystery of Bagel Design

One of the first things that might come to mind when you think of breakfast or a quick snack is a tasty, doughy bagel. These round, chewy treats have been a part of New York’s food scene for generations. Their history goes back to Europe, where they were first made. But have you ever wondered why bagels have those holes in the middle?

In this blog, we’ll deeply dive into the world of bagels. We’ll learn about their past, why they have holes, and some modern twists on this popular snack, such as gluten-free options and how to store them.

A Brief History of Lox and Bagels

Before we get into the mystery of bagel holes, let’s take a step back and look at the long and interesting history of bagels and lox, which goes well with them.

How Bagels Got Their Start?

Some sources say that bagels can be traced back to Jewish villages in Poland as early as the 17th century. The first bagels were not as complex as the ones we eat now. Most of the time, they were smaller, thicker, and didn’t have a hole. Before they were cooked, bagels were boiled in water, giving them a crunchy texture.

The Lox and Bagels history is a tale of cultural fusion and culinary delight. Lox, a brined salmon delicacy, traces its origins to Eastern Europe, where it was a staple of Jewish cuisine. In the early 20th century, Jewish immigrants brought their love for lox to America, where it met the iconic New York bagel. The pairing became an instant hit in the bustling streets of New York City and eventually spread across the nation. Today, lox and bagels remain a cherished breakfast or brunch choice, symbolizing the fusion of traditions and the enduring appeal of this delectable combination.

The Rise of Lox and Bagels

Jewish refugees took the bagel to the United States in the late 1800s and early 1900s, especially to New York City. This was the first step toward the bagel becoming today’s famous American breakfast food. Bagels and lox, thinly sliced brined salmon, were made for each other in New York.

Together, they became a standard mix that New Yorkers and food fans worldwide have enjoyed for generations.

The Mystery of Bagel Holes


The Mystery of Bagel Holes
Source: youngandfoodish.substack.com

Now let’s get down to business: why do bagels have holes? There are many different ideas, each with charm and attraction.

1. Practicality and Tradition

One of the most obvious reasons is that the hole in the middle of the bagel makes it easy to pick up and carry. It made sense to do this on the busy streets of New York City, where bagels became famous. You could put a string or a wooden stick through the hole to take a dozen bagels without squashing them. It was an easy answer for both sellers and buyers.

Tradition also plays an important part. Over time, bagel makers started using this pattern, and it became a big part of what a bagel is today. It shows how custom and usefulness in cooking can last for a long time.

2. The Consistency of Baking

The hole in the bagel is also useful when it comes to baking. The hole ensures that the middle of the bagel cooks more evenly when boiled and then baked. This gives the whole bagel a uniform taste, with a crispy outside and a soft inside. It’s all about getting the right mix of textures, which is what bagel fans want.

3. The Story of Poland’s King

A tale says that King Jan III Sobieski of Poland had something to do with the creation of the bagel. The story says that the king told the cooks to make a special loaf of bread in the shape of a stirrup to remember his win over the Ottoman Empire. So, the hole in the bagel is the seat for the king. This story gives the background of the bagel a bit of romance, but it needs to be clarified if it’s true.

4. What Does the Circle Mean?

Since it has no beginning or end, the circle has been a strong sign in many countries throughout history. Some people think that the bagel’s round shape, which is emphasized by the hole in the middle, is a symbol of forever and the way life goes around and around. Even though this wasn’t what the bagel was meant to mean at first, it’s a beautiful way to look at it that gives it more meaning.

Innovations in Modern Bagels

As bagels have become popular all over the world, they have changed to meet different tastes and nutritional needs. The rise of gluten-free bread is one of the most important changes.

The Gluten-Free Revolution

Gluten-free meals have become more common because they are good for your health and can help people sensitive to gluten or have celiac disease. Luckily, this change in food hasn’t left bagel lovers behind. Today, you can find a wide range of gluten-free bagels that taste just as good as the iconic New York bagels with gluten.

These gluten-free bagels are usually made with flours like almond, coconut, or cassava. They are just as tasty and filling as their regular cousins. Modern innovations ensure that everyone can enjoy a good bagel, even if they can’t eat gluten or want to try something new.

Bagel Storage Guidelines

Now that we’ve explored the history, the mystery of bagel holes, and the evolution of bagels, it’s important to discuss the best way to store these delectable treats.

Freshness is Key

The key to enjoying a great bagel is freshness. While store-bought bagels often come in plastic bags, they’re best enjoyed within a few hours of being baked. This packaging will suffice if you plan to consume them within a day or two. However, for longer storage, follow these guidelines:

1. Freezing Bagels

If you have a surplus of bagels or want to stock up for future cravings, freezing is the way to go. Here’s how to do it:

  • Allow the bagels to cool completely if they’re fresh from the oven.
  • Wrap each bagel individually in plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
  • Place the wrapped bagels in an airtight container or a heavy-duty freezer bag.
  • Label the container or bag with the date to keep track of freshness.
  • Store the bagels in the freezer for up to six months.

When you’re ready to enjoy a frozen bagel, simply remove it from the freezer, unwrap it, and pop it in the oven or toaster until it’s heated. This method preserves the bagel’s texture and flavor, ensuring it tastes as good as the day it was baked.

2. Avoid Refrigeration

Contrary to what you might think, refrigerating bagels is not recommended. The cold and moisture in the refrigerator can lead to the bagels becoming stale and losing their chewiness. Sticking with freezing is best if you need to store them for an extended period.

Read more: How to Keep Bagels Fresh?

The Bagel’s Enduring Legacy

In conclusion, the mystery of why bagels have holes is a fascinating journey through history, tradition, and practicality. These humble yet beloved treats have come a long way from their Eastern European origins to become a symbol of New York’s culinary heritage and a global sensation.

Whether you prefer a classic New York bagel with lox or explore gluten-free options, bagels delight taste buds and bring people together. Their enduring legacy reminds us that food is not only about sustenance but also about culture, tradition, and the joy of discovery. So the next time you bite into a warm, freshly toasted bagel, take a moment to appreciate the delicious history and craftsmanship behind this iconic creation.

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