Herb Bagels Made Easy

| October/November 1997

Ten years ago, only 20 percent of Americans had ever eaten a bagel. How things have changed. Today, bagels grace our breakfast tables as often as do toast and muffins. In fact, bagels are everywhere – in bakeries, grocery stores, and restaurants – and bagel franchises are popping up as rapidly as coffee bars.

It all started in 1683 when King Jan Sobieski of Poland, after saving the people of Austria from an invasion by the Turkish army, was honored with a yeast dough shaped into an uneven circle that looked like a stirrup, or beugel. Centuries later, Jewish bakers of Polish and Russian descent perfected the bagel and brought it to Long Island, where it stayed for many years, waiting to be discovered by the rest of us.

When you hunger for warm, fresh-from-the-oven bagels with a moist, chewy texture and a perfect delicate crust, you don’t have to run to the nearest bakery. Over many years of bagel making, I’ve developed a two-step process that lets you get homemade bagels to the table in ten minutes. I’ve also experimented with adding a variety of herbs to my basic bagel recipe; the results are unusual, wonderful flavor combinations.

Traditionally bagel dough is boiled briefly, and then the entire batch is baked at one time. Unless you have a large family that can consume an entire batch of bagels in one sitting, you end up freezing some of the bagels, leaving you with the same precooked, frozen bagels you buy in a store. With the process presented here, however, you boil the dough longer, completing the yeast action. As a result, you can store the boiled dough in airtight packages in the refrigerator, freezer, or even the pantry, then pop a few bagels at a time into the oven and enjoy your own warm, tasty bagel in as little as 10 minutes.

When I’m in the mood, I spend a morning in the kitchen making two or three batches of bagels. For the next several weeks, I enjoy these, one or two at a time, fresh from the oven for breakfast, lunch, or as an accompaniment to stew or soup.

Bagels, like most other breads, provide the perfect medium for enjoying the flavors of your herb garden. Just about any herb works in a bagel, so don’t hesitate to try other traditional or nontraditional herb combinations. For now, gather some thyme, sage, basil, oregano, fennel, caraway, or rosemary, roll up your sleeves, and let’s get started.

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