10 Surprising Facts About Bagels Even True Connoisseurs Can Appreciate
It’s no secret that bagels are delicious, but did you know that unlike other types of bread, bagels are boiled before they’re baked? Have you heard that bagels didn’t really become mainstream in the United States until the 1970s? Do you know that bagels get a day to call their own? Mark this holi-est day on your calendar—it’s Feb. 9.
We’re just getting warmed up, though. Here are 10 more interesting bite-sized bits of bagel history for all the true connoisseurs of this delightful breakfast staple. OK, really any time of day—if we’re being honest here. A bagel is always a good idea.
Bagels have been to space.
It’s safe to say that the treats from Fairmount Bagels in Montreal are out of this world. In 2008, Astronaut Greg Chamitoff boarded Discovery for a 14-day flight into space. Accompanying him? Eighteen bagels from Fairmount, a shop owned by his aunt.
Montreal is actually famous for bagels.
Philadelphia has its cheesesteaks. Italy has its pasta. As for Montreal? It’s got bagels, baby! What sets Montreal’s bagels apart from others is that they are poached in honey water before baking in a wood-fire burning oven. The result is a chewy, golden bagel that folks in Montreal boast about. We’ll let you decide if they’re better than their famed New York counterparts, though.
The biggest bagel on record was 868 pounds.
Talk about carb-heavy! In August 2004, Bruegger’s Bagels produced a gigantic 868-pound bagel and displayed it at the New York State Fair, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. The larger-than-life creation required 11,00 pounds of dough, 900 gallons of water, and took 10 hours to bake. It holds the record for the biggest bagel to date.
Bagels go way back.
The birth of the bagel is debated, largely because bagel-shaped bread has been around for centuries in various cultures. One legend provides the bagel was invented in 1683 as a stirrup-shaped tribute to Polish king Jan Sobieski after he defended Vienna from Turkish conquest. But, Maria Balinska, the author of The Bagel: The Surprising History of a Modest Bread, points out that bagels look a lot like obwarzanek, a Polish bread that dates back to the late 1300s. Bagels became mainstream in the United States in the ’70s, though they had been sold in niche Jewish markets for several decades prior.
Bagels have holes for a reason.
Why do bagels have holes in them? Because they’re grown-up Cheerios. Kidding! Rather, the holes make bagels bake faster, according to a Q&A Balinska did with The New York Times. The holes also made bagels stackable on a dowel, or wooden pole, which made it easier for street vendors to sell them.
The “everything” bagel was possibly invented by a 15-year-old.
Nailing down who invented certain foods can be a tricky task, but a New Yorker named Dave Gussin—who worked in a bagel shop in Howard Beach—told The New Yorker he actually invented the “everything bagel” back in 1980 at age 15. Gussin claimed he was sweeping seeds out of the oven and got the idea to combine them on a bagel. The shop then sold the “everything bagel” for an extra nickel. But, since the article came out, the claim has been contested, with another former bagel bakery worker declaring he made “everything” bagels in 1977. So basically, everyone seems to want credit for creating the “everything bagel.”
There have been caffeinated bagels for an extra morning jolt.
Hold the coffee this time. In 2017, Einstein Bros Bagels launched an espresso-infused bagel that was packed with 32 milligrams of caffeine and 13 grams of protein.
Bagel-making was once a group effort.
Bagel-makers in the early 1900s worked in teams of four. Two people would make the dough, giving bagels their shape; one person boiled them, and the fourth person baked them.
Apple had to redo its bagel emoji.
In honor of National Bagel Day, in early 2018 Thomas Bagels released an emoji keyboard. Forty breakfast-centric emojis were on it, including an avocado-topped bagel. Later that year, Apple finally released the bagel emoji on its own platform—but not without controversy. After people complained that the plain bagel had nothing on it, it got redesigned with cream cheese during the iOS 12.1 beta 4 cycle release. People have strong opinions about bagels, don’t they?
Bagels have a close cousin: the bialy.
Haven’t heard of a bialy? If you want to switch things up one morning, try ordering one of these doughy delights. Instead of a hole in the middle, a bialy has an indent in its dough that’s usually filled with cooked onions (and sometimes topped with poppy seeds). Also unlike a bagel, a bialy is baked (never boiled like the bagel dough is first).