blueberry, and muesli among others. Bagels may be topped with seeds such as poppy or sesame, which are baked onto the outer crust.
A related bread product is a bialy, which has no hole, is often onion or garlic-flavored, and is less crispy on the outside.
Though often made with sugar, malt syrup, or honey, bagels should not be confused with doughnuts (donuts).
The bagel originated in Central Europe, probably in Poland. A 1610 document from Kraków mentions “beygls” given as a gift to women in childbirth. This is often cited as the earliest known reference to the bagel, but the document is not clear what a “beygl” is. It may be what is now known as a bagel, it may be something related to the word for stirrup (beugal), or it may refer to something else whose meaning is lost.
An oft-repeated story states that the bagel originated in 1683 in Vienna, Austria, when a local Jewish baker created them as a gift for King Jan III Sobieski of Poland to commemorate the King's victory over the Turks that year. The baked good was fashioned in the form of a stirrup (or horseshoe, tales vary) to commemorate the victorious cavalry charge. That the name bagel originated from beugal (stirrup) is considered plausible by many, both from the similarities of the word and due to the fact that traditional handmade bagels are not perfectly circular but rather slightly stirrup-shaped. (This fact, however, may be due to the way the boiled bagels are pressed together on the baking sheet before baking.) More prosaically, the name bagel may simply originate from the Yiddish and German word bügel, meaning “bale” or bow, sometimes used to refer to a round loaf of bread (see Gugelhupf for an Austrian cake with a similar ring shape).
Ashkenazi immigrants in the 1880s brought the bagel to the Lower East Side New York City, where it continues to flourish as a local cuisine popular not only with one ethnic group but as an icon of the city. The same phenomenon has happened to the Montreal bagel. Until the 1920s, bagels were rare in other parts of the United States other than a few cities with large Eastern European Jewish populations. The bagel came into more general use throughout North America in the last quarter of the 20th century. Today, bagels are enjoyed all over the world, and have become one of the most popular breakfast foods.
Bagels are made by first mixing the dough, then chilling it overnight before boiling it in water and subsequently baking it. It is this unusual production method which is said to give bagels their distinctive taste. As an originally Jewish food, it provided an additional advantage, as it could be made without breaking the no-work rule of the Sabbath: The dough would be prepared on the day before, chilled during the day, and cooked and baked only after the end of the Sabbath, therefore using the Sabbath as a productive time in the bagel-making process (as the dough needs to rest chilled for a time before cooking).
The two most prominent styles of traditional bagel in North America are the Montreal bagel and the New York-style bagel. The Montreal bagel contains malt and egg but no salt; it is boiled in honey-sweetened water before baking in a wood oven; and it is predominantly either of the “black seed” (poppy) or “white seed” (sesame) variety. The New York bagel contains salt and malt and is also boiled prior to baking in a standard oven. The resulting New York bagel is puffy with a noticeable crust, while the Montreal bagel is smaller (though with a larger hole), chewier, and sweeter.
In addition to the plain bagel, variants feature seasoning on the outside, including sesame, garlic, poppy seed, onion, rye, and salt. The “everything” bagel is a mixture of all of the above. Other versions which change the dough recipe include cinnamon, raisin, blueberry, pumpernickel, egg and sourdough. Green bagels are sometimes created for St. Patrick's Day. Many chains now offer bagels in flavors such as chocolate chip, French toast, asiago cheese, olive and bacon.
In the late 20th century, many variations on the bagel flourished, including those made with different types of doughs, and with new, non-traditional foods and seasonings added to the dough. Breakfast bagels, a softer, sweeter variety usually sold in fruity or sweet flavors (e.g. cherry, strawberry, cheese, blueberry, cinnamon-raisin, chocolate chip) are commonly sold by large supermarket chains; these are usually sold pre-sliced and are intended to be prepared in a toaster. A flat bagel, known as a Flagel, can be found in a few locations in and around New York City. A sweet variant of the bagel known as the “fragel” is found in Michigan; bagel dough is fried and coated with some RJ.