EASTON — Bagels have a new day. Until now, National Bagel Day shared a day with National Pizza Day on Feb. 9. This year, bagels get their time in the spotlight on Wednesday, Jan. 15.
The origin of the bagel is unknown, but it was referenced in Jewish community statutes in 17th century Poland. As Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe immigrated to the United States in the 19th century, they brought their bagel-baking skills with them.
Though they were popular in New York City and surrounding areas, bagels didn’t capture the attention of carb-lovers until the 1960s. Bagel baker Harry Lender created a frozen bagel that could be shipped across the nation and sold in grocery chains.
Traditional bagels call for the basic bread ingredients: flour, water, yeast, salt and sugar. Steve Andrews, owner of Bagery in Easton, starts the process the day before.
“The ingredients are mixed and formed into the shape of a bagel, then they are transferred into a refrigerator-like appliance that slows down the fermentation and rising,” he said. “It’s the slow fermentation that kind of changes the flavor profile of a bagel and makes it different from other breads.”
The next morning, the bagels are ready for boiling, a critical step in the bagel-making process. After boiling, toppings like sesame seeds and onions are added to the bagels. Then they go into the oven.
“They bake upside-down at first, because they’re very gelatinous,” Andrews said. “After a few minutes, the bagel starts to harden. Then we flip them off the board, and they finish baking right-side up.”
Andrews and his wife Dawn opened Bagery in Easton in summer 2018. They’ve noticed some trends among Easton residents. Andrews said they are fond of “everything bagels,” which historically were created when bagel shops put every topping they had on the bagels. Traditionally, everything bagels are topped with poppy seeds, sesame seeds, minced garlic, minced onion and salt.
“Everything is the most popular,” he said, “followed by plain and sesame, in that order.”
There are many ways to top a bagel, as well, with cream cheese topping the list of favorite toppings.
“Plain cream cheese, veggie cream cheese and butter are all popular,” Andrews said. “Kids tend to get jelly or jam, peanut butter and Nutella.”
Lily Robinson of Greensboro stopped in for a weekly breakfast with her grandparents, Gary and Marcy Chambers of Federalsburg. She chose a plain bagel topped with Nutella.
“I get one for breakfast, and I take a second one for lunch at school,” Robinson said.
Evan Nave, 4, and his brother Noah, 2, stopped in for breakfast with their mother Grace Nave and grandmother Laura Gorin, all of Easton. The boys shared a plain, un-toasted bagel with cream cheese.
Whether toasted or un-toasted, slathered with butter, cream cheese or nothing at all, bagels have become one of America’s — Easton’s — favorite breakfast foods.