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History of the Bagel: the Hole Story

While it's widely agreed that bagels came to the United States from the Jewish villages of Eastern Europe, experts can't pinpoint the exact origin of the humble bread with the hole in the middle.

One legend has it that the first bagel was born in 1683 when a Viennese baker wanted to pay tribute to Polish King Jan III Sobieski for saving the people of Austria from Turkish invaders. Since the king was known to have a passion for riding, the baker made rolls in the shape of a stirrup, known in German as beugel.

In "The Joys of Yiddish," however, Leo Rosten notes that the first printed mention of bagels came even earlier, in 1610, in the Community Regulations of Krakow, Poland. These stated that "bagels would be given as a gift to any woman in childbirth." The ring shape may have been seen as a symbol of life.

Whatever its ancestry, the doughnut-shaped roll quickly caught on, becoming a staple among Eastern Europeans. In Yiddish, they were called beygel; in Russian, boobliki; in Polish, obazanki.

Bagels came to New York in the 1880s, with the immigration of hundreds of thousands of Eastern European Jews. Vendors used to thread the hole-shaped bread onto dowels and hawk them on street corners.

The pronunciation of the word never changed, but the spelling was Americanized to bagel.

In 1907, the International Bagel Bakers Union was founded in New York City. Members of the elite group, which was only open to sons of union members, fiercely safeguarded the recipe for bagels, which were usually boiled or "kettled" in vats of boiling hot water before baking. Bagel makers traditionally worked in teams of four,with two men making the dough and shaping the bagels, one boiling them, and the fourth baking them.

Sometime after World War I, Meyer "Mickey" Thompson, the son of a bagel baker in Winnipeg, Canada, started experimenting with a bagel-making machine in his workshop over the family bakery. Over the years, he invented several models, but each had a serious flaw. One was too slow to be commercially viable, another impeded the rising process. A third worked well, but engineers said it would be too complicated and expensive to build.

In the early 1960s, Thompson's son, Daniel, who had picked up his father's challenge, invented the Thompson Bagel Machine, capable of producing 200 to 400 bagels an hour. The first of these machines was installed in a six-car garage in New Haven, Conn., where Murray Lender was setting up the first frozen bagel business. Within a few years, Lender's bagels were in supermarket freezers around the country. Mass production and distribution of bagels turned the rest of the nation into bagel lovers. By 1988, Americans were eating an average of one bagel per month and in 1993, bagel consumption doubled to an average of one bagel every two weeks, according to the American Bagel Association.

WHY ARE THE ALWAYS BAGELS BETTER THAN THE REST

1. SCRATCH RECIPE – NO BASES OR MIXES
2. 14% AND HIGHER PROTEIN FLOWER
3. LOWER WATER ABSORBTION (DENSE, CHEWIER PRODUCT)
4. 12-14 HOUR RETARDING TIME ( MORE FLAVOR, SHINE AND CRUST)
5. QUANTITY OF SEEDS APPLIED TO EACH BAGEL
6. LONGER BAKE TIME (THICKERCRUST AND MOISTURE RETENTION)
7. FREEZING PROCESS (COOLED AND FROZEN WHIN 60 MINUTES OF BAKE)
8. FAMILY OWNED BUSINESS
9. ACCOMMODATION OF CUSTOMERS
10. VERSATILITY OF PRODUCTS (THAW AND SERVE AND BAKE OFF)


Comparison of Raw Dough Bagels Versus Par Baked Bagels

• Raw Dough does not receive 14-16 hours fermentation time – This is what gives bagels a distinct flavor profile, chewy interior and crispy crust.

• Raw Dough is usually not put through a boiling process – Our Par Baked Bagels are and this gives the product a shine and helps keep moisture in the bagel making for a longer shelf life.

• Raw dough product is usually put in a retarder overnight to thaw and the next morning is finished with different toppings. This makes for a lot of waste by toppings falling on floor or onto pan. It also requires inventory in the back room making inventory dollars higher. Always Bagels come with all toppings already on the product. This reduces the need for the department to carry an inventory of toppings and this also produces a more consistent product.

• Raw Dough Bagels are then placed in a proof box. Bagels can be over proofed or under proofed using this process, and causing inconsistencies in presentation and in taste. There is no proofing needed for a Par Baked Bagel eliminating the possibility of over proofing the product or under proofing the product. Frozen Par baked bagels are put in the oven after standing on the floor for 30-35 minutes and baked for 5 minutes at 350 degrees and will always come out of the oven with a great shine and appearance.

• If a bagel variety runs out during the day it is almost impossible to get Raw Dough Bagels thawed and proofed and baked in time to meet the demand. Using Par Baked Bagels allows the In Store Bakery never to run out of product in the course of a business day. Par Baked Bagels can be Cycled Baked as needed all day long which increases sales and profit to the bottom line.

• Raw Dough Bagels quality can vary from one day to the next depending on thaw time, proof time, floor time, baking temperature and bake time. Most of this is eliminated using a Par Baked Product. Par Baked Bagels are boiled at the plant allowing the bagel to seal in moisture and bake with a unique taste and texture. Par Baked Bagels have a longer bake at the plant then Raw Dough bagels at store level which also gives it a thicker crust and better moisture retention then Raw Dough. Par Baked finished bagels are the same day in and day out.

• Shrink is easier to control using the Always Bagels process to make sure bagels are available when needed.

• There is labor savings using Par Baked over the Raw Dough process. The product is handled less. There is no need to thaw bagels, proof bagels or top bagels.

• In stores that have switched from Raw Dough to Par- Baked Bagels it was determined that time saved each day in each store ran from 10 – 15 minutes.

• In an actual conversion of a 100 store chain which saved 10 minutes per day the savings amounted to 70 minutes per store per week times 100 stores = 7,000 minutes or 116.6 hours times 52 weeks equals 6,063 hours. At an average of $10 and hour labor cost the savings in labor would be $60,630. In a 150 store chain that would amount to 9,110 hours and a savings of $91,000. In accounts that have switched from Raw Dough to Always Par-Baked Bagels we have seen an average increase in sales of 20% or more the first year.