I bagels I’ll admit it, I don’t need a national holiday as an excuse to have a bagel. Ditch those donuts and keep your crullers; but wave a toasted, sesame-coated ring of crispy, chewy goodness, slathered inside with juuuust-enough thick and melty cream cheese in front of me, and… well, I just may follow you anywhere. ‘Til I’m done, at least. Then you’ll probably be on your own again. (Unless you have another bagel for me.)
If you ever wondered why bagels so uniquely different, so unlike just about any other type of bread or roll in the world of breads and rolls, you might be surprised to learn that one of the steps in the traditional bagel-making process involves boiling. (Yes, boiling! Right?! Who knew?)
Well, it was certainly news to me, back when I was young and infatuated with the young man who worked in his father’s coffee shop around the corner from me. I would keep him company sometimes, while he worked in the kitchen making the donuts and pastries destined to fill the cases out front every day. The first time I watched him make bagels, I was fascinated. Mixing, rolling, and shaping the rings was interesting enough, but then I saw him bring that steel tray over to this huge vat of water boiling on the stove, you could have knocked me over with a cream puff. Briefly boiling the dough before baking it, he told me, is what makes a bagel a bagel. It acts to increase the bagel’s interior density by killing off any surface yeast, which cuts down how much the crust can expand in the oven. Boiling also makes the crust shiny yet chewy, by gelatinizing the flour’s starches in a way that dry oven heat is incapable of doing. At the same time, the water’s heat penetrates the bagel’s interior, activating the yeasts inside and reducing the need for all the rising and punching-down and re-rising common to many bread-making recipes.
Or something like that, at least. I didn’t care, I was hooked. (My infatuation with the baker-boy didn’t last all that long, but my love affair with bagels is still going strong, all these years later.)
See that shine? Now THAT’s a bagel!
But now that I’ve gotten older, I know I can’t indulge myself as often as I used to. I know I have to keep active, eat right, watch my salt, fat, and sugar intake, and keep an eye on my cholesterol. My toasted sesame bagel with cream cheese is no longer my daily breakfast, supplanted most often now by a wholesome bowl of steel-cut oatmeal, per my doctor’s … well, let’s just say ‘emphatic’… suggestion. Heart disease IS the leading cause of death in the US, and according to the CDC, about half of all Americans are at risk. Oatmeal contains high amounts of a fiber called beta glucan, which studies suggest can work to lower insulin resistance and blood cholesterol, reduce the risk of obesity, and boost the immune system. A 1.5 cup serving of oatmeal contains 3 grams of beta glucans, the amount which researchers recommend for those seeking heart-healthy lifestyles.
But not everyone has the time I do for oatmeal every morning. Many people are always on-the-go. Multi-tasking, they want something quick they can eat with one hand.
Watson Inc. has formulated a mix that supplies 0.75 grams of beta glucans from oats in their Beta Bagel™, which is also an excellent source of vitamins A, E, D-3, and folic acid, and a good source of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine, B-12, pantothenic acid, iron, zinc, and copper. The heart-healthy benefits of oatmeal, in the modern-life convenience of a grab-and-go bagel?
Toast one up for me!