Bagels are the perfect food. They are tasty plain, work well with a variety of fillings, and can be eaten at any time. They make the perfect breakfast, are a great snack when playing at a casino, and can even be dressed up with delicious toppings for dinner. Essentially, anything bread can do; bagels can do better…
But have you ever wondered where the holes in bagels originated from? Are they there for a reason, or purely to save costs on dough? Is there a logical reason behind the humble hole? We’re here to put your curiosity to rest once and for all.
There are many different explanations as to why bagel holes came into being. Do a quick Google search and you will find dozens of theories, some of which make much more sense than others. Others still are completely wild and far-fetched. One thing is for sure though; bagels are one of those classic foods that you can’t leave New York City without trying, and the mystery of the hole makes them even more tempting.
Easier Transport and Sale
One of the most plausible theories out there about bagel holes is that the hole is there to make selling and transporting the baked goods easier. In the past, vendors threaded the round breads onto dowel sticks, which made them easier to sell on street corners. The New York Times has reported that even up until the 1970s, most bagels were still sold to delis and supermarkets in America threaded onto ropes or strings.
This is certainly a logical explanation, but it doesn’t rule out some of the other theories doing the rounds. Dianna Daoheung, the executive chef and head baker of New York City’s Black Seed Bagels (New York’s most popular bagel shop), says that another theory is equally likely to be true. Daohueng believes that in the 1600s, a Polish baker invented classic bagels for a local queen to celebrate her first son’s birth. Also known as a beigel in Poland, the true origins of these baked goods have indeed been traced back to Polish-Jewish communities in Eastern Europe.
The baker in question reportedly modelled the breads after the bangles and bracelets his queen often wore. Even the words ‘bagel’ and ‘bangle’ sound similar to prove this point! This essentially means that bagels have royal origins, which any fans of the round snacks could attest to. It is not known exactly what toppings the queen preferred with her bagels, but honey, smoked salmon and curd cheese are all possible contenders.
Saving on Costs
Yet another interesting theory states that the bagel hole has an important economic purpose. By creating a hole in every bagel they made, bakers could save on dough, which meant that they could make more product for the same amounts of ingredients. This thrifty approach would have been necessary a few decades ago, especially for hawkers with relatively low incomes. By introducing the hole into the mix, these vendors effectively created an iconic food that is still recognisable today, while also making themselves some good money.
But what about practical purposes? Some bagel lovers believe that the holes do have a very practical purpose when it comes to baking. By creating a hole in the centre, bakers could ensure that the breads baked evenly inside and out, while also significantly lowering their baking time. The hole would allow steam from the inside to escape, making for a perfectly cooked item with no doughy, undercooked spots at its centre. Someone who had to make hundreds of bagels a day would have seen this as a significant advantage, especially when it came to profit margins.
The Eternal Mystery
So, what do you think about the great mystery of the bagel hole and the theories about its origins? All of the theories mentioned have their merits, but for now, nobody can conclusively prove exactly where or why the hole originated. It will likely remain to be one of humanity’s greatest food-related mysteries in the coming years, at least until someone proves one of the theories true. Still, despite their mysterious origins, bagels are one of America’s most popular breakfast foods – holes and all! Are you hungry yet?