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Toasting bagels


Fat Guy
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The last time I was at Ess-a-Bagel, one of New York City's classic bagel bakeries, I noticed a sign, "We do not toast bagels." A little Googling reveals many diatribes against toasting bagels: "Real New Yorkers don't toast bagels," we are told. "Toasting a good bagel is bastardizing a beautiful thing." All my life I've heard this.

And I like toasted bagels. My credentials as a New Yorker are second to none. About 99% of bagels out there are improved by toasting. The 1% that taste good untoasted aren't harmed by it -- it's just another way to enjoy a bagel. Am I crazy (on this point at least)?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Nope, you're not nuts. (Although I can't speak for other New Yorkers; I'm a crazy Canuck displaced to the equator.)

IMHO, non-toasting is really only for bagels that are still warm from the oven. Every other bagel at every other time, regardless, is improved by showing it to a bit of heat.

Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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I think with establishments like Ess-a-Bagel, the "no toasting" policy is at least in part because they view such requests as an affront to the quality of their product.

I wouldn't want to toast a (good) fresh bagel if I'm having cream cheese on it, but love buttered bagels toasted dark so the butter soaks in, and think a good bagel being handled this way is even better.

"I know it's the bugs, that's what cheese is. Gone off milk with bugs and mould - that's why it tastes so good. Cows and bugs together have a good deal going down."

- Gareth Blackstock (Lenny Henry), Chef!

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I think that's silly. I was born and bred, and spent the longest chunk of my life in NYC, and I prefer bagels toasted. True, it's about the only thing that makes crummy bagels decent-ish, but it certainly doesn't hurt even the best bagel. And let's face it: a lot of the time (okay, not in the summer, perhaps), hot bread, regardless of the type, is one of the best things on the planet.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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OK. I AM a Montrealer. Long displaced in Ontario, but still a Montrealer, raised on proper Jewish bagels...which you would never ever toast. Montreal bagels are not easy to slice horizontally. You would end up slicing your fingers.

The photo on the article posted by FG, is not a bagel...to a Montrealer, it is a bread donut shape with a hole in it.

I'll find a photo of a proper Montreal bagel and post it. Well, I'll try. Some are proper Montreal bagels...the thin misshapen ones especially.

Images of Montreal bagels

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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I'm about as far across the country from NYC that you can be. (I'm currently a few hundred miles from the Pacific but spent most of my life in Portland, just an hour from the beach). So speaking as a Westerner, I can't imagine "not" toasting a bagel. My reasons why-it adds a thin layer of crispy texture that enhances the otherwise one-dimensional chewy texture of a bagel and it provides enough warmth to just begin to melt the whipped cream cheese and lox I like on my toasted bagel.

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I like most bagels toasted. The only exception is the pumpernickel bagel when very fresh.

The first time I tasted a bagel was when I was 19, in San Francisco while I was stationed at the Presidio.

One of my roommates was a Jewish girl from Long Island who ferreted out the location of a Jewish bakery on Arguello Blvd., in the Richmond district.

They were hot from the oven and after buying an assortment, we walked down into Golden Gate park and ate them plain, feeding some to the squirrels, who really seemed to fancy the ones with salt.

It was probably two years later when I first got one that had been toasted and was served with cream cheese, (At Nosh-A-Rama in Studio City, CA) and never looked back.

I like them lightly toasted and anointed with butter AND cream cheese - at home I mash them together - because I like the combination of flavors. :wub:

There used to be a deli on Ventura Blvd., in Woodland Hills (now the site of a big hotel) that toasted split bagels on the grill, in butter if you asked, and those too were very tasty, toasted only on the cut surface and served with breakfast. They produced bagel sandwiches filled with pastrami, roast beef, chicken salad, egg salad, and salmon mayonnaise - the latter something I have not seen on a menu for decades.

Geez, now I have to look up a recipe. :rolleyes:

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I'll toast a so-so bagel, but definitely not a warm from oven one. With decent bagel I'll frequently place in hot toaster oven (unsliced) since few bagels are baked sufficiently (or have enough malt syrup in boiling water) to create crackly crust. It's rare these days to find a good bagel with a thin crackly crust AND chewy interior. And even fewer are properly sized...most bakers seem to think bigger is better. Not true.

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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. . . .A little Googling reveals many diatribes against toasting bagels: "Real New Yorkers don't toast bagels," we are told. "Toasting a good bagel is bastardizing a beautiful thing." All my life I've heard this.

. . . .

It's news to me that any 'real New Yorker' would compliantly swallow that sort of statement. All I could think of when I read that, was my great-grandmother's favourite dismissive retort: 'Go to hell, that's what you are!' (she came to the US in her 60s, so her English never quite achieved flawlessness).

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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A good fresh bagel should not be toasted. Toasting destroys the delicate wheaty flavor and the interplay of textures between the dense crumb and the chewy crust. However, a good bagel that is a few hours past its prime may be toasted, particularly if toasted under the grill with butter on it so that the butter bubbles and browns. That is good.

But a primo virgin bagel? No toasting. I speak as someone who lived in Hoboken, NJ, for many years and spent most Sunday mornings at Hoboken Bagels, a very good bagel shop.

I love "Go to hell, that's what you are!"

So far, the bagels I've tried in Toronto have been bread baked in a circle. Haven't tried bagels in Montreal yet but will next time we're there -- we have been converted to smoked meat big time!

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With the caveat that I tasted my first bagel at age 28 when I moved to Long Island, I am on the side of untoasted - the exception, as other have said, being when a so-so bagel is toasted and then drenched with butter. Even so I'd rather a naturally warm bagel, untoasted and buttered.

A Montreal style bagel bakery, Spread, opened in Philadelphia a couple of months ago. Got me quickly hooked - three visits the first week. Then the wood around their oven caught fire and they have been closed ever since though they are promising to reopen soon. It would be a sin to toast Spread's bagels, straight from their wood-fired, hearth oven.

Edited by Holly Moore (log)

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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Like many, I won't toast a fresh bagel, may toast one that's been around or in the freezer. My favorite topping is cream cheese and lox, or lox cream cheese. When I'm not too lazy, I'll mix lox pieces with low-fat cream cheese in the food processor and save about half what they charge in the deli.

For me, toasted, buttery bagels are delicious, they just don't hit the emotional buttons (or the flavor ones) of a fresh one mit lox and cc, so I don't eat them regularly. I've never had a Montreal bagel, but I can give the recipe in Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day a try. And size them properly, as rlibkind mentioned.

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OK. I AM a Montrealer. Long displaced in Ontario, but still a Montrealer, raised on proper Jewish bagels...which you would never ever toast. Montreal bagels are not easy to slice horizontally. You would end up slicing your fingers.

Isn't it standard procedure in Montreal to slice and butter a bagel and place it face-down on the griddle to toast?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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OK. I AM a Montrealer. Long displaced in Ontario, but still a Montrealer, raised on proper Jewish bagels...which you would never ever toast. Montreal bagels are not easy to slice horizontally. You would end up slicing your fingers.

Isn't it standard procedure in Montreal to slice and butter a bagel and place it face-down on the griddle to toast?

Maybe it is in some families. I don't know. We never did. Funny. When you are a kid, you often think that all families do it the way your family does. We usually just ate them out of the paper bag. Montreal bagels get really stale, really quickly. I don't know why. Then we ran them under the tap and put them in the microwave to restore that particular chewiness. (The microwave being an adult experience. Didn't have them in my childhood, of course.)

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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Yeah, I remember H&H having the same policy. Their bagels tasted good untoasted, at least back when they made good bagels. But I think every bagel is improved by toasting. Whenever I take good bagels home I toast them.

"Traditional," even in the rare cases when you can demonstrate that it means something, does not always mean better.

Notes from the underbelly

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If anythings hot from the oven, I'll just get that untoasted. If nothing's that fresh, then I'll go for toasted!

New Yorker here, partial to absolute bagels at 108 and broadway, who will toast for an extra 10 cents. I'm always annoyed by the H&H refusal to toast.

Edited by davidkeay (log)
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I was born and raised in NY, and I think H&H fresh out of the oven were the only bagels I've ever really relished eating untoasted. For any bagel more than 4 hours old (H&H more than maybe 12 hours old) I think toasting (and slathering with butter) is a huge improvement. Especially for things like sesame bagels, where the sesames grow more flavorful with toasting...

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  • 2 weeks later...

Eating establishments, especially ones that have garnered a certain reputation for quality rarely like to adjust their offerings. Even if a bagel tastes better toasted, or the ingredients (cream cheese) on the bagel function better in a toasty environment these restaurants like to think that their "originally intended" offering is supreme. And they have the power to tell YOU the customer that you are wrong for your preference, and should just trust them as the "experts".

I am all about personal preference, and the best bagel in the world to me tasted much better toasted.

Founder + CEO of www.devourhour.com (Devour Hour)

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You are all so spoiled! I have grown up on DC and NYC bagels- moved to Sweden (22yrs ago) and they have these things called "bagels" and they ALMOST look like a bagel, but are, as some of you write, a baked boring bread with a hole in the middle. Taste so awful if you are exspecting bagel-taste/ feeling. My mother comes once a year (from the US) and fills suitcase with bagels and onion flats for us. My kids were in NYC last year and got addicted too. So, the luxury problems you are contemplating about: toasting or not, though I admitt I enjoyed reading the posts, You are all spoiled!! And yes, I am putting you down, since I am just so jealous. The thought of a really warm, fresh baked REAL bagel with soft melty cream cheese....Mmmm.

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I prefer untoasted, but it's not about personal preference or individual taste. It's really a question of right and wrong, virtue and vice, and I'm just glad that my preference aligns with right and virtue in this case. If there is some round bread with a hole in it that can be improved by toasting, it's either a stale bagel and one just does what one can to breathe life back into it, or it's not really a bagel.

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. . . . If there is some round bread with a hole in it that can be improved by toasting, it's either a stale bagel and one just does what one can to breathe life back into it, or it's not really a bagel.

Have to say, bagels definitely seem to lose a great deal of their charm far faster than many breads; even before they're identifiably stale (in fact, once they're fully cooled), toasting helps dispel the rigor mortis that seems to hit them within a quarter of an hour or so of their exit from the oven.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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I'm both ways on the subject.

A GOOD bagel, IMO, does not need to be toasted. Nothing is gained or lost, it merely caters to your personal preference.

A not so good bagel though, in the land of no decent bagels, from....say a certain doughnut shop that sells a lot of coffee? This is almost inedible without a toasting.

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