What Is a Plain Bagel?

Angie Bates

Similar in shape and size to a doughnut, a plain bagel is a circular yeast bread often served at breakfast or for snacks. A bagel may be made with fruits, vegetables, seeds, or sweets as toppings or part of the bread, but a plain bagel consists of only the basic bread ingredients. Plain bagels are often toasted and usually sliced in half and served with cream cheese or another spread. They also may be used as fancy or unusual substitutes for sandwich buns. Served commercially, they can be found in grocery stores and at restaurants specializing in breads or breakfast foods.

Plain bagels from the deli may be toasted at home and then spread with a flavored cream cheese.
Plain bagels from the deli may be toasted at home and then spread with a flavored cream cheese.

Traditionally made by hand, a plain bagel is often chosen as a breakfast food but can also be eaten as a snack. The chewy bread is healthier than doughnuts and is boiled and baked rather than deep fried. These circular breads are made with flour, sugar, yeast, and salt, as well as water. Honey or a malt syrup made be substituted for the sugar.

Making plain bagel dough is similar to making any yeast bread dough. Warm water, yeast, and sugar are combined and allowed to sit until the mixture becomes foamy. Then, the other ingredients are added and kneaded into a smooth dough. If instant yeast is used, all the ingredients can be added and kneaded at once. Once kneaded, the dough is allowed to rise.

After rising, the dough can then be cut and shaped into individual bagels. The dough may be rolled into ropes and then wrapped around a cook's fingers to create the ring or shaped into a thick circle before the cook pokes a hole through the center. A special bagel cutter may also be used. When all the bagels are shaped, they are allowed to rise again.

To cook, the dough is placed in boiling water for a few minutes. Malt syrup and salt may be added to the water, but often it is just left plain. Each bagel is turned once during boiling. After they are removed from the water, they can be placed on a cookie sheet and baked to finish cooking.

A plain bagel can be eaten fresh or frozen for later use. Most often, this food is purchased commercially. Commercially made bagels are often presliced. Bagels may or may not be toasted prior to eating and are frequently topped with a spread, like cream cheese, but can be eaten plain as well.

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