I love bagels. They get such a bad rap, though, and I’ve been feeling a little defensive for them. Innocent bread circles, wonderfully round, thick and beautiful – what have they done to deserve such criticism, such shunning!
So, I have decided to do some sort of half-assed internet research. Are bagels six times worse than a slice of bread? What does that even mean? Do they, in a single bagel, really have as much calories and carbohydrates as a loaf of bread? How are they made? Did they save cream cheese from the brink of extinction?!
All these and more, tonight on Bette Jane’s Bagel Hour.
Just look at ‘em. Are they truly the starch pariah we make them out to be?
Upon my first google search of “is one bagel equivalent to one loaf of bread” (remember, I said half-assed), I found this link:
I’d like to start off with the first troubling component of this article: its date. June 19th, 2001. Approximately 11 years ago…I think we all know what kind of fashion was going on in the early 2000s. Yehh.
But anyway. The article is about an anonymous dietitian who wrote to the editor, stating that most of their patients come to them for weight loss, and when bagels come up, they tell them that an average New York bagel is equivalent to 1/4 (up to more than 1/2) a loaf of bread, and that if the patients simply must indulge in a bagel, then they should probably just pick it apart and give a portion to the birds. Gets ‘em out and walking, right?
The thing is, there are many factors at play here. This dietitian is anonymous – they could be anyone, a down-right bagel hater, as biased as I am. Then, what is a New York bagel? How does it differ from, say, the eight-grain Seattle Bagel Bakery one I had about 27 minutes ago (with goat cheese, oh it was delicious)? And, even locally sourced, it still contained small additives-of-sorts that these homemade babies do not.
Do bagels range in bad-for-weight-loss-ness based on calories and ingredients (i.e. flour type and carbs and sugar and salt)? I did my best today with the Seattle Bagel Bakery, chuckle. I can only hope eight-grain also means whole wheat flour.
What is the rest of this person’s diet like, this client who comes in with bagel urges? Do they pine for jalapeño cheddar? Plain? Asiago? Pizza with dollops of cream cheese?
Calories are like money, right? We need to budget them in order to sustain or exceed respective success (success being relative, of course). So, if I’m interested in losing a couple pounds and I cannot let the bagels go, I would definitely benefit from limiting my consumption and considering the caloric density that bagels often have. I could eat one on a day I exercise, for example, or have a bagel for breakfast and enjoy a lower-carb lunch and dinner.
Also, consider what kind of bagel it is, as I previously mentioned. I recently discovered that Noah’s bagels (offered at my local Costco) have an excessively long list of ingredients, many of which are both inexpensive as well as dispensable to our health (and the integrity of the bagel, chuckle), like high fructose corn syrup. Not to mention they are enormous.
Upon doing this Bagel Research, I’ve realized I’m in over my head. I’m not even an anonymous registered dietitian. I have no nutritional background. I just know my body, my tastes and tolerances, my health and food-passions. Bagels are one aspect of my food culture that I value, just like good quality bread and potatoes and pasta, which I consider to be staples. I’m not gluten-intolerant, obesity does not run in my family, and I exercise.
Well, I try to exercise. I do yoga. Plus, I really like to walk, and everyone drives in the suburbs–I almost got ran off the road the other day! Maybe I need a neon vest like the one I loathed and whispered dark curses to at my old grocery store job.
I’m full of excuses.
But I digress. I think one of the reasons that we get so hung up on diets, why we hate on certain kinds of food based on trends in those diets (red meat vs. carbohydrates – GO!), and therefore have so much trouble deciding what to eat, is that our average neighborhood market is not a market.
It’s a grocery store, a supermarket, with products from Jamaica and Chile and the U.S. and Europe; mysteriously sourced, varying extremely in price and quality; independent of seasons; chalk-full of unpronounceable additives and preservatives. Bagels, a lot of times, aren’t really just bagels. In the U.S., we are a country of choices, which is wonderful. But we are also a country in need of some standards.
In my opinion. Heh.
My point is, I love bagels, and I’ll eat them at my discretion (or lack thereof). One of the most brilliant opportunities of my time and age is figuring things out for myself, discovering who I am and all that stuff we’ve heard about before. To decide for myself (and with a little help from my M.D. sporting friends) what healthy is. Indeed, while we don’t necessarily have a clear path of what to eat, we do have the endlessly educational challenge of deciding, of considering all the factors and of ranting about them on our food blogs.
Whole Wheat Everything Bagels
makes 10 mini or 6-7 medium-large bagels
total time involved: about 1 1/2 hour, including dough-rest-time
adapted from the baker chick
- 1 ½ c warm water, about 110 degrees
- 4 ½ t active dry yeast (or 2 packets)
- 3 tablespoons sugar (or honey or agave)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 cups bread flour (I used whole wheat bread flour)
- 1 ½ – 2 cups(I used all-purpose whole wheat flour)
- 1 egg white and 1 tablespoon water for the egg wash (I imagine you could easily use a flax meal wash)
- toppings: 4 tsp each of dried garlic, dried onion, poppy seeds and sesame seeds and 2 tsp kosher salt all mixed together in a bowl (this, of course, is totally up to you!)
- Dissolve sugar in water and add the yeast. Let it stand until the mixture bubbles, for a few minutes. I do not understand why (I have my suspicions though…old yeast…heh) but my mixture bubbled as half-assedly as my bagel research. If this is the case, and while I first recommend fresh yeast, then don’t fret – my bagels turned out fine!
- Meanwhile, back at the ranch, sift together the bread flour, 1 ½ cups of the whole wheat flour, and salt.
- Form a well in the center and add the yeast mixture. Stir right nice to combine. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes (getting the yeast all excited), adding extra whole wheat flour as needed.
- Place dough in a large, greased bowl, then cover and set in a warm place -let it rise until it doubles in size (way coo), about an hour.
- Once it’s gotten large, divide the dough into small pieces with a bench scraper/knife. Shape each into a ball and allow to relax for a few minutes.
- Flatten each round with the palm of your hand. With your thumb, press into the center of the bagel and tear open a hole in the center with your fingers. Pull the hole open.
- Cover the bagels with a kitchen towel and let rest for about 10 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Bring about 2 quarts of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon of sugar. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Put 2-3 bagels at a time in to the simmering water for about 30 seconds, turning once (this sounds way more intimidating than it is; really, you just plop them in and turn them over).
- Drain and place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Brush with the egg wash (or flax meal wash) and sprinkle with your toppings of choice. Using a spatula or your fingers, flip bagels over and repeat with egg wash and toppings.
- Bake for 30-35 mins or until goldenly (that’s a word) browned.
- Eat with organic cream cheese, fresh chêvre or even peanut butter and bananas! Make a sandwich (yum) or take a picture and frame it because, hey, these are damn good bagels.
P.S. I experimented with a near-constant open aperture; it’s so funny to think that Ansel Adams and his photographic affiliates were anti-open aperture and insistent on focus — on perfect depth of field (in their early days, I should emphasize, because I believe he amended his previously, arguably elitist views).
P.P.S…S. if you’re a music lover, check out this sweet sound.