I was thirteen when I ate my first bagel. At the time, my mother worked for an Optometrist and we received invitations to a brunch at his Temple. There, we were presented with a bountiful display of gloriously unfamiliar foodstuffs. Among them was a basket of bagels, already halved and nestled in beside a tray of toppings.

Oh what what what is this wonderful dense bready thing? And this brilliant cheese which spreads so creamy on top? You don't say! You can have your sweets, dear children, your donuts and muffins and coffee cakes. Just leave this basket of glory alone because it's me and these bagels and philly from here on out.

At eighteen, on a trip to San Francisco, I was treated to my first fresh-baked bagel, sprinkled with a flurry of Kosher salt flakes. I don't remember much about that trip, beyond the fierceness with which I clutched that bag of bagels on the drive home.  Bagel-making is an art form and there are as many different schools of thought on the process as there are ways to flavor your bounty. The one thing all serious bagel aficionados can agree upon is that Real Bagels Are Boiled. New York and Montreal-Style (smaller and sweeter) bagels have been duking it for top honors for quite some time, but both originated in Poland with references as far back at the 16th century and arrived in the Americas via Jewish immigrants. I cannot thank them enough for that glorious gift.

I'm not going to post my bagel-making process here in its entirety but will direct you to some of the best basic bagel recipes on the web and let you in on the super-secret ingredients for my all-time-favorite variety: the Sun-Dried Tomato Bagel.

To the basic bagel dough ingredients:

2 Tbsp. sugar
1 ½ tsp. Kosher Salt
3 cups flour
2 ¼ tsp. active dry yeast

I add the following:

2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
2 tsp. minced garlic
2 Tbsp. minced sun-dried tomatoes (not oil-packed) I prefer Roland brand

For a great explanation of baking a basic bagel, check out CHOW, and for the Bread-Machine variety So Tasty, So Yummy is great. Also, there's a lot of good information at The Fresh Loaf. So go forth, boil and bake your own bounty. And of course, feel free to send me samples from that first baker's dozen.



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