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Bagels - To crunch or not to crunch ?

Ok, a big complaint I have, and have noticed it in MANY bagel shops I go to or other misc places I buy a single bagel is why can nobody toast my bagel? Are bagels suppose to be chewy and cold? Is that the way they were intended to be eaten?

I get so thrilled about my morning bagel with "everything" on it and creamy cold shmear oozing out and I anticipate the crunch of the hot bagel and to my disspointment I get a chewy,lukewarm bagel..

I rarely complain but.. what is the real standard here?How are they REALLY suppose to be served and how do YOU like your bagel?

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  1. Born and raised in Montreal, where many wood-burning-oven bagel bakeries are open 24/7, in my opinion there's nothing better than a warm, freshly baked Montreal bagel. So delicious, it needs nothing on it. It's a rare occurrence that a dozen warm bagels arrive home without one or two disappearing along the way.

    Even when not warm, a Montreal bagel is great untoasted throughout the day it was baked. The following day, it's best toasted.

    And I'm sure in the "old country" in Eastern Europe, a bagel never saw a toaster, in whatever form they existed then.

    1. I agree with you...bagels need to be crunchy and toasted...and they need to have a good crispy crust to begin with, too, which so hard to find also these days. Biggest peeve here in my office in Florida: people who cut bagels vertically! Why should it bother me, it's not my bagel but they leave the vertically cut other half for someone else, too!

      1. I love my freshly baked bagels from Iggy's (Cambridge MA) which are chewy, not crunchy. After a day or two I toast them but I believe purists don't think bagels should ever be toasted.

        1 Reply
        1. re: cheryl_h

          I feel the same.. except a good hot, crunchy bagel is good sometimes.

        2. All the bagel shops I know of will slice and toast the bagel pre-schmear. If yours does not I would seek another unless the bagel is better at the shop in question.

          My biggest complaint with a toasted-schmear is what seems to be to your liking and that's the ooze effect. This is way too much work for me in the morning. Biting and flinching back as the ooze leaves and makes its ever targetted route to my lap. Nothing worse than cream cheese stains in the morning to ruin a day and a good pair of slacks. If you catch it before the plop, then you neead to treat the edges like a melting ice cream cone, tongue extended and fighting the clock before the plop.

          On a lazy sunday morning, a great toasted bagel or bialy open faced with a good schmear, a cup of coffee and the morning paper is heaven.

          A cold bagel is like a cold pastrami sandwich, you eat it but you know how to make it better.

          1 Reply
          1. re: jfood

            Hahaa on the cold bagel/pastrami comparison..

          2. I cannot eat an untoasted bagel. And I can't imagine why anyone else would want to. I need that crunch factor and I love how the hot bagel starts the melt the cream cheese. But I'm one of those people who hates even the slightest suggestion of burnt edges (that carbon flavor triggers my gag reflex) and I've only ever found one place (since closed) that didn't overtoast their bagels.

            1. I think a lot depends on the bagel, and what you grew up with. Montreal bagels are known for their chewiness, and for their being totally different in texture from a roll. And Montrealers grow up loving this type of bagel, as do some "converts."

              When I think of it, I do generally order my bagels toasted when I'm in the U.S. or when eating Toronto-style bagels. I think a good part of it has to do with the enormous size of these bagels and their doughiness.

              1. Aargh! This is *exactly* what I meant when I started that last bagel post. The reason, I believe, that many people prefer their bagels toasted is that what passes for a bagel in most parts of the country is soft, squishy white roll misleadingly using the alias "bagel." These imposters are not bagels. Of course you need to toast these things, just to make them edible.

                Unless you personal preference is generally for toasted bagels, which is really okay, the only reason you should need to toast a bagel is that you found a bakery that really knows what they're doing, excitedly bought far too many to eat before they went stale, and froze the extras. Those should probably be toasted after defrosting, but that's it.

                Are bagels supposed to be chewy? Heck, yes! Cold? Not cold like from the refrigerator, but certainly room temperature. I somehow can't see putting a nice piece of whitefish on a toasted roll. (Although a favorite treat is a nice salt bagel straight out of the oven. That's oven, not toaster. Fresh, hot, don't get me started.)

                Bialys are another story entirely. They are baked only, not boiled, and only remain fresh for one day. After that they must be frozen and toasted. A truly great bialy is a thing of joy and the only place I know who has the real thing is Kossar's on Grand Street in NY. They ship but the cost of overnighting is crazy. If you're interested in bialys, check out Mimi Sheraton's bialy book.

                Btw, the above only applies to New York bagels. I know nothing about Montreal bagels but would love to learn. ;-)

                6 Replies
                1. re: rockycat


                  As a NJ native, loving the traditional NY-style, walk to the bagel shop, watch them come out and bringthem home still warm, I understand and agree that this is the way to go in the US.

                  In my travels to Israel last year i learned from many Israeli that there are many different types of bagels in Israel, ranging from crunchy to chewey. I will say that some of the soft bagels served in Israel were outstanding and on a beautiful morning overlooking the Med Sea, these soft bagels with different types of local cheeses and some smoked fish were beyond belief.

                  Back here, I agree with everything you say. Oh how i long for a good bialy.

                  1. re: rockycat

                    Here ya go, rockycat. Wikipedia offers a great description of the Montreal bagel.


                    1. re: FlavoursGal

                      Sounds like a trip is in order. Besides, it's been way to long since I've had smoked meat.

                      1. re: rockycat

                        Having left Montreal 10 years ago (my husband was transferred to Toronto), it's my totally biased opinion that a trip to Montreal is always in order. Now that my daughter is at McGill, we have even more excuses to head east than visiting the mother-in-law and attending the occasional bar mitzvah and wedding. Is it any wonder that I'm "gently suggesting" to my 15-year-old that she make McGill her first choice in a few years?

                    2. re: rockycat

                      Yes, a well made bagel ought not be toasted, and certaintly need not be toasted. It should also be eaten within a couple of hours of being made, because a well made bagel stales quickly. Toasting should really be reserved for staled bagels.

                      Then again, most bagels are not well made, so toasting becomes the way to remedy their failings.

                      1. re: rockycat

                        Agreed on all counts. When in doubt, I look to Ess-a-Bagel in NYC which is almost as famous for not having a toaster than they are for their bagels.

                      2. Must...have....toasted.....

                        1. And, yes, good bagels are supposed to be chewy enough to give your jaw muscles a bit of an ache, and they should sit like some lead in the stomach.

                          1. as some one who use to make Bagles
                            if the shop make the classic type water bagel
                            that boil in a kettle then in bake in the oven.
                            since it just came out of the oven.
                            the Bagels were hot and fresh no need
                            to toast. If you want to keep it for the next
                            day get frezer bags to put the bagle in
                            and freze it. Do not nuke it.put it in the oven
                            to defrost,then if you like toast it.
                            even when I go to a bakery I ask if the roll were made that day if it is then I do not need it toasted.Today most bagle shop steam there bagels that why the same taste is not there any more.It save the shop like75% in labor cost by steaming the bagles.

                            1. I like bagel toasted..crispy outside and warm and chewy inside. Luckly, I have a great bagel shop in a small NJ town I live in.

                              1. If they are hot out of the oven, I take them as is. Otherwise I request my bagel toasted and never have a problem.

                                1. What passes for a bagel in most places is really just a bread ring.
                                  To get the outer crust crunchy it needs to be boiled in water before the final bake.
                                  Fresh is best and won't need to be toasted. A few hours old and a light toasting brings them back to life.
                                  There are a few bagel shops in Manhattan that will not toast a bagel. Don't even ask.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Motosport

                                    Exactly. I get my bagel-wich to eat right away as is, but any bagels i take home for the next day i toast.
                                    (And btw i totally gave up on zuckers! Not worth the PITA)

                                  2. Lived & worked in Manhattan - uptown, downtown, east side, west side - for 20+ years, most working days breakfast was coffee & a bagel from whatever deli was on the way, and like circa 90% of the people in line I ordered the bagel toasted.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: chowyadoin99

                                      Deli bagels are oftentimes very chewy 'cause they're old.
                                      If you get them toasted however, they suddenly taste a whole lot better.
                                      As a fellow New Yorker, I learned to get mine toasted when ordering from a deli. You avoid a lot of jaw breaker days that way.

                                      1. re: Cheese Boy

                                        "jawbreaker" that is funny.
                                        Back in the day when I was young and I had not discovered freezer zip lock bags (maybe they had not been invented). I would have leftover bagels that were several days old. I'd take them to the park with my dog and play fetch. They were better than rawhide bones!!

                                    2. You don't say where you are but as you can see from the replies - it matters. Some big cities such as NY and Montreal have lots of bagel shops where you buy a fresh, warm bagel and you wouldn't think of toasting it. You would only toast it if you kept it for a while and it began to get hard.

                                      You say that you are getting chewy, lukewarm bagels so it sounds like you are getting a fresh, warm bagel recently out of the oven. Yes ,they are indeed supposed to be chewy. They are supposed to "fight back" a little bit. A good bagel is NOT SOFT LIKE BREAD OR BRIOCHE. It has character!