Bagelgate: An Open Letter to the “Cast” of ATP

ATP is my favorite podcast, so I’ll appoint myself a “friend of the show.” But I must weigh in on Bagelgate.

John Siracusa has the canonical bagel flavors right, with the possible exception of Egg Everything, which is questionable.

However, I must correct the taxonomy of non-canonical flavors as “not a bagel.” A cheesecake bagel is an abomination before God and man, but (if it existed) could still be a bagel.

What distinguishes a bagel from a non-bagel are the ingredients and methods of preparation. An actual bagel has several non-negotiable characteristics:

(1) It is made with a high-gluten flour, with a higher protein content than typical grocery store bread flour.

(2) It includes some kind of malt (typically malt syrup in a professional bagel shop, or malt powder for the home baker).

(3) It is boiled before baking in alkalized water (typically with lye in a professional bagel shop, or baking soda for the home baker). It is never steamed (I’m talking to you, every bagel shop Marco ever visited in the midwest).

If these rules are followed, a good bagel can be made anywhere. I have made bagels in my home kitchen that are near-perfect representations of the New York version. Georgetown Bagelry in Washington, DC gets it right, as does Saratoga Bagels (mercifully, a mile from my house) in Saratoga, California. There may be other acceptable bagel sources outside of New York, but I do not know of any.

The problem with John’s taxonomy is that a sesame bagel from CostCo would count as a bagel (it isn’t) but a properly made Asiago cheese bagel would not (it is). What CostCo calls a bagel is round bread with a hole in the middle. It is not a bagel at all. Non-canonical bagel flavors, which include asiago cheese and blueberry, are simply that — bagels of non-traditional flavor. And should be on no-one’s Top Four list.

Then again, what do I know. I’m a robot. Or not.