Real “bagel store” bagels are usually quite dense while supermarket “bagels” are essentially bagel shaped English muffins or bread in terms of texture. Why is it impossible to get actual bagels in the supermarket.
I know bagels tend to go hard quite quickly and you’ve got the throw them in the freezer ASAP if you bring a bunch home. Do real bagels have too short a shelf life to be supermarket products?
They may actually be lighter (I’ve seen some that had the consistency of a donut), but the boiling is the essential difference. It’s what gives a real bagel the hard, crunchy crust.
But, basically, many store bagels are made by bakers who have seen a bagel but never really saw them being made. They make them like the bread they are familiar with. In addition, bagels have a short shelf life (after a day, they lose their crunch and start getting soggy or stale), so commercially produced fresh bagels change the recipe to keep them soft.
You can sometimes get good frozen bagels in supermarkets – Ray’s New York Bagels are excellent – boiled, par-baked, then frozen. When you heat them up, they taste just like the real thing.
Bagels don’t have a shorter shelf life than other baked goods sold at supermarkets, like doughnuts, which definitely get nasty after a day and are discounted/chucked at the end of each working day in my observation. If you bake bagels daily, you’re fine. (a dedicated bagel store will bake throughout the day, but the proper bagels are fine the next day)
I also think commercial bagels are likely to be missing “the secret ingredient” which is a dab of potato starch. (traditionally, you’d boil a potato, and then use the water in which the potato had boiled as your liquid in the mix). Potato starch gives bagels their unique chewy mouth feel and seems to retain moisture. But compared to the failure to boil, its a minor omission.
Done right, bagels are extremely labor intensive. They are mixed, hand-formed, raised, boiled (and must be turned individually during boiling, and not crowded in the pot), glazed, and then baked. Supermarkets cut corners, and cutting out the boiling cuts out a lot of the work.
I know it’s a joke, but sometimes I think the Jewish really is magic, as I haven’t had a really great bagel since moving to NC. Around Westchester and NYC, you could get a good bagel (not to mention a real deli sandwich, piled three inches with shaved roast beef). Here, even the bagel shops, while far outstripping the grocery store, leave something to be desired. My recollection is that a good bagel would put severe strain on your dental work, and trigger latent TMJ problems, so perhaps it is that the average joe doesn’t want the authentic article - too much work to eat.
I’m betting that supermarket “bagels” may also contain lots of dough conditioners, preservatives, and other artificial ingredients that absolutely kill the texture.
I think some of it is that supermarkets tend to make them for people who don’t know what a real bagel should taste like. People who do know what they should be like don’t buy them from supermarkets.
Once, my parents had a brunch at their house and served bagels and baked goods that had been purchased at Canter’s Deli in Los Angeles. Out of about two dozen bagels and maybe a like number of danish and rolls, most of it was left because they were so unfamiliar to the people there. Instead of the sweet, fluffy, bready rounds they were used to, the Canter’s bagels were dense and not sweet at all. To us, who had been weaned on that stuff, it was pure ambrosia, but to the goyim who didn’t know better, it wasn’t very good.
Now I gotta see if I can bribe my cousin to go to Canter’s and ship me a dozen.
I don’t know when round puffy bread products began to be associated as bagels, but I wish it would stop. When I moved from Louisiana to the Tampa Bay area of Florida, I thought I’d finally rediscover real bagels, but no joy so far.