Continent: Europe
Country: Poland
Recipe Source: The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion (online source)

I was a little surprised to learn that bagels are likely much older than I thought. I had assumed they were a more modern, American deli invention, but this is not the case. There are various breads that seem to have bagel ancestor qualities (similar shape and ingredients) found across the world, but the modern bagel likely came about in 17th century Poland after the King chose not to confirm a prior decree from 1496 that restricted baking of certain types of bread to members of the Krakow bakers guild. This non-confirmation allowed Jewish bakers to bake bread within the city walls. (This account comes indirectly from the book The Bagel: The Surprising History of a Modest Bread, by Maria Balinska via this article. Balinska notes that the account is traditional, but not entirely verifiable.)

My own history with bagels starts as my history with many foods probably does: wrapped in cheese. My earliest memory of bagels begins with a wait outside the Oldtown Pasadena location of Goldstein's Bagel Bakery. I love that their cheese bagels had a large slice of cheddar right across the top, not the miserly sprinkling you get at other bagel shops. (In fact, I think I remember reacting with outrage to learn that not all cheese bagels were as cheesy as I would prefer. Those who know me well would probably suggest that I am not the person who should determine the appropriate amount of cheese for anything, but with regard to cheese bagels I still think most shops are stingy, and Goldstein's has the right idea.)

I never considered baking my own bagels until I saw them as a Showstopper Challenge on the Great British Bake Off. Enter an accidental surplus of cream cheese (from making frosting) and I decided I would give it a try. I used the recipe from my copy of The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion, which is my go-to source for new bakes. I chose to follow the instructions for adding sesame seeds, since those are a favorite of Dan's. My bagels are a little flat---I had to shorten the final rise since I was due to leave the house---so I don't think I would earn any handshakes from Paul Hollywood, but I'm still proud of them.

Incidentally, I used some of them to make really excellent, simple breakfast sandwiches (one scrambled egg, two slices of bacon, and a thin slice of colby jack).