Most of the time, when we bake (when I say we I mean my fellow boulanger, Manu, and I!), our attention is on the french bread, the levain percentage and flavour, the viennoiseries or the constant changes to improve them. We had a total surprise when we realised that some friends really love our bagels, specially when they ate them straight out from the oven. So that’s why Manu hit the bagel and decided to give it a boost.
Other breads like the baguette or croissants need some time to cool down to reveal their true flavour but the bagel is the absolute champ in this matter because you can give it a hot bite right away (risking your tongue!!!) and enjoy the deep flavour caused by the particular procedure of bagel baking.
I’m certain that the absolute core of the bagel lays in the crust, this can be easily explained: just before you bake the bread you need to give them a quick bath in a mix of simmering water and malt syrup, thus creating a fine layer of a) diluted starch from the dough surface and b) the sugars from the malt syrup. These two essential elements when baked at high temperatures will lead to the Maillard reaction or so to speak: a boosted caramelised process in the crust.
Personally I love a bagel with an italian capresse mix, bbq grilled chicken, mexican cochinita pibil (pork+axiote spice) or boar loaf. But remember that the mighty bagel is obtained by the careful balance of sourdough, malt bath and the topping selection and it is so good that you can eat it plain or just with american cheese, a true classic!
Keep in mind that malt syrup comes from barley, so the bagel bread isn’t just about wheat at all!