Tips to Enjoy Every Last Bagel
Bagels, whether you buy them from us or any other source, will degrade quickly to the point where a five-day old bagel might come in handy if your deck has loose nails and you've misplaced your hammer.
We want you to experience Bagel Joy, not Bagel Frustration, Bagel Rage, Bagel Annoyance or Bagel Disappointment. (although some of those web domain names are probably available!) To that end, and with gratitude to Serious Eats, we present the Bagel Joy Techniques for Maintaining Bagel Deliciousness (aka "the TMBD"). Follow these recommendations to maximize the quality of every bagel in your bag.from
Day 1, Hours 1&2, Hydration Level = Great, Staleness Level = Nonexistent
Don't toast, don't reheat, don't wait ... this is the ideal time enjoy a bagel. When Bagel Joy achieves our final form, we will operate a convenient brick-and-mortar bakery in NOVA where you can experience this every morning. Break through its crusty exterior and slather the warm chewy center with your favorite schmear. Contented sighs are sure to follow.
Day 1, Hours 2-24, Hydration Level = Good, Staleness Level = Emerging
To quote Serious Eats: "Staling is the retrogradation of gelatinized starch into a rigid crystalline structure." In other words, your delicious, fluid starch molecules are beginning to align themselves into a more rigid form, making your bagel tougher and less flexible. Since the moisture content is still good, a toss into a pre-heated oven or toaster oven will bring back the crispy outside and soften up the interior. Five minutes at 450 degrees will do wonders.
This is also the best time to share your extra bagels with family and friends. Don't wait until you have a paper bag filled with hockey pucks.
The End of Day 1
When your bagel sits, moisture evaporates. You can slow this process by making decisions at the end of day one about how you will enjoy them later.
Method 1) If you're going to toast your bagels, slice them, wrap them in foil or a ziplock bag and place them in your freezer. If you have a vacuum sealer, that's even better. Slicing is important now for convenience and safety later. (Pulling a knife through a frozen bagel is dangerous and nearly impossible).
Method 2) If you prefer a whole bagel with that crackly crust that you can stretch and tear, wrap each bagel individually, unsliced, and store them in your refrigerator.
Days 2-4, Hydration Level = Dropping, Staleness Level = Rising
Sliced and Frozen: When you're ready to eat, wedge a butter knife to separate the halves of your pre-sliced bagel and drop then into your toaster. By the way, ignore that 'bagel' setting that only toasts one side … yours is frozen all the way through!
Whole and Refrigerated: When you're ready to enjoy, preheat a sheet pan or baking stone to 450 degrees. Next… and here is a strange but important step … dunk your bagel in hot water or rinse it under hot water for 5-10 seconds before placing it in the oven. That additional moisture will turn to steam and work its way into the bagel's interior, encouraging a loosening of rigid starches and returning them to their original soft form. Your exterior will regain that delightful crunch. Reheat for at least five minutes.
Day 5 and Beyond, Hydration Level = None, Staleness Level = Brick
Sliced and Frozen: No change, wedge them apart and toast them when you're hungry. Frozen bagels are good for a month or more as long as they are well wrapped and protected from freezer burn.
Whole and Frozen: For longer-term storage, freeze your tightly wrapped bagels for up to a month or more. Let frozen bagels defrost at room temperature for a few hours before using the water-dip method to bring them back to their original bakery goodness.
Day Whatever, OOPS! I Forgot to Do Any of This and My Bagels are Now Seriously Hard
Wrap and freeze, slice and toast, or water-dip and bake any neglected bagels or leftovers that you brought home from the office breakroom. They'll lose some texture and flavor, but these methods will help them recover.