Anyone who is a regularish reader of this blog would be forgiven for thinking that i’ve had baking on the brain lately. Whilst this is true – I have – there is nothing “of late” about it. Flour, water, yeast – they’re never (ever) far from the forefront of my cerebral cortex. I’m probably not alone in saying this, but one of my greatest prandial pleasures is the baked stuff. And the focus of this post? Not just the baked stuff, but the boiled-and-then-baked stuff. Oh yes, that’s right: beigels.
Now let’s clear up one matter from the get-go: is it bagels or beigels? Moot point. But, being a Londoner at heart, I will always err on the side of bei-. If I was a New Yorker, I would undoubtedly say ba-, but then I would be far removed from the person I am today. Possibly not a bad thing, but that’s a topic for another day.
For me, beigels form one of my fondest memories of university. Heading to Brick Lane on a Sunday morning and getting my fill of salmon and cream cheese and salt beef b’s. Oh yes, this was in those halcyon days of pre-vegetarianism. Halcyon but formative – it should be noted – for it was eating experiences like this that made me realise (gradually) that I actually enjoyed the framing much more than I did the filling. Give me the beigel over the beef any day.
Fast forward a few (just a few…) years, and the beigels are back, Singapore-stylee. No more Brick Lane (would Bali Lane count?), but a working oven and a will to bake means there are few options but for the DIY version to take centre stage. Indeed, there is unfortunately no other stage for them in Singapore, unless you think the Cold Storage imports fit the beigel bill. Unsurprisingly, they don’t.
Homemade beigels are deceptively easy and undeniably delicious. The doppelganger of a doughnut, the beauty of these things lies in their density. Possibly one of the heaviest amongst the pantheon of baked goods without a crust (rye bread, sourdough and all that lot don’t count), just one of these things is enough to stoke the fire for a good… say, 30 minutes? But one cannot complain; beigels are half-snack, half-meal. They sit in a category of their own, defying ready-made classification.
Such defiance applies to their flavour combinations as well. Original, sesame, raisin, wheat, garlic, onion the list goes on. But what appeals to me is the fact that all the combinations are sensible; sedate: steadfast. No saccharine sweetness and sugar-highs, but nothing so boring as to require an exotic filling to snazz them up either. They’re just as good by themselves as they are stuffed with salmon, cream cheese, salted beef, or maybe just butter. They’re humble, healthy and really rather stoically simple. Make them at home. You won’t regret it.