Jewish-Lithuanian Food – Re-Introducing Bagels

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WHAT’S COOKING?

Whether or not we realize it, we all know something about Jewish food. Do we not love kugelis? Potato pancakes? Honey cake (medaunykas)? Blintzes? Bagels? Challah? Herring? Gefilte fish? At least some of these fish dishes always appeared on Christmas Eve (Kūčios) table in my day. This heritage comes from the presence of a large Jewish population in Lithuania in the past. There is even a term for Lithuanian Jews – the called themselves Litvaks. You have probably heard that Vilnius was once called the Jerusalem of the North, home of the famous Judaic scholar Elijah ben Solomon Zalman, or Elijah of Vilnius.

Although some obviously biased sources show that the bagel originated in the Jewish communities of Poland, their Lithuanian heritage is clear from the fact that many bakeries in Lithuania produce bagels, and an important feature at kiosks at the annual St. Casimir’s Fair in Vilnius are strings of bagels. These rings of dough are first boiled for a short time in water and then baked. Not a common in most repertoires, but as a child I did know someone in Delhi, Ontario, who made them regularly. In Lithuanian they’re called riestainiaii, and specifically plikyti riestainiai.

The current pandemic has apparently made bread-making very popular, and I have joined in sporadically over the years because we have a bread-making machine. Some efforts have been worthwhile, others are best left undescribed. But this year I rediscovered the bagel!

I used to think it was complicated to make, but certainly if you have a bread machine, it’s not that difficult. For those who like to make the dough by hand, there are probably good recipes out there, but this one makes life simpler. After putting the ingredients in the bread machine, the dough setting takes care of the first stage. Once the cycle is complete (this may vary, depending on the manufacturer of the machine), form the bagels and dip them briefly in boiling water, glaze with egg whites and sprinkle with seeds. Then bake for 20-25 minutes and prašau! Beautiful golden bagels, made the size you prefer, and highly freezable.

Here is the recipe I’ve used more than once and inspired family and friends with:

 

Ingredients

 

1 1/3 cup warm water (110oF)

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons oil

2 2/3 tablespoons white sugar

4 cups bread flour

2 teaspoons bread machine yeast

∞∞∞

4 quarts boiling water

4 tablespoons white sugar

Corn meal

Egg white

Poppy, sesame or other seeds

 

Preparation

Place water, salt, sugar, flour and yeast in bread machine pan, in the order recommended by manufacturer. Select dough setting.

When dough cycle is complete, let dough rest on a lightly floured surface. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot, stir in 4 tablespoons of sugar.

Cut dough into about 12 equal pieces, roll each into a small ball. Flatten and make a hole in the middle of each with your thumb. Even out the dough, cover with a cloth and let rest for 10 minutes on greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. With slotted spoon, transfer several at a time into boiling water, boil for 1 minute, turning halfway through. Drain briefly on a cloth or paper towel and place on baking sheet sprinkled with corn meal. Glaze tops with egg white and sprinkle with your choice of toppings.

Bake in a preheated 375oF oven for 20 to 25 minutes until golden.

Skanaus!

 

Do you have a favourite recipe you’d like to share? Let us know at [email protected]!