Call it an an act of snack-rilege.
Can a bagel without a hole be called a bagel? The question is tearing NYC’s boiled dough community apart after local stalwart Utopia Bagels decided to reinvent the bread wheel, releasing the city’s first-ever intentionally no-hole bagels earlier this month.
From now until Feb. 12, the classic Whitestone, Queens bagel monger — making a Manhattan debut later this year — will be serving the fabled Big Apple nosh sans aperture, leaving purists with a paper bag full of questions.
Dubbed the “Philadelphia Bagel Whole,” the puzzling project is part of a promotion by America’s biggest cream cheese brand to spotlight the benefits of maximizing surface area for their classic soft spread. (One might perhaps think of this as the bagel equivalent of the stuffed crust pizza.)
“We’ve heard our fans question why bagels have holes and the limitations it poses for their favorite cream cheese, and we couldn’t agree more,” declared Keenan White, Senior Brand Manager for Philly.
And it’s not just NYC’s Utopia signing up for the promotion — Kraft Foods Group, producers of the brand, have joined forces with “fan-favorite shops across North America,” tasking each to serve a fully-sealed version of their signature bread donut.
Along with Utopia, Philadelphia has collaborated with Steingold’s of Chicago, Starship Bagel in Dallas and Rubinstein Bagels in Seattle. They also joined forces with St-Viateur Bagel in Montreal — North America’s other classic bagel capital.
But is the partnership filling a hole in New York City’s vaunted bagel scene — or merely about filling pockets with cash? Peter Shelsky, owner of Brooklyn bagel and smoked fish standby Shelsky’s, has his suspicions.
“The idea of re-engineering a bagel so that it conforms to what big cream cheese wants is bonkers,” the old-school bagel maven, who specializes in the traditional hand-rolled, kettle-boiled variety, told the Post. “A bagel has a hole. Not a tremendous hole, but a hole.”
Shelsky acknowledges that some bagels naturally become less hole-y or even completely filled in during the production process, due to certain “environmental factors.”
However, the bagel boss claimed that he’d “never go out of our way to overproof a bagel so the hole closes up. That’s just sacrilege.”
In fact, Shelsky believes NYC bagels in general have gotten too soft and huge, a major departure from the traditional “chewy and dense” ring with a “profound crust,” CBS reported.
Even Utopia Bagels owner Jesse Spellman, 23, now collaborating on the Philly campaign, admits that an authentic NYC bagel must have a gap.
“Bagels with a hole are what you relate to when you’re a little kid,” he told Time Out. “Part of the experience is to bite into that thick cream cheese and have the schmear fall off your face. It teaches kids how to clean themselves. Technically, bagels are important aspects of parenting!”
However Spellman argued that the no-hole bagel deal was too good to pass up given that Philadelphia is “a big brand in the bagel industry.”
Other bagel buffs have been more receptive to the un-holey creation.
“I thought it was cool,” Michael “Beans” Budani, owner of Beans Bagels in St. James, Long Island, told the Post. “I saw that this morning and I was like ‘oh that’s something different.’ It’s a nice approach actually.”
He added that comparing no-hole bagels to bialys — a popular criticism on Instagram — is a fatuous analogy, as the latter is “flattened down” like a “mini pizza with no sauce.” Not to mention that, unlike their more porous counterparts, bialys aren’t boiled before getting baked.
“This is still a bagel. It’s still a fat bagel,” Budani declared.” It just doesn’t have a hole.”
Beans says he likely won’t put the fearsome Frankenfood on his menu, but he has been known to push the envelope when it comes to boiled bread rings.
In August, the bagel maven debuted a “Doritos Bagel,” which Post reporter Alex Mitchell described as “love at first bite.”
Far more problematic than the no-hole, per Budani and other bagel die-hards, is the notorious scooped version, where the doughy interior is cored out to reduce the gluten content — like a regular bagel on Ozempic.
“The scooped bagels is kind of annoying — you’re killing the bagel,” he said of the now widely-accepted phenomenon.
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