The Never-Ending War.
When it comes to breakfast food, there are two mainstays for the American public – and while they may look similar, they are worlds apart!
The perennial glazed doughnut is a soft, yeasty risen circle, deep fried in hot fat until golden, then covered in a sweet glaze. Alternately, cake doughnuts are sweet, crumby things served plain or with a chocolate topping. Other doughnuts omit the time honored hole, and are stuffed with cream or jelly, while still others are doubled and twisted strands of dough or rounds of cinnamon flaky goodness.
In contrast, the bagel is a chewy round of dough that only shares a hole with it‘s cousin the doughnut. Boiled in water instead of fat, and then baked lightly to create the coveted crisp brown crust, the bagel can be embedded with raisins covered in seeds or studded with cranberries and seasoned with spices.
Doughnuts were America’s go-to for decades. Sunday mornings at Bible Study, Monday mornings at work, for every early morning meeting or get together, the doughnut shop was the pit stop for pastries and coffee. However, the sugar high from doughnuts is often quickly followed by a crash, and the deep fried aspect of the sugary rounds added another “unhealthy” red flag that health conscious Americans have started paying attention to.
Enter the bagel – the “other food with a hole”. This down to earth, wholesome bread started supplanting doughnuts in the yuppie circles over three decades ago, with breakfast platters shifting from the Boston Cream and the jelly-filled to the “everything” with a “schmear”.
A single bagel may overall have more calories than a single glazed doughnut, but the differences in overall healthiness are obvious. Doughnuts are rarely eaten singly (in fact, studies show that the average number of doughnuts eaten at a sitting is closer to three than two!).
Doughnuts also have added sugar in the form of fillings and glazes that are heavy on sugar and fat and low on nutrients. The result is a quick high followed by a blood sugar crash that can lower mental acuity and leave the sweet eater feeling fatigued and out of steam before noon.
In contrast, a bagel is usually eaten singly, with a more heart healthy dollop of cream cheese or smoked salmon – adding dairy and protein to an already wholesome food. Whole grain bagels are better for you, providing a slower break down of the carbohydrates that boost your energy level until the next meal.
Bagels are also more versatile than the doughnut. You can split one, toast it and spread with your choice of toppings – or slap some bacon, ham or an egg between the two halves and create a nutritious, protein laden breakfast sandwich. They keep excellently until lunchtime, when you can proceed with peanut or almond butter for a quick meal at your desk – or even take a few home to split and cover with sauce and cheese for mini-pizzas that beat a microwave dinner any day!
Variety may be a draw when it comes to doughnuts – cake or yeast, glazed or chocolate, jelly or cream-filled – but bagels can hold their own with sourdough, caraway and sesame seed being only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to flavors and additions. So which roll with a hole wins the battle? Believe it or not, the bagel is edging out the doughnut, and the trend seems unlikely to reverse.