Before I made nutrition my livelihood, I wouldn’t think twice about grabbing a giant sesame-coated carbohydrate monstrosity on my way to a morning lecture. These days I still eat them on occasion (a life without bagels is no life for me), but dietitian thoughts creep in. I can’t help but think of the inflammatory properties of flour, the insulin spike caused by the high glycemic load signalling to the body’s fat cells to plump up, and the anticipation that the refined starch will digest in a flash, leaving me crashing before lunch. It’s funny because there are plenty of RD-dubious foods I eat without a care, in interest of moderation. Maybe it’s because bagels are breakfast, and I feel pressure to start the day off right. A wise person described breakfast as the “gateway drug” for the rest of the day’s eating… how apt is that!? I definitely find that my morning meal sets the stage for the day, and I love fueling up on a breakfast that makes me feel good. So I set out to see if I could achieve that experience while, well… still getting to eat a bagel.
In this recipe, leafy greens displace some of the bread and offer vitamins, minerals, and fiber. I used a combination of whole-wheat and bread flour, to provide some whole-grain goodness while still maintaining the bagel’s hallmark chewy texture. Crumbled feta kneaded into the dough gives a subtle cheesy flavor, while also offering a little calcium, protein, and fat to slow digestion and keep us satiated.
For me, baking bread is one of life’s great pleasures. Kneading, rising, shaping, using your hands to create something from nothing… It’s like ancestral alchemy (not to mention how good it makes your house smell). The process takes some time and attention, but it’s one of my favorite ways to escape real life for an afternoon in the kitchen. Bagels in particular – with the extra step of boiling before baking – are more of a weekend project than an everyday staple, so set aside some time and have fun with it.
These bagels have an earthy earnestness, while still offering bready charms. I didn’t give the kale my usual honey/vinegar treatment, but I think next time I will. My usual way to health up a bagel is to top the cream cheese with a layer of veggies – my favorites are sliced tomatoes or alfalfa sprouts. I think the sprouts would be especially good here for a double-green experience!