A bagel is a bread product originating in the Jewish communities of Poland. It is traditionally shaped by hand into the form of a ring from yeasted wheat dough, roughly hand-sized, that is first boiled for a short time in water and then baked. Though the origins of bagels are somewhat obscure, it is known that they were widely consumed by Ashkenazi Jews from the 17th century. The first known mention of the bagel, in 1610, was in Jewish community ordinances in Kraków, Poland which stated that the food was given as a gift to women in childbirth. Its name derives from the Yiddish word “beygal” from the German dialect word “beugel”, meaning "ring" or "bracelet".

The basic roll-with-a-hole design is hundreds of years old and has other practical advantages besides providing more even cooking and baking of the dough: The hole could be used to thread string or dowels through groups of bagels, allowing easier handling and transportation and more appealing seller displays.

Bagels were brought to the United States by immigrant Polish Jews at the turn of the 20th century, with a thriving business developing in New York City in Manhattan's Lower East Side, that was controlled for decades by Bagel Bakers Local 338.

In the Brick Lane district and the surrounding area of London, U.K., bagels (locally spelled "beigels") have been sold since the middle of the 19th century. They were often displayed in the windows of bakeries on vertical wooden dowels, up to a metre in length, on racks.

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