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Starting a diet often means forgoing some of your favorite treats, like salty snacks, sweets and foods high in carbohydrates.
But that doesn't mean you need to forgo all bread, all the time. For example, whole grains like rye are known for being highly nutritious and, depending on the diet plan, there are other ways to get your doughy fix — without blowing your daily caloric budget.
Recently, I noticed a little something called a two-ingredient bagel making the rounds on various food blogs. Though it was hard to trace the exact origin of the recipe, the earliest mention I found was December 2017. Many devotees of the recipe seem to have picked up some version of the easy breakfast dish on Connect — which is WW's (formerly Weight Watchers) own social network. According to Google Trends, searches for "2-ingredient bagel" started spiking in early January 2018 and interest has only continued to grow in spurts.
The two-ingredient part didn’t grab me so much — even regular bagels are made just with flour, water, yeast and a bit of sugar and salt. What caught my attention was that this particular carby product was being touted in diet circles. These so-called “miracle” bagels will set diners back only three SmartPoints on the Freestyle plan (which TODAY Food confirmed with the company), compared to 11 points for a typical bagel.
So how can a bagel really be made with just two ingredients? All it takes, apparently, is self-rising flour (which is a bit of a cheat, because salt and baking powder have already been added) and protein-packed Greek yogurt — you can also use a low-fat or fat-free variety.
I decided to try these bagels out for myself, but as a nutritionist, I also wanted to up the health factor because it doesn’t really matter to me if something is fat free or even low in calories. What matters is that it’s tasty and that it also contributes something beneficial to my diet.
Could I learn to love a 2-ingredient bagel?
I decided to go with fat-free yogurt to test the limits of the recipe. I had to order self-rising flour online, because it’s not typically stocked on many grocery store shelves. Since I didn’t want to load these up with salty toppings, like an everything bagel mix (which would definitely be delicious), I decided to try topping them with chia seeds, which contain fiber and contribute ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) into one's diet. They also have anti-inflammatory benefits. Chia seeds also mimic the look of poppy seeds, which I hoped would give the dough rounds a more authentic look and a little texture.
The process was surprisingly easy. As a New Yorker and a bagel lover, I’ve never attempted to make them at home because I honestly didn’t think the results would be worth the effort. Traditional bagels call for making the dough, letting it rise, forming it into rings, boiling them and finally baking them — hardly a quick endeavor.
But this cheat bagel ended up being super easy to make and would certainly be a fun project with kids.
How to make the bagels
1. Combine 1 cup of self-rising flour with 1 cup of nonfat or low-fat plain Greek yogurt in a mixing bowl.
2. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a flour-coated surface. Note that the dough will be very, very sticky at this stage.
3. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Using a dough scraper or pizza wheel is helpful for this step. Add a little more flour to each piece and roll it into a ring with your hands. Then press the ends of the ring together to form a circle.
4. In a small dish, whisk an egg and brush the tops of the bagels with a little bit of egg. Then top each with ¾ teaspoon of chia seeds.
5. Gently transfer the bagels to a parchment or Silpat-lined baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 22-24 minutes. Remove the bagels from the oven, increase the heat to 450 degrees and bake for an additional 3 minutes, until the tops of bagels form a nice light golden color.
When it was time to actually taste the bagels, I was ready to be disappointed ... but I was pleasantly surprised!
Of course, taste is always subjective but on the not-so-great side, the bagels do not have the toothsome, super-chewy quality one expects from a classic New York-made bagel, nor do they boast the shiny exterior that develops from the typical boiling-then-baking process.
However, these miracle bagels do have quite a bit going for them.
The addition of the Greek yogurt combined with the saltiness of the self-rising flour gives them a tangy buttermilk flavor, which I enjoyed. Plus, the yogurt adds over 5 grams of protein and 63 milligrams of calcium to each bagel, which clock in at roughly 150 calories a piece. Also, though they don’t have the heft of a traditional bagel, these dough rings do hold up well to a decent coating of cream cheese and provide more chewing satisfaction than a slice of bread. Plus, the simple dough base can be used for mini pizzas, cinnamon rolls and a host of other home-baked goods.
My kids loved them, too, and didn’t even question their healthier origins.
Make the bagels even healthier.
If you want to up the health factor of these bagels even more, you could make your own self-rising flour with whole wheat flour (or with a combo of wheat and white flours), plus baking powder, baking soda and salt. And, as with many things, it’s the extras that count. A 2-tablespoon serving of cream cheese is 90 calories, while a 2-ounce serving of lox is 70 calories, not to mention 600 milligrams of sodium. And a tablespoon of jam will set you back 50 calories. So, even when you’re brunching on a little breakfast miracle, you should still be mindful about what you’re topping it with.
I will not be giving up my occasional New York bagel with a generous schmear of cream cheese and a nice salty layer of lox — but I will definitely be enjoying these easy-to-make bagels on the regular, because they’re hard not to love and come together so quickly.
Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, is a nutrition expert, writer, mom of three and best-selling author. Her books include "Feed the Belly," "The CarbLovers Diet" and "Eating in Color." Follow her @FrancesLRothRD and check out her website.