In theory, we love bagel bites. They're so cute! They're like tiny pizzas! You can eat them anytime!
But in reality, mini pizza bagels have flaws. Sometimes the bagel part is soggy, and sometimes it's stale-tasting (but crackly crisp.) The sauce can be tinny and tomato-pasty, or nearly absent altogether. We'd love for the cheese to be gooey and salty and rich, but it's often not plentiful (or flavorful) enough.
Could we find a bagel bite to love? We tried three different brands to find out.
Macabee Mini Pizza Bagels
These bagel bites (bought at our local Whole Foods) were by far the most disappointing of the bunch. The bagel part was crisp on the outside after a 15-minute toast (though less successful on the inside.) The sauce and cheese mingled into one indistinguishable mass of topping, and the cheese was a little grainy. The sauce was a little overly salted and tinny, but the saddest part was the sogginess of the top part of the bagel. No one wants to eat pizza-flavored sponge.
Ore-Ida Bagel Bites
Things were looking up when we warmed up the Ore-Ida version. There was much more differentiation between sauce and cheese, though some tasters found the sauce a little ketchupy. Though the cheese (a blend of mozzarella, cheddar, and Monterey Jack) was a bit bland and not quite gooey enough, it was probably the best cheese of the examples we tried. The bagel was slightly ridged, which contributed to its crisp exterior, but some found the bagel a little sour and stale-tasting. Still, a few folks chose this as their top bagel bite.
Shop-Rite Mini Pepperoni Pizza Bagels
Ok, comparing cheese-topped bagel bites to pepperoni-and-cheese-topped bagel bites is like comparing apples to, well, pepperoni-covered-apples, so this isn't quite fair. But we tasted Shop-Rite's store brand mini pizza bagels anyway. And we were pretty pleasantly surprised. The cheese resisted melting, so we let these guys cook a little bit longer than the others. (It still didn't get that melty.) The bagel flavor was the best out of the three—no sour stale taste. But the sauce was a little sweet and too heavily spiced with dried oregano. The pepperoni nubbins looked a little more like bacon bits, but they added a nice hint of smokiness and heat wherever they were present. Of the three options we tried, these were my personal favorite of the bunch, in a guilty-pleasure kind of way.
I'm not sure we're ever going to find a wonderful frozen bagel bite out of a box. Do you ever eat these things? Got a favorite brand?
Perhaps we'll have send Kenji back into The Pizza Lab to work up a homemade version...