Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Montreal Style Bagels

Disclaimer: These bagels are made with unbleached (but still refined) white flour.

Now I revere whole grain goodness as much as the next earthy-granola-conservationist-farm-friendly mamma, but I also like to live a little.  Perhaps there will come a day when a 100% whole wheat bagel will tempt my tastebuds the way a delicious Montreal-style bagel will, but that time is not now.  And I rarely make them, so I don't feel in the least guilty enjoying one once in a while.

If you are daring enough to rebel against the whole grain train every now and then, this is a recipe that you should definitely have in your collection.  If you already make Montreal-style bagels at home and your recipe is better than this one, please share it!  The closer I can get to that true epitome of deliciousness, the better!

Why Montreal?  Only because they are the most beautiful bagels in the world.  Granted, I have not eaten a New York bagel before but in this photo comparison I found on Google recently, I don't know if I need to.  It just doesn't look as delicious as the bagels I know.  Rustic, asymmetrical, chewy, delectable perfection.

Which would you rather eat?  I thought so.
My first experience with this carbohydrate ecstasy came to pass when I was in high school and went to visit my older sister who was living in Montreal at the time.  After one bite, I knew I could never go back to bagels as I knew them.  This was a sweeter, chewier, heartier, more grown up, "old-world" tasting thing of beauty that shouldn't have been in the same category as the bagels that I had previously eaten.

Craig took this picture the last time we were in Montreal and loaded up on bagels our last day in the city to bring home to share!
Delicious Fairmount bagel.

Unfortunately, the only place to get them fresh (that I know of) is in Montreal.  You can buy them (previously frozen, I think) here on PEI in an awesome little corner store called the Brighton Clover Farm, and the Charlottetown Farmers Market sells them as well.  That's all well and good, but they're less fresh and more expensive that way.  And I don't live in Charlottetown.  So a couple of years ago, I went in search of a recipe that would come close to imitating them in my kitchen.

It's not perfect, but unless you have Fairmount or St. Viateur bakeries down the street from where you live, it's the next best thing, and certainly much better then anything you'd buy in a store!

Montreal Style Bagels

1 1/2 cups warm (but not too hot) water
5 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 package active dry yeast or 2 1/4 teaspoons
1 small egg; beaten
1 tablespoon malt syrup*

4 1/2 cups (or so) unbleached flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt

6 quarts water
1/3 cup honey

1/2 cup poppy seeds or sesame seeds

In a large bowl, stir together the warm water, sugar, canola oil, yeast (not instant), egg and malt. Keep combining until the yeast dissolves. Then stir in salt and one cup of the flour. Gently add enough flour to make a soft dough, about 3 cups.  Turn your dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead for 10-12 minutes, adding extra flour as you need it. When your dough is firm and smooth, cover with inverted bowl and let sit 10 minutes.

Divide the dough into 12 equal parts. Roll each piece into a 10 inch rope, then curve each one pressing together ends to make a bagel shape. You may need to use a few drops of water to help the ends stay together.  Let your bagels rise for 30 minutes, perhaps longer if the temperature of your kitchen is a little on the cool side (like mine always is!).

While your dough is resting/rising, fill a large pot with the 6 quarts of water, stir in the honey and bring to a boil. Preheat oven to 425 F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. When the honey water has come to a boil, drop the bagels in (three or four at a time), and let boil for 90 seconds, flipping once at 45 seconds.  Don't worry if you can't really flip them, or keep track of flipping them.  I don't always do very well at that step.

Remove the bagels from the pot and pat dry on clean tea towels.  Dip the bagels in bowls of sesame seeds or poppy seeds, flipping them over and generously covering both sides. Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets.  Bake at 425 for 8-10 minutes, then flip and bake another 8-10 minutes.  How long you bake them depends on your oven, I followed the original recipe's instructions for 8 minutes the very first time I baked them (picture below, the only picture I have of my bagels was from my first attempt so they aren't very well rolled, and as you can see, a little on the light side).  I prefer them to be a little darker, so I tend to leave them about 10 minutes or so on each side.

Enjoy with whipped cream cheese, tomatoes, thinly sliced red onion and a little smoked salmon!  Or, with cream cheese and blueberry jam!  Or, if you are like my husband, peanut butter.

*I use Eden Organic Barley Malt syrup.  I bought it at the Bulk Barn; you can also use malt drink powder--either should be available in a health food store.

Note the light colour and less-than-professional rolling--they still turned out delicious, and I have since improved my bagel making skills!
This post is shared with the Homestead Barn Hop #55 at The Prairie Homestead.


  1. I would like to note that since I have been home you have not made this recipe. I suggest that you make it so I can see if your bagels do in fact mirror the deliciousness of a Montreal bagel!

  2. I second Rebecca's comment. I will come over and eat one...or two...with some apple butter! Call me!

  3. They do look delicious. Careful what you say about NY bagels though. Thems fighten words. lol

    1. Haha! Yes, I'm sure I should be careful. I wondered if anyone would take the bait! I have definitely heard good things about NY bagels too. :) If I ever get there, I'll definitely give them a try. Thanks for you comment! :)

    2. I 'think' the recipe I use for bagels is a NY version (no malt), and they are my version of the perfect bagel, but I will let you have your version too :) (I'm a giver like that).

    3. Jackie maybe we will need to plan a bake-off. Are you up to the challenge?! ;)

  4. Don't forget that we now have them in Summerside at Samuel's! Easier to drive down the street to get one than making a whole batch when you're short on time and have a craving :)

    1. Pam! I totally forgot about that! You're right! We should have a bagel and latte date soon. :)


I love to get comments and questions, and particularly suggestions!