Montreal (style) Bagels

2016-08-13 18.15.47After years of holding bagel making classes, featuring New York style bagels we were asked, “What about Montreal style bagels?  Can you make those too?”  (We have a post about the difference between them.)

Research and luck came into play.  There are two classic Montreal bagel bakeries, Fairmount and St. Viateur Bagel. Each has their devoted fans. St. Viateur has shared their recipe, probably on the theory that it takes more than a recipe to make a Montreal bagel, and sharing the recipe will make people happy and bring them into the bakery to try the real deal. Paul of Hearthstone Artisan Bakery in turn shared their recipe with me.

I strongly encourage all bakers to share recipes for just those reasons. I doubt one person in a thousand will try using a recipe, and it is a great advertisement. I know if I make it to Montreal, I’ll be going to both of those places. Anyway, to share it further, here’s a scaled down version of the St. Viateur recipe. The weights are enough for a batch of 6 or 12 bagels. This is a thick dough, so don’t kill your home mixer making it.

Ingredients for Montreal style bagels:

6 Bagels 12 Bagels Ingredients Baker’s Percentage
235 470 Water 45.51
25.5 51 Eggs(1) 4.96
5.5 11 Oil (2) 1.10
505 1010 High Gluten Flour(3) 98.41
8 16 Malt Extract(4) 1.59
1.1 2.1 Instant Yeast 0.21
20 40 Sugar 3.94
5 10 Salt(5) 1.00
1.5 3 Gypsum (6) 0.25
Some notes:
  1. Large eggs in the United States average 50 grams each. So, use an egg and adjust the oil to compensate for over or under sized eggs to make 12 bagels.  To make 6 bagels, beat the egg and use about 1/2 the egg. If you cooking for vegans, substitute 1 TBSP soy flour and 1 TBSP olive oil per egg.
  2. I prefer to use olive oil for my bagels.
  3. I use either GM’s All-Trumps un-bromated, unbleached flour, King Arthur’s Sir Lancelot, or Honeyville Farms’ Imperial High Gluten flour.
  4. Malt extract (not malted milk powder!) is available from brewing supply houses and Amazon.  Get a light powdered malt extract.  You can use either diastatic or non-diastatic for bagels, just get whatever is cheaper this week.  Warning, malt extract is very hygroscopic – it will absorb water and turn into a brick.  Wrap it tightly and freeze it!
  5. St. Viateur doesn’t use salt. Paul says his customers prefer the bagels with 1% salt. I agree.  Try it both ways and see what you think.
  6. The water at our house is alkaline and soft.  Dough prefers somewhat acidic and harder water.  Adding a small amount of gypsum to the dough corrects for this. If your water works for you, don’t add it. If your dough is always slack and weak, you might give it a try.  You can get gypsum at brewing supply houses and, of course, Amazon.

Because of the tiles in my oven, it takes about an hour to heat up, so I start by pre-heating the oven to 550F. Half an hour later, I start heating a 6 to 8 quart pot (or dutch oven) about 3/4 full of water. Add 1/3 cup honey, or malt extract if you are baking for a vegan. Put a lid on it or it will take too long to reach a boil. It usually takes a large pot of water about 30 minutes to reach a boil on my range. Your timings may vary.

As the water is heating, measure the ingredients and mix or knead for 5 minutes. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, then knead another 5 to 10 minutes. This dough is dryer than my usual sourdough bagel dough, so it may still look dry and not quite there. That’s OK.

After a 10 to 15 minute rise, form the bagels. 120 grams of dough is about right. Roll it into a 10″ long strand, roll it around your hand, overlap the ends and roll it into a bagel. This dough is a bit too firm for the roll and poke technique I suggest for the New York style bagel to work well.

Rolling a bagel, like grade school modeling clay rollingabagel2 Seal the bagel by rolling the seam

Montreal bagels traditionally have a larger hole, which is part of the reason they are traditionally not as tall as a New York Bagel. The dough was still pretty shaggy after the mix, and it finished coming together when I formed the bagels. Looking at pictures of Montreal bagels, they look less finished than New York bagels so this makes me think I’m the right track.

After the second rise, of 10 to 15 minutes, boil them for about 3 minutes, flipping them over half way through. The bagels seem to float about half way through the boil.  Once boiled and cooled a bit, dip them in poppy or sesame seeds. Traditionally both sides and the edges are rolled in sesame seeds which tastes GREAT!

My oven has two racks, both of which are covered Montreal bagle crumb shot - nice and openwith baking stones. I bake half the bagels on each rack directly on the stones. Bake at 500F for 10 minutes, move the bagels between the racks and turn them around to bake them evenly. Bake for 5 to 10 more minutes, depending on how much color you want on the bagels. More color is generally better. Some people flip the bagels over. I don’t. The sesame and poppy seeds all over the oven are a pain to clean up and you’ll have enough of that without flippin’ the flippin’ things over.

Let them cool for 10 to 15 minutes, slice and enjoy. You shouldn’t need to toast them the first day, but might want to the day after they are baked. I’m told they can last for several days. Of course, as one former employee said “I don’t know now long they last, since they don’t last as long as it takes me to get home.” 

And that leaves us with the musical questions, “How good are they?” and “How do the compare to New York style sourdough bagels?”  GREAT questions, I’m glad you asked.  I still haven’t had a REAL New York Bagel, but many people have told me mine are spot on.  I also haven’t had a Montreal bagel (I feel a road trip coming on!).  So the question isn’t which is better, New York or Montreal?  The question is, which is better, Mike’s New York style or Mike’s Montreal style? 

By a slim margin, the New York wins, at least for me.  However, if you want to make bagels right NOW, the Montreal bagels pull out ahead.  They are amazing for the flavor they deliver in just an hour.  Would they be better in a real wood fired oven?  Almost certainly!

In the end, either are better than anything you’re likely to find outside New York or Montreal.  And you have the pride of ownership!

Copyright 2016, Mike Avery,

All Rights Reserved

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