a little bit of montreal

Montreal is an easy city to love. Every night of the week one can see good live music and every hour of the day one can buy fresh bagels. Those are just two among many attractive qualities. Because they both hold so much appeal, I don't think that I even have to mention things like poutine, bakeries from Northern France, Jean Talon Market, or Mount Royal. In short, it is easy to become spoiled in Montreal. I blame the city for the fact that whenever I am out past 2am I develop a craving for either poutine from Chez Claudette or Le Nouveau Palais, or freshly baked bagels from Fairmount Bagel. Right now I am going to focus on the latter.

When discussing Montreal bagels, there are two important points to raise. The first is about how Montreal bagels differ from their rival: the New York style bagel. The second is about the rivalry between two bagel shops in Montreal: St-Viateur Bagel and Fairmount Bagel. Let's start with the first. I used to work at a Bed & Breakfast and on each table was a card explaining the difference between Montreal and New York style Bagels. The Montreal bagel is sweeter. It has a bit more sugar and, most importantly, it is boiled in honey. The traditional Montreal bagel is then cooked in a wood-burning oven. It is often an imperfect circle compared to the perfectly round and fluffier New York Bagel.

Now the rivalry: named after streets in Montreal and one block apart are St-Viateur Bagel and Fairmount Bagel. If you ever live in Montreal (or even just visit) you will be pressured to pick one over the other. You are either a St-Viateur or a Fairmount bagel person; there is no grey zone. Both bakeries are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and both make delicious Montreal style bagels. I am a Fairmount bagel person. I can't tell you why exactly, I just am. I just like their bagels more. I can't describe the difference between St-Viateur and Fairmount in words, it is just intrinsic.

Living away from Montreal makes me miss bagels. A lot. When I was living in Berlin, the craving got to be too much. I decided to make them. Although I did not have a wood-burning oven, they tasted like Montreal bagels. They tasted like the city of Montreal even though I was eating them far away. Since that first batch, I have gotten a lot better at rolling them. Each time I make them they look more and more like the bagels at Fairmount. I feel comforted knowing that I can have Montreal bagels whenever I please (or when I have some honey and sesame seeds to spare).

Montreal Bagels

adapted from BigOven


1 1/2 cups warm water
3 tbsp unrefined sugar
3 tbsp sunflower oil
8 grams fresh yeast, or 1 package dry
1 organic egg, beaten
1 tbsp maple syrup
4 1/2 cups bread flour
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup sesame seeds
3 quarts water
1/3 cup honey

In a large bowl dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Once dissolved, add the sugar, oil, egg, maple syrup and salt. Mix well and add one cup of flour. Gradually add the rest of the flour to make a soft dough. Knead dough for 10 minutes. Add extra flour if needed. Once the dough is smooth and firm, cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Divide the dough into 12 balls. Roll each ball into a long rope. Once the ends start to taper you have the right length. Curve the dough into a circle so that the ends overlap. Press the ends together. Brush with a few drops of water to help the ends stay together.

Let bagels rise for 30 minutes on a baking sheet or plate lined with parchment paper. Alternatively, put them in the fridge (brush them with oil and then cover them with plastic wrap first) over night to rise and then remove them in the morning. If you put them in the fridge, let them warm up to room temperature. To check if they are ready to cook, put one bagel in a bowl of cold water. If it floats it is ready. If not let it rest for another 10 minutes and try again.

When ready to cook the bagels, fill a large pot with water. Stir in the honey and bring to a boil. Preheat the oven to 425F/220C and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Once the water is at a boil, drop four bagel in. Let boil for 45 seconds, flip, and then another 45 seconds. Carefully remove and pat dry with a clean tea towel. Sprinkle both sides with sesame seeds (black or white) and then place on the parchment paper.

Bake for 8 minutes, flip, and then another 8 minutes. However, keep an eye on them because this depends on how hot your oven is. Let cool and then enjoy with cream cheese.


Anonymous –   – (May 27, 2011 at 11:53 PM)  

I've been wanting to make Montreal style bagels for a while now. I use to eat them everyday but now that I'm in Texas a bagel consists of a dense roll with a whole in the middle. Not so appealing. Great post! Can't wait to give these a try. (I too am a Fairmount bagel person)

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