Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Montreal-Style Bagels

I promised Annalise over at Knead to be Loaved a "bagel-off" when she posted her bagel recipe a while ago. Well, the fight is on! ;)

There are lots of bagel recipes floating around, but once you've tasted a fresh, warm bagel from Fairmount Bagels, none of those big, bready, more-dough-than-hole impostors will do. A real bagel should be dense and chewy! If your bagel has the texture of round bread with a hole in it, well, I'm afraid that is not a bagel! That is bread with a hole in it!

(Honestly, I'm not really this argumentative. But a bagel-off isn't really a bagel-off unless you make outlandish statements. Plus, bagels in this neck of the woods are one of those things where people have steadfast allegiances to Montreal-, New York-, or whatever-style bagels and will fight to the death defending their choice. There is even a heated battle within Montreal as to whether the best bagels come from Fairmount or St Viateur; it's fairly obvious where I stand on the matter.)

I have been trying to figure out the secret to the Fairmount bagel for a few years. I've asked people who work there, but the batches are so big even their tips are imprecise. I also lack the requisite Cavern of Fire in which the bagels are baked.

That's not to say that I haven't come pretty close to getting it right.

This is a work in progress of sorts, but I'll share what I've got going so far. If you manage any better, you let me know!

For the dough, you need:

1.5 c warm water
5 tbs sugar
3 tbs oil
2.25 tsp dry yeast
1 tbs beaten egg
1 tbs malt powder (maple syrup works too)
4.5-5c all purpose flour
5 tsp vital wheat gluten
1 tsp kosher salt

And for boiling you need:
lots of water and 1/3 c honey to boil

1. Stir together the 1.5c water, the sugar, oil, yeast, egg, and malt. When the yeast has dissolved and proofed, stir in the salt and one cup of the flour. Fold in 3 more cups of flour until a soft dough forms.

2. Knead in the remaining flour (as needed) and let the dough rest for 10 minutes, covered.

3. Divide the dough into 12 even pieces and shape. Roll each ball of dough out into a long snake about 1" in diameter. Shape into a ring and roll the ends together to join. Let the bagels rise for 30 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, preheat the oven and your baking stone (I really recommend a baking stone) to 425ºF and get about 6L of water and the honey on the boil.

5. Once the water is boiling, boil the bagels for about 1.5 minutes, turning once. Drain the bagels on a dish towl and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Sprinkly them with sesame seeds on both sides (or poppy seeds, or don't. It's your call.) I had to do mine in batches.

6. Either put the baking sheet in the oven or carefully place the bagels directly on the baking stone. Bake for 20 minutes, until golden, turning them once part way through.

Enjoy fresh out of the oven, toasted the next day with butter, cream cheese, or, as M likes them, with peanut butter. Trust me, you'll never go back.

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  1. Damn you! Qualifying exams accept no baking :( They sound really good!

  2. So in the same light why not try pretzels? :) Oh yes, have a link for you - silvenwolf.multiply.com - my own version of a food blog, except the link isn't exactly telling of such.

  3. Making your own bagels sound like fun. They look good.

  4. A trick to real Montreal style bagels (the one that I know, anyway) is that they are brushed with honey and water before baking. Or at least, that's how they did it in the 50s when my dad lived there!