Montreal bagels have some things in common with your classic bagel, but differ in some ways too. The cooking part is similar: After the dough rises and is shaped and rested, the bagels are dropped into simmering water briefly before being baked. The boiling pot for Montreal bagels includes malt powder and honey, which add an extra touch of sweetness and shine to the bagels.
The dough is different too. Montreal bagel dough is slightly sweetened with honey, and also has egg and malt powder. They are coated on both sides with sesame seeds after they come out of the boiling pot and before they go into the oven. Traditionally, they are baked in a wood-fired oven, although you will get good results from baking them on a baking stone in your home oven as well.
Montreal bagels have a slightly less chewy texture than other bagels, making them excellent for sandwiches. Toasting them brings out the slight sweetness of the honey and the nutty flavor of the sesame seeds. I love making sandwiches with these bagels; a simple cheese, onion and tomato combination is delicious, even without condiments. I usually toast the bagel first.
OK, ready to try making these bagels yourself? This recipe makes about 12 good-sized bagels. Don't be afraid to cut the recipe in half or double it; this dough stores well in the refrigerator so you can use a bit at a time if you want. If you do change the proportions, though, stick with the same quantities for the boiling pot.
1-1/2 cups lukewarm water
1 tablespoon granulated yeast (1-1/2 packages)
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
5 tablespoons sugar (or less according to your taste)
1 egg, beaten slightly
2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons malt powder
4-1/2 cups bread flour
4 quarts water (it doesn't have to be exact, but try not to use a lot less than 4 quarts)
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons malt powder
1. Mix the dough. Combine all the dough ingredients except for the sesame seeds in a large mixing bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon (or a dough hook on your mixer) until all the flour has been incorporated. The dough will be fairly sticky at this point.
Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Let dough rest at room temperature for about two hours. The dough will rise and may collapse during this rest.
2. Shape the dough. Preheat oven to 400F. If you're using a baking stone, allow at least 45 minutes of preheating time so the stone is good and hot by the time you want to bake the bagels.
Dust a large cutting board with flour. Turn out the dough on the cutting board, dusting the dough with flour if you need to. Knead it very gently, just for a minute, until the dough less sticky. (If you are going to refrigerate some of the dough, at this point cut off what you want to use now and put the rest in a covered container in the fridge.) Cut the dough into pieces about the size of a small orange. Shape each piece into a smooth ball. This movement is kind of like pulling a cover over a baseball; stretch the dough as you turn the ball about a quarter turn at a time. It doesn't take long, just turn and pull until the surface of the dough is smooth.
Let the shaped dough rest for at least 20 minutes at room temperature. This is very important. I don't usually let it go much more than 30 minutes, but 20 minutes is the minimum.
3. While the dough is resting, prepare your boiling pot. (The oven is preheating, right?) Heat up the 4 quarts of water in a large saucepan. When it is close to boiling, add the honey and malt powder, stirring to dissolve. Turn down the heat a bit; you want the stuff to be simmering, not boiling hard, when you drop in the bagels.
4. Form the bagels and boil. Use your thumb to punch a hole in the middle of a ball of dough. Use both hands to gently stretch the dough to open up the hole a bit, turning as you go. if you rested the dough properly, it will be elastic but will form readily without shrinking back into a ball.
Have a timer ready. Drop the bagels into the simmering water; don't over-crowd them, they will increase in size in the pot. Simmer them for 1 minute on the first side, then turn with a large slotted spoon and cook for 30 seconds on the other side. Lift them out of the water, let drain briefly, then place the bagels on a wooden peel covered with parchment paper (if you're using a baking stone), or a baking sheet covered with parchment paper (if you're not using a stone).
Dust the top of the bagels with sesame seeds. You can then turn them and put more sesame seeds on the other side of you'd like; I tend to put them on one side only.
5. Bake. Slide the peel or baking sheet quickly into the oven. Bake for 20-30 minutes; the bagels will puff up and become golden brown.
Cool on racks and serve either a little warm or completely cooled. While there are still wonderful homegrown tomatoes around, try David's favorite: Cream cheese and tomato on a warm bagel (above). Bagel sandwiches are great in sack lunches; they hold up better than a lot of commercial breads and are a perfect size for just about anyone.