Bagels.... hot from the oven
I love bagels. My favorite bagels come from Montreal, not New York. I have actually found that in the last 10 years or so most NY Bagels have taken on the “Supersize me” that has prevailed across America. They are much larger and puffier than they used to be and I believe that they have less texture and crumb In Montreal the bagels are still baked in the simple old fashioned way that they were made in Poland. The secret of course is simplicity. They are baked in a wood burning oven there, but this can be replicated somewhat using a baking stone or hearth insert like I use. The recipe is below for you to use as you wish.
I think you will enjoy this video about my favorite bagel bakery in Montreal.
Montreal bagels, however, are a different breed, chewy and tinged with a tantalizing sweetness. The real thing is still baked in wood ovens, which give the bagels an irregularly charred outer surface. These bagels shine, too, with a gloss that only a short swim in a bath of honey- or malt-sweetened water can impart. With no chemical additives or dough conditioners, these bagels stand out in taste and looks.
How bagels came to be this way in Montreal is difficult to determine. The recipe was no doubt modeled after the those brought by immigrant families, many of whom opened bagel stores that still exist in the old ethnic neighborhoods. Over time, Montrealers came to enjoy – and expect -bagels in this style, so the tradition continued.
Some people have another explanation. They point out that other cities prohibit wood-burning commercial ovens, because of the fire hazard. Such ovens burn continuously with an unregulated open flame -you can’t turn them off, and you can’t turn them down. So Montreal has the dubious distinction of having notable bagels and a less-than-stringent fire code.
Bagels are one of those foods that have a certain mystique about them. Because they are readily available in most every city now, people just buy them and never think about making them. However, if you have had TRULY amazing bagels like these before, baked in this style, you will find it nearly impossible to find them anywhere other than Montreal and hence you must make them at home or increase your frequent flyer miles many times over. I have to say that before I started making them myself, every trip to Montreal included a suitcase for the bagels I would run out to St. Viateur Bakery and buy fresh from the morning of our departure. If you live on the mainland, you can order them online from St. Viateur. Technology is amazing, really. But if you live in Hawaii like me, you are going to have to learn to make them, do without or drop by on baking day.
One note about sweeteners: Professional bakers once relied on honey, since it carries its own characteristic bouquet. Over the years, the price of honey has increased, so now many bakeries use light or dark malt syrup (available in some health-food stores and in those that stock beer-making supplies). Still, you should use honey in the formula and then add the malt syrup to the water.
MONTREAL STYLE BAGELS
Preparation time: 45 minutes Cooking time: 25 minutes but I find the flavor is better if you retard the fermenting process by refrigerating the dough. If you want to take this extra step, make the dough at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours before you plan on baking them.
Baking on the stone
1 1/2 cups water, room temperature
2 packages dry quick-rising yeast (or 1 1/2 ounces fresh yeast)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 whole egg + 1 egg yolk
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup honey
5 cups or more flour (preferably bread flour)
3 quarts water for boiling
1/3 cup honey or malt syrup
Sesame or poppy seeds for sprinkling on top. These are the only toppings seen in Montreal, but of course if you like onions or garlic or anything else, they can be added instead of the seeds or in combination with them.
1.In a large mixing bowl or in the bowl of an electric mixer that has a dough hook, blend together the water, yeast, sugar and salt. Stir in the whole egg, the yolk, oil and 1/2 cup honey, and mix well.
2.Add the 5 cups flour, and mix until the dough is too stiff to mix by hand. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface (if using electric mixer, attach dough hook), and knead to form a soft, supple dough. Add a bit more flour as needed to prevent dough from getting too sticky. It should be tacky, but not sticky.
3.When the dough is smooth and elastic, place it in a lightly oiled bowl, and cover with a sheet of plastic wrap or with a plastic bag.
4.Let the dough rest about 20 minutes. Punch it down, and divide into 18 equal portions. Pour the water into a large pot, along with the remaining 1/3 cup honey or malt syrup, and heat to boiling. Cover, reduce the heat, and allow to simmer while preparing the bagels.
5.Shape the dough portions into bagels or doughnutlike rings by elongating each portion into an 8- to 10-inch coil that is 3/4 inch thick. Fold the ends over each other, pressing with the palm of one hand and rolling back and forth gently to seal. This locks the ends together and must be done properly or the bagels will open while being boiled. Let the bagels rest 15 minutes on a baking sheet with parchment or silpat.
6.Preheat oven to 550 degrees. If you have a pizza stone pre-heat it in the oven. Bring the water back to a boil and remove the lid. Have bowls of poppy seeds and sesame seeds nearby.
7.When the water is boiling, use a slotted spoon, and add three bagels to the water. As they rise to the surface, turn them over, and let them boil an additional minute before removing them and quickly apply the seeds or other toppings. Continue boiling the bagels in batches of three until all have been boiled and seeded.
8.Just before baking, turn the temperature down to 450 degrees. Arrange the boiled bagels on a baking sheet, and bake on the lowest rack of oven until they are medium brown, approximately 25 minutes. Or using a peel covered with semolina, place the bagels directly onto a pre-heated pizza stone and bake in batches. Allow the oven to regain some of the temperature lost before adding the 2nd batch. Remove from the oven. Once cooled, the bagels can be placed in a plastic bag, sealed and frozen.
Yield: 18 bagels. NOTE: If not using the dough immediately, refrigerate it after it has been kneaded. Bagel making can be resumed up to a day later. Allow the dough to return to room temperature, and continue with step 4.