montreal bagels #BreadBakers

I feel like a traitor. I, a born, bred, lifelong New Yorker of Jewish origin, have committed the unpardonable sin of baking with my own two hands…Montreal style bagels. And not only did I bake them, I ENJOYED them. I have brought shame upon the House of Dough, New York Division. I may be barred from Ess-a-Bagel for life.

As far as I'm concerned, a good New York bagel is the pinnacle of bread-y nirvana. It's not Sunday morning without a big chewy bagel, a schmear of cream cheese, a pinky-orangey layer of lox (NOT smoked salmon. LOX. Got that, all you hipster foodies? LOX.),  maybe a sprinkling of capers and a few rounds of red onion if I'm feeling feisty. It's the quintessential Jewish food, in my humble opinion. Perfect for every occasion from births to deaths and everything in between. It's also probably the one Jewish food I can think of that's really gone mainstream. There are bagels in almost every grocery store in every city, there are bagel chain restaurants, fer cry eye. (Granted, most of them are…awful, but that's a rant for another day.)

…cue the Stroll Down Memory Lane… The ubiquitousness of today's bagels is a far cry from when I was a kid <coughinthelate50sanearly60scough> and a bagel was relatively unknown outside of Jewish circles. It was rare to find a bagel store as we know them now; generally, if your town and surrounding environs didn't have a significant Jewish population, you were pretty much out of luck, if you even knew what a bagel was. But if your town played host a few members of the tribe, you might be lucky enough to get bagels from that wonder of wonders known as the appetizing store. We had one in our town–Arpel's. They sold bagels, breads, desserts, pickles in barrels, all manner of salads, fish, meats and prepared foods that could clog an artery just by thinking about them (a Jewish specialty, that). I made so many fabulous food discoveries there and some that were not so fabulous. Like the time I discovered that tongue was actually…tongue. You know, because the name didn't give it away (although it COULD have been a lie, because sweetbreads anyone?). There I was, on an errand for my mom, asking for a half pound of tongue–which I ate regularly then, clueless child that I was–when Al the Deli Guy went to the meat case and pulled out a…WHOA! What the hell is THAT?!?! NOOOOO! Needless to say, I never ate tongue again.

But back to the bagels. We're bagel connoisseurs in my family. We'll debate the merits of this bagel over that bagel endlessly, critiquing the chewiness of the crust, the density of the crumb. We'll examine every bagel in the bag to find the perfect one and fight over it if necessary. Since I started baking in earnest though, I've learned to make a pretty mean bagel, if I do say so myself, and I've become the supplier for all family events. I've made all manner of fancy-schmancy bagels but we definitely agree, the New York classic water bagel is now and always will be the gold standard, the favorite. So why did I choose–GASP!–Montreal bagels for this month's BreadBakers Bagel Challenge? Well…curiosity finally got the better of me.

I've been hearing more and more about Montreal bagels lately. Mile End Deli, which is a Montreal style deli right here in Brooklyn, was even driving them down fresh at one point. Smaller, sweeter, denser than my beloved New York bagels. Big bagel hole. Big. Baked in a wood-fired oven. Made with eggs. And honey. Boiled in malt syrup or more honey. Covered, and I do mean covered, in seeds. It's definitely a Jewish bagel, given that Montreal has a huge Jewish population (possibly the largest in Canada, I think.) But, they're…different. I was skeptical.

Extra ingredients aside, this wasn't the dry, firm bagel dough that I'm used to, much softer and easier to handle so no complaints there. They're also very quick to bake. Start to finish, in just about 2 hours, you're ready to start schmearing the cream cheese.

The final verdict? They weren't half bad. Actually, we quite liked them–Mr. Dough even volunteered a thumbs-up. I had two–yes, two–HEY! THEY'RE SMALL!– for breakfast this morning. Based on what I've read and photos I've seen, I'd say I came pretty close to the original. In fact, I think the only things preventing me from creating a true Montreal bagel–aside from, you know, not being in Montreal–were a wood-fired oven (I'm saving my allowance) and Montreal water (don't think I wasn't seriously considering a 10-hour trip up Route 87 to get some).

Will they replace the New York bagel? Not a chance. Like Chicago pizza (it's good but IT'S NOT PIZZA!), Montreal bagels will always be the also-ran for this New Yorker. But I'll give credit where it's due–they're pretty darned good.

montreal bagels


  • 1 ½ cups water, room temperature
  • ½ tsp instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 ½ tsp salt
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ¼ cup oil
  • ½ cup honey
  • 5 cups or more bread flour
  • 3 quarts water for boiling
  • cup malt syrup or honey
  • Sesame or poppy seeds for sprinkling


  1. Add the water, yeast, sugar and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer and stir together. Add in the egg, egg yolk, oil and honey and blend thoroughly.
  2. Add the flour and knead until the dough is soft and elastic but not too sticky. Add more flour if needed.
  3. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and set aside for about 20 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 450°F, placing the racks in the lower part of the oven.
  5. While the dough is resting, pour the water into a Dutch oven or stock pot, then stir in the malt syrup or honey. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer.
  6. Once the dough has rested, press out the air and divide into 12 portions. To shape the bagels, roll each portion into a rope about 8-10 inches long and 3/4" thick. Wrap the rope around your hand, folding the ends over each other. Roll your hand back and forth to seal the ends together. Place the rolled bagels on parchment lined baking sheets, cover and let rest for about 20-30 minutes.
  7. Uncover and bring the water back to a boil, then add three bagels at a time into the water. Flip them over as they rise and boil for another minute.
  8. Remove the bagel, shaking off as much water as possible, then dip them in the seeds to cover. Place the boiled bagels back on the baking sheets.
  9. Repeat until all the bagels have been boiled and seeded.
  10. Bake for about 25–30 minutes, until the bagels are medium brown, rotating the pans and switching racks halfway through. Remove and cool on wire racks.

Adapted from The New York Times, 1987


Hmm, not many really. The original recipe calls for making 18 bagels but that's like a bagel for a Barbie doll. 12 was still smaller than your average NY bagel, but just about right.

I was short on poppy seeds so I used the everything mix I had on hand. Points off for not being authentic but it worked.

Don't forget to check out the rest of the delicious bagels:


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