Between the super high-end restaurants (i.e. Le Local) and the cheap(er) and cheerful delis like Schwartz's, there is something for every palate to be found in the Montréal area. But I have to say (and New Yorkers will hate me for this) that what steals my heart every trip is the quintessential Montréal bagel. Dense, chewy and sweet, a classic from St-Viateur fills the void at 8AM much better than any continental breakfast ever could - and on my childhood car trips out east, they did. Montréal bagels are also special thanks to their slightly smoky, charred flavour and aroma from the super-hot wood ovens, and it is that combined with the bitter-sweet malt (or honey) water bath that set them apart (and IMHO, above) bagels anywhere else... yes, even Toronto "Montréal-style"delis.
I can't recreate my favourite Francophonie rings at home, as much as I would love to. That would require substantial re-construction of the kitchen or the building of a wood oven out back, neither of which I could afford nor would be approved by our municipality. That said, I do add barley malt to the dough and boiling water in these, and for that "smoky" nuance I use a touch of smoked salt. My favourite bagels are definitely sourdough-based, so I adapted this one from Bread Without Butter to suit my tastes (and the passion my mom has for whole grains and flaxseed), adding buttermilk for extra tangy good measure. Boiled and crusted in both white and black sesame seeds, they baked up golden brown, puffy but with that perfect chew and density. Being bagels, they freeze and thaw exceptionally well, and if you slice them before tossing the Ziploc into the freezer you're only minutes away from breakfast midweek.
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Sesame Sourdough Bagels
½ cup whole grain sourdough starter
¼ cup whole wheat bread flour
1/3 cup warm water
1 cup warmed buttermilk (or soured non-dairy milk)
2 tbsp barley malt syrup
1 tsp smoked salt
¼ cup vital wheat gluten
4 cups whole wheat bread flour
¼ cup whole flax seeds
2 tbsp barley malt syrup, for boiling
Black and white sesame seeds, for topping
- The night before you want to bake, whisk the starter, flour and warm water together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Cover loosely and let sit 8-24 hours.
- The next day, add the buttermilk, barley malt syrup, salt, gluten, flour and flaxseeds.
- Knead for 12 minutes with the dough hook, until a smooth, dense dough forms.
- Cover and let rest for 3 hours, until almost doubled in size.
- Deflate dough and divide it into 12 equal pieces.
- Shape each piece into a ball, then gently stretch out a hole in the centre. You want to make a larger hole than what you’d find in a baked bagel, because the dough expands.Place the formed rings on wax paper-lined baking sheets and let rest for 45 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 475 F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the remaining two tablespoons of malt syrup.
- Place two or three bagels gently in the boiling water and gently boil for 1 minute per side.
- Fish out with a carving fork or a spider and place on a rack. Top immediately with sesame seeds and let stand while boiling remaining bagels.
- Arrange the bagels on prepared baking sheets and place in the oven.
- Immediately reduce the temperature to 425F and bake for about 20 minutes.
Total Fat: 2.3 g
Cholesterol: 0.8 mg
Sodium: 25.2 mg
Total Carbs: 46.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.8 g
Protein: 11.7 g