Making Montreal Bagels… In Southern California

Montreal bagels just out of the oven

Montreal bagels just out of the oven

I’ve been talking about making bagels for a long time. I’d read about making bagels in a Slate article about making staple foods from scratch (the article was also my inspiration for making crackers), and it was what initially inspired me to start making bread and baking more in general. In the piece was a link to a recipe for Montreal bagels in the New York Times.

Now, Montreal bagels are something special. They’re thinner and denser than bagels you get elsewhere. They only come in two flavors: sesame and poppy seed. They’re also slightly sweet because they have honey in them. And you can’t get them anywhere but Montreal.

I’ve brought Montreal bagels to relatives in Toronto on a road trip. I used to bring them back to camp in northern New York. My grandmother even flies with a few bags of them when she comes to visit us in California. For Montrealers, no other bagels can compare to the ones they can get at home.

I was worried that the recipe wouldn’t taste accurate. That something would be fundamentally different out here in Southern California that prohibits us baking these tasty breakfast treats. Thankfully, my fears were unfounded. Even without a wood-burning oven or Montreal water (they say the New York water is what makes the bagels and pizzas there so good… why not the same for their neighbors a few hundred miles north?), the bagels were delicious.

Best of all, these didn’t take that long to make — with a measly 20-minute first rise and a 15-minute second rise. All in all, from the start of making the dough to making the rings, to boiling and baking, the process took less than 2 hours. It would be even faster if my Cuisinart were bigger, I were faster at making the rings, or I could boil more than 3 at a time.

I found that my oven cooked the bagels a bit unevenly, with the ones toward the sides of the pan getting a bit darker, but in all, they turned out really well. All 18 of them. I was worried at first because they looked so tiny when I first made the rings, but they really expanded when I boiled them.

Caroline took a bite and said “This is the best bagel I’ve ever eaten.” For me, it was like taking a nibble out of my childhood. We ate the bagels with some cream cheese, tomatoes, salt and pepper, and capers. Caroline also put honey on hers (not the same part as the cream cheese).

I only wish I knew I could make these sooner… like when my family moved here 17 years ago.

My bagel with cream cheese, tomato and capers

My bagel with cream cheese, tomato and capers

5 Responses to “Making Montreal Bagels… In Southern California”

  1. ronna says:

    There truly is nothing like a Montreal bagel hot out of the oven. A definite favorite of mine.
    At least now I know where I can get them…..Francine’s bake shop in LA.
    Can you bring me a sample when you come over?

  2. Francine says:

    Of course I’ll bring you some… don’t know if we’ll have any left from this batch, but I can bake up a fresh one tomorrow or Saturday :)

  3. Sara says:

    That is absolutely amazing that you made bagels. I wouldn’t even dream of ever actually making them because I would be afraid of just tackling such a project! But you made it look easy. And it looked delicious!

    David found bagels in the frozen section of the market and asked if I wanted them. They’re the only bagels we’ve seen in Spain. But I declined because frozen bagels just seemed so unappetizing especially coming from NYC where the bagels were delicious.

    Congrats on your bagel accomplishment!

  4. Francine says:

    Sara, it’s an involved process but definitely worth trying! Or maybe convincing David to try… And it really wasn’t hard, as I got some really nice looking bagels on my first try.

    I think making New York style bagels takes a bit longer since they have to rise more, but I think they also have fewer ingredients (depending on what type you’re making).

    Were the frozen ones just regular frozen bagels or were they ones you were supposed to bake? In Budapest we finally found a place that sold bagels, but I think they baked them from frozen dough that they imported from France. They were ok, and it was nice to have a bit of a taste of home.

  5. Sara says:

    They were just regular frozen bagels. Frozen dough imported from France would be much more appealing!

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