Sunday, June 7, 2009

Bread Baker's Apprentice—Bagels

Bagel on Dough HookBagels are a favorite in our house and Montreal-style bagels in particular are popular in Ottawa. I haven't eaten many New York-style bagels so I was keen to give them a try.

I was curious about what makes a Montreal-style bagel different from a New York-style bagel. The Montreal-style bagel is usually small, crunchy and sweet. It's made with malt and sugar rather than salt and is baked in a wood-fired oven. The New York bagel is more puffy, with a softer crust and a somewhat savory flavor since it uses salt instead of sugar. Also, unlike the typical Montreal bagel, it is baked in a standard oven.

Bagels have a long history going back possibly as far as ancient Egypt; however, popular myth places the invention of the bagel in Krakow shortly after the 1683 Battle of Vienna. As the story goes, a baker made a roll in the shape of the king's stirrup and called it a beugel (which is Austrian for "stirrup") as a thank you to King Sobieski who saved Austria from the Turks. Bagels were brought to North America in the early 1900s by Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. They settled largely in Montreal and New York City leading to those cities developing the major bagel styles we eat today.
"The bagel [is] an unsweetened doughnut with rigor mortis."
—Beatrice and Ira Freeman, in "About Bagels", New York Times May 22, 1960
The recipe calls for a high-gluten flour, which is not readily available in Canadian stores, and I found out why: it turns out that all-purpose flour in Canada already is high-gluten! This makes our standard flour particularly good for breads and generally anything crusty…including bagels.


Makes 12 bagels

For the Sponge:
1 teaspoon instant yeast
4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
2½ cups water at room temperature

For the Dough:
½ teaspoon instant yeast
3¾ cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
2¾ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons malt powder

To Finish:
1 tablespoon baking soda
Cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting
Sesame seeds, kosher salt

You can find the recipe for Bagels in the book The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread. To see how the rest of the BBA (Bread Baker's Apprentice) Challenge group fared with this week's recipe, click here and then click on each blogger!

BagelsTasting Notes
These bagels tasted great, especially with a schmear of dill cream cheese. But I found the flavor a bit dull with a simple salted butter. Toasted was a different story: these bagels were excellent served toasted with butter. For sprinkles, I chose to use sea salt and sesame seeds. In hindsight, next time I would choose more neutral flavors that are suited to both savory and sweet cream cheeses (like pineapple cream cheese).

The recipe suggested boiling the bagels for 1 minute for a soft texture and 2 minutes for a chewier texture. So, I split the batch in half and tried it both ways. Honestly, I don't think I would have noticed the difference if I weren't looking for it, but if I had to pick I would probably choose the longer boiling time.

So, which is better? Montreal or New York-style? As much as I enjoyed the New York-style I think I'll have to go with Montreal. Now where to find a great Montreal-style bagel recipe...

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    CookiePie said...

    Oh Shari -- I've ALWAYS wanted to try making bagels! I live in NYC, so they're just too easy to buy... but yours look so good, it's inspiring me!

    Unknown said...

    I've never been to Canada so I didn't even know about Montreal-style bagels but they sound terrific! I look forward to seeing your post on Montreal-style bagels and hopefully you'll enjoy those more!

    Monica H said...

    These would be fabulous with pineapple cream cheese-delish!

    Sara said...

    Mmmmm, your bagels look awesome! Love the photos. :)

    Di said...

    Your bagel looks great--sesame and salt bagels are my favorite flavors. I'm not very familiar with Montreal-style bagels. If you find a recipe for them, I look forward to reading more about the differences.

    lisa is cooking said...

    I just started baking bagels at home a few months ago (NY style), and I'm now addicted to homemade ones. Last time, I tried an onion coating on top which didn't work so well. I need to practice that another time or two. Your salt and sesame version looks fantastic!

    Judy@nofearentertaining said...

    Your bagels look great! I really miss Montreal Style Bagels. Can only get NY ones here!

    Sippity Sup said...

    I have never heard of a Montreal Style Bagel! Are the roots French pastry?? GREG

    Kayte said...

    Your bagel looks just wonderful. So interesting about the Canadian flour and the different style of bagels b/w Montreal and NYC. I think you can go into business with what I see here! Great job.

    grace said...

    mmmm. bagels. i feel like i've made every kind of bread product there is, except bagels. good for you--they look perfect!

    katie said...

    I tried to make bagels once. I am still struggling as my bacgesl turn out HUGE, airy, and almost bready whereas I wanted them dense/new york style. Bagels are SUPER difficult to make. There is a lot of debate on whether to add baking soda to the water too.

    They were good, just not the blassic bagel. Any thoguths on where I went wrong?

    NKP said...

    Looks great! I didn't realize you were in BBA. Thanks for the info re Canadian flour, I had no idea that it was considered high gluten already.

    La Bella Cooks said...

    Great photos! Maybe one of these days I will be brave enough to tackle making bagels. Kudos to you! Yours look fantastic.

    Michele said...

    Wow! Your bagels are amazing!

    Katerina said...

    I didn't realize that about our flour! Coolio.

    Manggy said...

    Cream cheese yes please! And those Montreal style bagels sound fantastic, I'm intrigued :)
    By the way, wouldn't that make your cakes and pastries using all-purpose kind of off, though? O_o

    vibi said...

    I'm sooo happy you write about our bagels... they are pretty darn great I agree! Nothing like cream cheese and jam or locks for those who like fish! ...on a Sunday brunch.

    But now, seriously, do those really taste like Montreal style? ... rather ask before I throw myself in the production of them!!!

    Yours turned out really great! I'm anxious to get your answer!

    Unknown said...

    Beautiful blog! I just posted a positive note about your site on my blog:

    Lori said...

    I've never been introduced to Montreal-style bagels. I worked in a Bagel store in college and baked the New York style. Living abroad right now they are one thing I miss so much. Yours look fabulous!

    Cathy said...

    So interesting to hear the difference between Montreal and New York style bagels! I'm only familiar with NY style, and I love them, but I think the first thing I'm going to have to do when I am lucky enough to visit Canada is fine a great Montreal-style bagel. Yours look incredible! I thought these were so much fun to bake, and so much better than any bagel I could buy in my town (which is far from both New York and Montreal!)

    Malak said...

    I love the definition of a "schmear" in the Urban dictionary. Hilarious!! Great post!

    Leslie said...

    I agree with you, Montreal style bagels are tops. Your bagels look so delicious and I bet they were amazing and fresh!

    Jeff said...

    Never knew the difference between the bagels. I live in the midwest so our bagels instantly suck.

    I noticed the same thing and toasting them with butter made them ohh drool. I also ended up making open faced cheese bagel sandwiches with mine too.

    Nicely done and have fun with brioche!

    Justin said...

    this looks yummy. I think a lot of people believe it's the NYC water that makes our bagels so good... I wonder.

    Maris said...

    I really like these photos! I live in NY and am picky about bagels - I DONT think they're good everywhere but I would love to next try Montreal bagels!

    AGuyNamedBob said...

    Gaflumoxed in San Diego - Good morning! In the corner of the US and Mexico I am trying to make bagels. My problem - I kettle them and as soon as they come out of the water, looking nice and fluffy, they start to drop. They continue to fall in the oven and when they finish are a doughy, heavy mess. I am using good fresh yeast, high gluten flour, kneading them for five to ten minutes, letting them rise twice before kettling. Seem to be doing everything right, then they flop. Any ideas? Sure appreciate your time and thought on this.