When it comes to bagels, strong opinions abound. Especially with New Yorkers. It’s like pizza. I will not pretend I have a refined taste for bagels, but I will tell you one thing, when it comes to bagels, my heart is with Montreal—in particular the St. Viateur Bagel. Montreal bagels are sweet, fragrant, slender little beauties. In fact, they hardly remind you of the chewy, doughy, over-sized bagels we are accustomed to in the US. Indeed, St. Viateur bagels are always in my suitcase on the way home from a trip to Montreal. I’m not the only one that has a favorite, the NY Times City Room and other publications have compared the Montreal and NYC bagels. I’ll admit that they are almost entirely different creatures—almost like comparing Chicago style pizza to NY style pizza. In any case, my clear preference is for the Montreal style. Although I don’t have a wood-burning stove at home, when I saw Bagels and Lox on the Food List Challenge, it was the perfect calling to give homemade bagels a try, and I knew boiling them in honey water would be a requirement in my creation.
The bagels were surprisingly easy to make. If I had to do it over, I’d definitely make them a little smaller. I researched a number of recipes and combined several techniques in the recipe below. The recipe is my first attempt, but it came out pretty nicely for a first try. I imagine I’ll make a few tweaks when I do this again, and I’ll update this post if/when I do. Even without tweaks, I am certain that the bagels below beat out the standard grocery store or run of the mill coffee shop bagel. Add a little cream cheese, lox, lemon and capers and this bagel is definitely leaves me happy eating in instead on a Sunday morning.
HOMEMADE BAGELS (Makes about 6 Montreal style bagels)
For the bagels:
1 ¼ cups warm water (about 110F)
2 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoons salt
4 ½ – 5 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon olive oil (most recipes call for vegetable oil, but if you know me, I almost always use olive oil because that’s what I stock at home)
4 quarts of water
1 cup of honey
2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
For the topping:
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons of sesame seeds (you can use salt, poppy seeds or whatever else fits your fancy for the bagel topping)
Additional ingredients for a Bagels & Lox:
2 tablespoons of your favorite cream cheese
few slices of nova lox (cured, smoked salmon)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon capers (optional)
2-3 slices of tomatoes (optional)
2-3 slices of thinly slices red onion (optional – I used diced chives for my sandwich)
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the yeast, water, sugar and salt by stirring only gently then let stand for at least 5 minutes, until the yeast begins to foam, about 5-7 minutes.
With the dough hook on low speed, gradually add and mix in 4 cups of flour until mixture comes together.
Working with your hands add the remaining flour, ½ cup at a time until the dough is stiff and knead until the dough is smooth and no longer sticky. Add additional flour as needed.
Grease a large oil with 1 teaspoon of and turn the dough in the bowl to coat with oil then cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place until the dough has doubled, at least 1 hour, preferably 2-2 ½ hours.
Punch down the dough and place on a lightly floured work surface and divide the dough into 6-8 pieces depending on how big you want your bagels. Form each piece of dough into a ball, flatten slightly, then poke a hole in the center and stretch to form a bagel shape. Repeat with the remaining dough, place on a baking sheet, then cover with a clean kitchen towel and let the dough rest for another 15 minutes.
Pre-heat oven to 425F. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, lightly sprinkle cornmeal on top (this is to prevent sticking when you are baking the bagels), set aside.
Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 cup of honey. Boil the bagels 1-2 at a time, about 1 minute per side. The bagels will rise to the surface of the pot. Remove the bagels from the water and place them on the baking sheet prepared with cornmeal. Repeat with the remaining bagels.
Brush the tops of the bagels lightly with the beaten egg and sprinkle on the sesame seeds or your toppings of choice.
Bake until the bagels start to brown, about 25-35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
For the Bagels & Lox:
Cut the bagels in half, spread with cream cheese, top with nova lox, lemon, capers, tomatoes and chives. Enjoy!