Sunday, December 9, 2012

Bagels, Montreal Style - Baking GALS Round 16

This month I decided to go savory rather than sweet.  The shipping period happened to coincide with Hanukkah so I figured, why not bagels?  I’m not into deep frying so no donut-making for me, and I’m sure there are some guys out there who would appreciate something other than Christmas cookies this time of year…

For years there has been a bagel debate – New York or Montreal?  Seriously, check out this article dating back to 1987: 
And this one from 2009: 

Well, the answer to that question may depend on the answer to what you like on your bagel.  Cream cheese or butter?  What do you like it topped with?  Cheese, salt, poppy seeds, plain (c’mon, who likes plain??), everything, even jalapeños or spinach these days.  The Canadians go simple.  There are generally only three varieties – plain, sesame or poppy seed.  The major difference between the bagels you and I are used to (New York) and the Montreal style is honey.  There’s honey in the dough and honey in the water you boil them in.  Because of that mild sweetness, the preferred way to eat them is toasted with butter – again, simple, and I gotta say – pretty darn delicious.

I’m afraid I can’t share the recipe with you this time.  I bugged my Montreal bagel expert for his recipe multiple times, which is one his family has used for years, and I said I would keep it under wraps.  The recipe in the first article above is quite similar to what I used though, so at least you’ll be able to get close!  Since I’m not all that familiar with what these are supposed to taste like, I brought in the expert for a critique (nerve-wracking!) and here’s the verdict:

APPEARANCE:  Good color, good seed disbursement (should be on both sides), good size, but not quite the crisp crust they should have.  Argh!  I have learned that a baking stone is the way to go rather than cookie sheets.  And no need to preheat it as you usually do with pizza - just put the bagels on and put it all in the oven at once.

SMELL:  This made me nervous.  The initial assessment was, “These don’t smell like Montreal bagels.”  Uh oh.  I totally blame the bag.  I had made them earlier in the week and froze them for a few days so they wouldn’t go stale – I think the smell test was unfair J

UNTOASTED FLAVOR:  Good reaction!  They tasted the way they should and even warranted me a high-five.  Nice.

And the final test…

TOASTED WITH BUTTER:  Immediate reaction - “MMMM!”  Score, me!  That was all I needed to hear.

I definitely think I can perfect these bagels – not in flavor, but in technique.  I have some baking tricks up my sleeve that I have yet to pull out.   The good thing is, while time consuming, they are really fun to make – the kneading, the rolling, the boiling, the seeding…it’s a process but definitely one that pays off.