• Annemarie Bolduc

Montreal-style Bagels

Updated: Jul 28

Here’s what is special about Montreal bagels, their distinct taste, cooking process, and history.

Montreal-style bagels, always best fresh out of the bag © Bottle and Brush Studio 2021

Having lived 15 years of my adult life in Montreal, I will admit that yes, I sometimes miss the gastronomic scene and iconic foods that cannot be found in rural Australia (unless I make it myself from scratch). Montreal is a multicultural city built to a great extent by immigrants that brought traditional cuisines in which the city owes its culinary signature. Jewish settlers have influenced the gastronomic identity, contributing with food like smoked meat and bagels. Traditional bagel bakeries were established in the early 20th century by Jewish communities from Poland. The famous Fairmount Bagels and St-Viateur Bagels bakeries were founded in the middle of the century and are still crafting traditional bagels today. New York City, about a 6 hour drive from Montreal, is also famous and renowned around the world for the bagel and delicatessen cult food of North America. I’ve only been to NYC twice and never tasted bagels there. Next time! But here’s some interesting facts I’ve learnt about both bagel styles.

Homemade bagels topped with sesame and poppy seeds © Bottle and Brush Studio 2021

New York-style and Montreal- style bagels are both wheel-shaped bread made by hand with similar dough ingredients, except in the Montreal variety, there are eggs. Both are poached in a boiling water bath before baking. However, the ingredients added in the water is what gives each of them a different texture and flavour. New York ones are poached in New York city tap water (which apparently contains certain minerals attributed to a unique taste), malt syrup and salt. Montreal bagels are boiled in water sweetened with honey (yes, honey!), then baked in wood-fire burning oven. The golden colour, dense and chewy texture, crunchy and shiny crust and sweet taste is given by this cooking process. From what I see in images of New York bagels, that shape looks larger, fluffier and rounded perfectly like big donuts. Montreal bagels are thinner and compact with a larger hole. They are imperfect most of the time but that’s the charm of a Montreal-style Bagel! And ho, let’s not forget the poppy and sesame seed last detail, which both city’s traditional bagel makers will generously top on.

Montreal's St-Viateur Bagels fresh from the shop © Carole Vallée 2021

In Montreal, some bagel bakeries are open until midnight, which offer the option for a late snack and eat it fresh out of the bag after an evening out! Montreal made bagels can also be purchased in Québec's supermarkets. You can find different varieties, plain or topped with different sorts of seeds, with other ingredients like garlic, cheese, cinnamon, blueberries, etc. There are bagel cafés and most breakfast restaurants serve them in the menu, simply sliced with cream cheese spread, or as a sandwich. The classic one is served with cream cheese and smoked salmon, added with onions, tomatoes and sometimes capers, cucumbers or lettuce. Bagels can be lightly toasted when sliced for a sandwich if not fresh from the oven. They are delicious also with local smoked trout, eggs, jams, pickles, artisan cheese, salami, etc. Finely sliced and baked in oven with oil and spice, you can make your own crispy bagel chips. There are no rules when it comes to eating bagels, you can have them for brekkie, brunch, lunch, snack or dinner... and of course, as a late snack the Montreal way!

Enjoying some bagels in many ways © Bottle and Brush Studio 2020-21

Now living in regional Australia, I’ve been struggling to find them locally and only bigger town's supermarkets supply some from commercial brands, and of course that's not the same. A few years ago, we went to Melbourne and enjoyed a bagel sandwich to the first Australian wood-fire "bagelry" inspired by Montreal called Mile End Bagels. I was so excited with a smile crossing my face all over to tell that I was from Montreal, and that we came to the bakery after discovering their existence in an article from Québec... But the young Aussie girl at the counter, obviously just an employee, did not give a shnout... But anyway... the bagels were ok. For years I was thinking that I should try making some at home, and only made my first experience during the pandemic lockdowns. I really don’t know why I waited that long… they are so good! Now that I know it is not so difficult and I can use my backyard chooks eggs and local honey to make it Snowy “terroir”, I can work on creating my own signature recipe based on the classic Montreal-style method. Recipe to come!

Follow @bottleandbrushstudio for updates on upcoming books... and bagel recipe :)

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