Experimenting: Montreal-style Bagels

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Don’t you wish your bagels were hot like mine?

I experiment a LOT. I am constantly figuring out if there are better ways of doing things than my current methods. Some of those experiments never come to fruition (I spent a good week in my 20s figuring out if I could plant enough grapes for wine for a year) and some of them don’t really work as well as planned (sorry homemade laundry soap, I like my clothes to be colours other than mangy grey). Still, I consider each exploration informative even if they aren’t all keepers. As Thomas Edison famously said, “I haven’t failed, I just found 10 000 ways it didn’t work.”

One of the calculations I didn’t include into my breadmaker electricity use when I posted earlier this week, was speciality breads. I only calculated the cost for the cheapest loaf of bread we eat (basic whole wheat). I feel like that adequately represents the majority of our bread consumption. However, for extra oomph I could have easily said I make one loaf of specialty bread a day, which costs $4-$5 dollars but that would be unrealistic. Sure, I would say my ‘savings’ were closer to $3.50 but you would see right through that, especially since a loaf of bread is already super expensive here at $2 a loaf.

Still, making specialty breads are one of the best benefits of having a breadmaker. I often will whip up a special cinnamon-raisin bread on the weekends or use the dough function to make cinnamon rolls. In fact, my breadmaker even does mini baguettes and has instructions for jams, fresh pasta and other interesting concoctions. While I don’t use my breadmaker for a lot of those things, I did experiment with bagels recently to see if they were a worthwhile venture.

In my 20s I had a fairly epic failed bagel experiment. A crappy university apartment with crappy appliances, no counterspace and a definite lack of personal ability in the hand made bread department contributed to the failure. I threw in the towel and decided instead to treat myself to real wood smoked Montreal bagels whenever I had a few extra bucks.

Fast-forward to today where the initial bagel experiment trama has abated and I end up coming across a cool-looking Montreal-style bagel recipe. After checking out the process, I decided it would be a worthwhile venture to slap the dough ingredients into the breadmachine and see what happened.

What happened?

They were AWESOME. Even the kids got involved in the process of making them and we all agreed they were a decent substitute for the specialty wood-smoked, Montreal-style bagels they sell at a shop down the street for $8.50 a dozen. My cost – including generous electricity use – approximately $2.00 for 20 average-sized bagels or 12 large bagels.

Of course, even with the breadmaker cutting down the dough time, the process of making bagels still includes shaping, boiling, egging, decorating and baking. My recommendation to anyone who wants to try this is to do what I did and double up the recipe (I actually went back and made a second batch as to reuse the honey-water). We basically made one month’s worth of bagels in an afternoon and since they freeze well, it’s worth it to double up.

Changes, tips and tricks:

– After the first batch I discovered the dough was a little too sticky. That may be due to the breadmaker’s cycle. If you are doing this in a machine you should probably use another ½ cup of flour in the dough.

– Really make a long and thin rope to shape into a bagel. They will puff up significantly in the water. I also discovered that the boiling time should be longer, closer to a minute a side.

– Don’t dredge the bagels in the egg, use a pastry brush to gently coat the bagel and then sprinkle the sesame seeds (or whatever you are using) on before repeating the process on the other side.

– One batch makes about 20 smallish bagels of about 50-60grams each. I found that making 12 makes them way too big. I think 15 from one batch would be good for an adult who enjoys a regularly-sized Montreal bagel.

Overall, while I found the process time consuming, if you used a breadmaker you could reasonably spend only about an hour to an hour-and-a-half making a month’s worth of bagels. Since I combine it with crafty-fun-kid-quality-time, it is a project that does double-duty. Financially it is worth it but if you aren’t the kind of person who enjoys baking, you may want to spend your time doing other frugal experiments instead. Frankly, I enjoyed the process and the fresh bagels were unbelievably delicious.

2 Comments on “Experimenting: Montreal-style Bagels

  1. Inspired by your fb post I made these bagels as well. This was my first experience making bagels though I have made bread before. I really enjoyed the process but found they needed to be boiled longer than recommended in the recipe. My batch made 15 as I don’t like big bagels. Overall I would make them again but with a different recipe as I found them really sweet which is not normal for bread in NZ. Thanks for the inspiration

    • I agree. Bagels are sweet in general but these are a bit sweet and could use a sugar reduction. Most bread here isn’t sweet (I find bread in the US super sugary for some reason) and while I know that bagels are a bit sweeter, I wonder if the wood smoke offsets that sweet taste in the “real” versions? I may end up reducing the sugar in the original recipe and see how much of a difference that makes.