Sunday, March 6, 2016

March 6: Bagels

One of the things I miss most about living in Toronto is the bagels. Specifically, I miss the all-night wood-fired bagel shop that was at Yonge + St. Clair, between the subway stop and my apartment, that was never, ever closed. Didn't matter what time of day or night it was; if I wanted a bagel, it was a matter of two blocks there and two blocks home again. That's where I got my first meal after getting back from New Zealand at some ungodly hour (and after many other flights), and it was a regular stop on my way home from the pub. It was also a reliable source of quick, cheap lunches, whoops-I-was-supposed-to-buy-the-department-breakfasts, and hanger-prevention bagels.

There's no bagel shop between the ferry terminal and my house. Well, actually, there is a place that sells bagels, but you've got about a 15-minute window on a Saturday morning to get your hands on one, and it's actually an egg-bacon-avocado-sprouts sandwich...on a bagel. It's delicious, but it's no good to me at all at 11:49 on a Friday night.

So this weekend, feeling decidedly nostalgic for The Bagel House, I took things into my own hands.

Turns out it's not actually that difficult to turn one's house into a bagel house. I used this recipe from the New York Times – adapted slightly to suit my purposes and the ingredients I had on hand. I've recorded the adaptations and notes here. This version of the recipe will give you 9 bagels, 4 of which you should immediately give away, unless you feel like eating 9 bagels in one day. (I'm not judging; they're delicious.)

Montreal(-style)(sort of) Bagels

1/4 cup warm water (approx. 100ºF)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 pkg dry quick-rising yeast 
1/2 cup warm water (approx. 100ºF)
1/4 cup honey
1 whole egg
2 tbsp canola oil
1 1/4 tsp teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups bread flour

3 L water for boiling
1/3 cup honey 

In small bowl, stir sugar into 1/4 cup water; sprinkle yeast over top. Let stand 10 minutes, or until yeast is foamy and has doubled in size.

In large bowl, mix together remaining 1/2 cup water, honey, egg, oil and salt. Stir in yeast mixture. Add flour, stirring until too stiff to mix by hand. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead until a soft, supple dough forms, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Let dough come to room temperature (about 1 1/2 hours). Punch dough down, knead briefly and let rest.

Preheat oven to 450ºF. In Dutch oven, combine water and honey and bring to a boil. Pour cornmeal into bowl.

Divide dough into 9 equal portions; roll each portion into an 8- to 10-inch long log and then form into ring, rolling join between hands to seal. Transfer to towel-lined sheet to rest for 15 minutes.

Working three at a time, use slotted spoon to transfer bagels to Dutch oven. When bagels bob to surface, flip and continue to cook for 1 minute more. Remove from water, dip in cornmeal and transfer to cookie sheet. 

Bake on bottom rack for 15 to 18 minutes or until golden.

I chose to proof the yeast separately because the first batch (done with all the water, plus sugar and salt) didn't work. This is an extra step but you get to see if your yeast is stale early in the process. The original recipe called for room-temperature water; it's March in Canada, so that's obviously not optimal. 100ºF seems pretty standard, so I went with that.

I thought these were a bit sweet; next time I'll reduce the honey in the dough to 2 or 3 tbsp.

The original recipe has a 20-minute rise, then goes right to forming, boiling and baking. I ran out of steam (and appetite), so let the dough sit in the fridge overnight. This is a perfect plan if you've got brunch company coming. Look at you, living in a place that doesn't have bagels but still serving fresh bagels for brunch! 

I used cornmeal to coat the bottoms of the bagels because comments on the original post said the bagels stuck to the pan. Next time, I might coat the bagels entirely in seeds, but I didn't have any on hand this time around.

The original recipe called for 25 minutes at 450ºF; that's way too long. Stay nearby and use your nose!


  1. Well, you may say easy, but this still looks ambitious to me. Maybe one day I'll try it...

  2. This sounds like a phenomenal use of a weekend. C has been making a lot of bread lately, but I've been campaigning for her to try bagels, next. I might point her this way.

  3. Amazing, fresh bagels can't be beat! Although that avocado bagel sandwich near the ferry does sound tasty.... more importantly, I'm jealous you are out in the world at nearly midnight.


I read and appreciate every comment. Thank you for getting in touch!