Cathy Barrow’s Montreal Bagels

By: Hannah Lee Leidy
Assortment of Montreal bagels on a pan with schmear
Photo by Linda Xiao

“America’s neighbors to the north make a very different bagel,” writes Cathy Barrow in her recipe for Montreal bagels from her cookbook Bagels, Schmears, and a Nice Piece of Fish (Chronicle Books 2022).

“Montreal bagels are smaller and flatter, there is no tight exterior crust, and the interior crumb is more cakey than chewy. They tend to be craggy, uneven, and a little homely, and are most often thickly covered with sesame seeds on both the top and bottom. They do not require an overnight rise, so this is the bagel to make when you wake up craving a freshly baked bagel for brunch.

“Montreal bagels are always boiled in sweetened water and baked in a wood oven. Sadly, few of us have a wood-fired oven at home, so this recipe is the best approximation. These are ideal for bagel sandwiches and a sweet, tender addition to a bagel brunch at which many people will rhapsodize with stories of trips to St-Viateur and Fairmount bagel bakeries.”

Recipe reprinted with permission from Bagels, Schmears, and a Nice Piece of Fish by Cathy Barrow, © 2022. Published by Chronicle Books. Photographs © Linda Xiao.

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Makes 6 bagels

    For the bagels:
  • 3 tablespoons cornmeal, for dusting
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons light clover or wildflower honey
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil, like canola
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon instant yeast
  • For the topping:
  • 71 g [½ cup] sesame seeds or All-Dressed Spice, optional
  • For the water bath:
  • ¼ cup light clover or wildflower honey
  1. To make the bagels, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and scatter the cornmeal evenly across the paper. Set aside.
  2. Place the bowl of a stand mixer on a kitchen scale and tare the weight to zero. Measure in the flour, water, honey, oil, salt, and yeast. Place the bowl back on the stand mixer and fit it with the dough hook. On low speed, mix the ingredients together until there are no dry patches of flour showing.
  3. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl and increase the speed to medium. Mix until the sides of the bowl are nearly clean, 2 to 3 minutes. The dough may seem dry. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and let the dough rest for 10 minutes to allow the flour to hydrate evenly.
  4. Uncover the bowl, turn the mixer speed to medium, and let it run for 5 full minutes, until the dough is smooth and satiny and the sides of the bowl are clean.
  5. Scrape the dough onto a clean, unfloured work surface and give it five or six kneads. Divide the dough into six equal pieces, each weighing about 97 g [3³⁄8 oz]. Shape the bagels and stretch the center hole with the thumbs and forefingers of both hands. These will be rougher looking than New York bagels, uneven and bumpy. One at a time, form and place the bagels on the prepared baking sheet. Cover the baking sheet tightly with plastic wrap that has been lightly coated with cooking spray and set in a cool place to rise until slightly puffed, about 1 hour.
  6. About 15 minutes before the rise is over, place a pizza stone, Baking Steel, or inverted baking sheet on the oven’s center rack and set the oven to 400 degrees.
  7. To prepare the topping, pour the seeds, if using, into a pie pan or another shallow dish.
  8. To make the water bath, add 3 quarts water and honey to a 5 quart or larger pot and bring it to a hard boil. Place a 9 by 13 in piece of parchment on a pizza peel, large cutting board, or a baking sheet flipped over. (You need to be able to easily slide the bagel-laden parchment paper from this surface into the oven.)
  9. The bagels will have risen to only about 50 percent more than their starting size. Gently lift one at a time, brushing away any excess cornmeal, and drop it into the boiling water. Repeat with another one or two bagels only if they fit in the pot without crowding. Using a slotted spoon or spider, flip the bagels over and over in the water until very slightly puffed, about 60 seconds and no more than 90 seconds.
  10. Transfer each bagel to the pan of seeds, using a chopstick to flip the bagel so the seeds stick to both sides, then move it to the parchment paper on the pizza peel. Repeat with the remaining bagels; six bagels will fit snugly on the parchment paper without touching.
  11. Slide the parchment paper with the bagels directly onto the hot surface in the oven and bake until lightly golden brown and shiny, 16 to 20 minutes. To remove the bagels from the oven, slide the parchment paper right onto the peel. Transfer on their paper to a wire rack to cool.
  12. As tempting as it is to grab the hot bagels immediately, allow them to cool slightly before eating. Eat within 4 hours or store.
  • Reprinted from Bagels, Schmears, and a Nice Piece of Fish by Cathy Barrow with permission from Chronicle Books, 2022.

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