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Montreal Style Bagels

apprentice's picture

Montreal Style Bagels

Woman does not live by rye or barley alone.

So this woman decided to follow suit, when she saw that a lot of other bloggers on The Fresh Loaf were having fun with bagels. I have a formula for Montreal-style bagels from my instructor at baking school. He got it, scribbled in pencil on a brown paper bag, from bakers at the St. Viateur Bagel Bakery where they've been supplying bagel lovers since 1957.

First, I had to scale back the formula. St. Viateur makes almost 10,000 bagels a day at its main location, so the original formula is a big one. It uses 40 kilos of flour, which they make several times a day. At school, we cut that back to 5 kilos. I thought I might manage with 1 kilo at home, which would produce just a baker's dozen. Even so, my poor Kitchen Aid mixer was straining. I quickly moved to hand kneading after the dough came together.

I'll publish the recipe below. There are two significant differences from others I've seen. Firstly, no salt. That always surprises people. I never know how to answer. Either the baker forgot to write it down, or it's what makes this particular bagel extra chewy and delicious. I don't miss it -- not a bit. Secondly, no proofing. At all. You can even skip bulk fermentation, if you let the bagels rest in the fridge overnight after shaping. Or production can be a continuous process after bulk fermentation where you go directly to dividing, shaping, boiling and baking. Then eating. :)

Here's the dough after 8 minutes of kneading:

bagel dough

You can see the stiffness characteristic of bagel dough.  I flattened the ball to a circle about 2" high and used my bench scraper to divide it into 4 oz. wedges. These, I rolled into strips much as Jeffrey Hamelman describes in Bread. As you handle the dough, it becomes smoother and more pliable.

I hadn't made these in over two years, but it was coming back to me. (Don't stack them like that...argh, they'll stick together. Oh yeah, keep a spray bottle handy to mist them or remember to cover with plastic while I process the rest. Wait a minute, no dusting worked on a damp surface!) The stream of consciousness continued, as I talked myself through the vague memories that my hands recalled better than my brain.

shaping bagels

Then came the boiling and seeding. We never worried about colouring the water much. A handful of brown sugar or some malt syrup if it was handy -- just enough to help gelatinize the starch on the surface in a tasty way, making the bagels smooth and shiny. The dough already has sweetness from malt extract. Today, I used about 2 T of brown sugar in the boiling water. I love sesame seeds, so I used them for most of the bagels and coarse salt for the rest.

boil n seed bagels

Here's what they looked like at half-time on my baker's half sheet pan in the oven. #13 of the baker's dozen got squished. That's okay. I found they needed extra time to brown properly. So near the end, I divided them between two smaller sheet pans without parchment and jacked the heat back up for about three minutes. Did the trick.

bagels at half time in oven

Who's got the cream cheese?

    fresh from oven

Montreal Style Bagels

1 kilo bread flour (about 8 cups)

2 grams instant yeast (2/3 tsp)

40 grams sugar (3 tbsp + 1/2 tsp)

9 grams malt (4 1/2 tsp)

50 grams egg (1 large)

463 grams water (scant 2 cups)

2 1/2 tsp vegetable oil

Scale or measure out all ingredients. Blend dry ingredients together in mixing bowl. Add wet ingredients and mix until dough starts to come together. If using a stand mixer, change to hand kneading at this point rather than strain the motor of your machine. Continue kneading until developed fully. At this point, you have some choices. The instructions that follow are for continuous processing. If you want to incorporate overnight retardation, see my two replies to Michael below.

Cover the dough and give it about 45 minutes rest on your counter, aka a period of bulk fermentation. When the time is nearly up, put a large pot such as a Dutch oven full of water on to boil and throw in 2 T brown sugar or some barley malt syrup. (Honey or maple syrup are fine, too.) Divide the dough into 13 units of about 113 grams (4 oz) each. Roll into strips and shape as bagels. There is no need to proof the bagels once shaped, but keep covered and/or mist so they don't dry out. Place on a sheet pan beside the pot of water. Process 6 or 7 at a time, however many will comfortably fit in your pan, moving them around in the water periodically for a minute or so. When ready, they float. Remove back to the sheet pan, and put the next batch on to boil.

While still damp, dip the boiled bagels in your preferred topping and place on a second baking sheet which has been lined with parchment and sprinkled with cornmeal. (If you have a hearth-style oven, the bagels may be placed on a peel or other loading device sprinkled with cornmeal and transferred to the oven to bake directly on the hearth. The technique with a wood-fired, brick oven is different again, one with which I'm not familiar.)

Bake out completely until a nice, golden brown, about 20 minutes at 460F. Reduce the temperature after the first 10 minutes, if your bagels are getting too dark. As mentioned above, I had all 13 bagels on a baker's half sheet, roughly 17" x 12", and they weren't quite baked through where they touched. I transferred them to two smaller sheet pans without parchment and gave them an additional 3 minutes. There was a lovely smell and a small bit of smoke when I opened the oven door. The bagels were perfect!


apprentice's picture

Decided to add the recipe to the original blog entry on Montreal style bagels. Silly to have put it in as a comment, sorry!

mrosen814's picture

just so I'm clear, these bagels have no retarding period whatsoever??  it doesn't sound like this recipe would yield much depth of flavor at all...thanks for sharing though :)

apprentice's picture

Retardation could be added to the process. Why not? In commercial baking, retardation is routinely used to tweak a production schedule. If you also get more depth of flavour from retarding the dough, I say go for it! My textbook says that bagel dough can be:

  • produced by continuous process. That is, the dough is benched (allowed to rest on the workbench for a period), made up, proofed and baked.
  • retarded after make-up. That is, the bagels are made up and retarded. The following day, they're brought out, proofed and finished.
  • retarded after proof. The dough is made up, partially proofed and then retarded until the next day.

With the high turnover at St. Viateur (bagels, not staff), their production is by continuous process. But there's no proofing, once the dough is made up. Like I said, significant differences. They must be doing something right. People make pilgrimages from all over the world to the shop on St. Viateur in Montreal. They have four bakeries, two cafes and ship throughout North America.

A Montreal-style bagel might not be your thing, Michael. But since you've been putting a fair bit of time and energy into making great bagels, why not risk a little flour?

For anyone interested, here's a link to the celebrated Montreal landmark:

leahweinberg's picture

Thank you so much for posting this recipe! I miss Montreal bagels so much. Now I just need to find some malt and get going.... 



apprentice's picture

Michael's request for clarification led me to further research. For one thing, I looked at the videos on the St. Viateur website. It's clear from the images there that the dough has had a bench rest! It looks all spongy and full of bubbles. (On viewing the video, I remembered seeing that in person, too. My daughter and her family live in Montreal.)

Meanwhile, I emailed my former instructor/head of the baking program at Vancouver Island University and just had a reply. Seems the reason we skipped the bench time was to facilitate dividing 8 lb. "heads" (hunks of bagel dough) in a machine called a bun divider/rounder. The dough got its rest instead after shaping, during an overnight retardation. He reminded me that after taking them out of the retarder, I should let them come to room temperature before boiling.

Have amended the recipe in my blog entry for future readers who might not bother to look through the whole thread. Thanks for seeking clarification, Michael. Look forward to hearing your results, if you try the formula.

All that being said, the bagels I made Monday (even without bench rest after the mix or retardation after makeup) are light years better than anything I can buy! 

mrosen814's picture

I've actually read a post here from an individual from St. Viateur, who advises not to let the bagels proof after shaping.  I think you lose the density of the bagel by proofing.  

I've also had a lot of success from taking shaped bagels straight from the fridge, and right into the water and oven. :)   

bottleny's picture

Besides no proofing, I am also surprised by the amount of yeast used in this recipe. It's only 0.2% in Baker's percentage.

apprentice's picture

Yep, but don't forget that the normal range of 0.5 - 5% yeast in yeast-raised doughs applies to fresh yeast. When you use instant, you need much less. Most formulas suggest a 1:3 ratio when replacing fresh with instant dry.

Even so, I take your point. This style bagel uses less yeast than most -- with fresh yeast, 0.625%. The original formula calls for fresh yeast, 250 grams for 40 kilos of flour.

apprentice's picture

Loonie, I finally got round to making another batch of bagels yesterday. I used the bulk fermentation method instead of retardation this time so I could try and duplicate what you're doing. No stickiness to my dough, so I'm mystified as to why that's still happening for you.

Do you weigh out your ingredients and keep pretty close to the recipe proportions? I'm wondering if it's the flour you're able to get in Belgium. Is it bread flour made from hard wheat with about 13% protein? Does your bag give an ingredient list? Subbing a bit of extra flour for the malt flour you've been unable to find should not contribute to a stickiness problem -- only a slight difference in flavour and crust colour.

I was moderately pleased with this latest batch in other respects, but I think the flavour and texture are better with overnight retardation. The change I notice may also be due to the fact that I scaled the recipe down by a factor of 90% to get a dozen instead of 13 bagels but still used one whole egg. Who knows? Just to be sure, I'll stick to the baker's dozen version of my formula in the future.

JoPi's picture

I made these bagels last week. They were the best.  We didn't miss the salt. But I will try them again and add a little salt to see if it affects the texture.  These bagels stayed chewy and didn't toughen up.  One question:  I have found Malt Powder (looks like a mix of flour and the hull of the wheat)  in a local farmer's market Indian section (which I used in this recipe), is it the same as Malt Flour? The package doesn't say whether it is diastatic or non-diastatic.  Great recipe. Thanks!

Just a note:  I made these bagels again and added two (2) tsps. sea salt to the dough.  The salt only made these bagels most delicious.  I don't find that it changed the chewiness at all.  I'll be making these for a long while.  Thanks!

mrosen814's picture

perhaps you're baking the bagels too close together?? maybe try to give the bagels ample space to bake.

apprentice's picture

Life got exceedingly busy for several months! Sorry not to visit and try to answer your questions. Popped in today because I'm just back from a trip to Montreal. Visited the main location of the St. Viateur bagel operation again and settled some things I wondered about.

On the salt issue, they confirmed that they use none whatsoever in their particular recipe. On how many times they let the dough rise, just once for 45 minutes right after the mix. Actually, it's more of a bench rest aka bulk fermentation time than yeast dough's traditional rise to double in volume. (My baking instructor retarded the formed bagels overnight in the fridge instead to fit in with other production demands, which also works and some say yields more flavour.)

Re: what form of malt to use, it's the non-diastatic powder. Malt flour is sometimes used as a synonym for non-diastatic malt powder aka extract in the baking industry, but I hesitate to comment definitively on what any particular manufacturer calls his/her product. You'd have to check with the source.

The person asking about yeast, don't apologize for asking elementary questions. Those are usually the most important ones in baking. There are 3 main types of yeast available to the baker today: fresh compressed yeast in cakes or blocks, active dry, and instant aka bread machine. They're listed in order of historic development. Each works best within a specific temperature range for optimal results.

Converting a recipe from one type of yeast to the other, depending on which type you have/prefer, is easy enough. Active dry is not popular with professional bakers for a number of reasons, but many home bakers swear by it. One important thing to know about active dry is that it must be rehydrated before use. That is, dissolved in four times its weight in very warm water (105-115F). Use about half as much active dry as you would fresh compressed.

The rivalry between lovers of Fairmount and St. Viateur bagels is longstanding. I actually like another Montreal bagel better than both of them. If you get a chance on your next trip to Montreal, Deb, visit Beaubien Bagels on the street of the same name near the intersection with Rue St. Hubert (just a few blocks from the Jean Talon market).

If you revisit this thread, Loonie, the question about yeast has me wondering if active dry was the cause of your stickiness problem. You didn't say if you used something other than instant. One of the reasons active dry is not popular with professional bakers is that it contains a lot of dead yeast cells which release a substance detrimental to gluten quality. This tends to produce a sticky product unless handled carefully. There's really no upside to using active dry, imo, but to each his own.

JeremyCherfas's picture

Thanks so much for the recipe. I made them (using the 460 ml figure for water, rather than 434 grams; that has to be an error) and after a bad experience shaping with the rolling method they turned out wonderfully. Next time, though, I won't bother with overnight refrigeration, I'll just wake up a little earlier on Sunday morning. I blogged about it too.


apprentice's picture

Apologies to anyone who soldiered on trying to use the previously published amount of water in this bagel recipe. I double-checked the original formula and saw my mistake in scaling down from the bakery-sized version. The water was in kilos, not liters like the liquid eggs on the previous line! Then I compounded the error by converting the supposed ml amount to grams.

The correction has been made. I also added volume measurements to the recipe. That was actually what brought me back to the blog entry -- to add those for a family member who wants to make them and works in volume rather than weights. Many thanks, Jeremy, for noticing my mistake!! Glad you trusted your judgment and added more water.


tananaBrian's picture

...Started to ask a question, but noticed it was answered further down.  I guess there's no way to delete/remove a reply?  Only edit it?  Hmmmm.....


cranbo's picture

thx for sharing this recipe. 

Made these tonight, turned out well. I went 1hr for rise, but 45min probably would be enough. The rise was visible, but I wouldn't even say it rose 25%. Didn't matter; they have a slightly more open texture than those fermented overnight anyway.

I've never had a Montreal bagel before, so I have no frame of reference. That said, compared to all the bagels I've had over the years, the flavor was creamy, almost custardy (probably because of the egg), with a hint of sugary sweetness. The no-salt aspect I think enhances the sweetness & custardiness. With some salted butter, it kind of balances out nicely. 

Browning was good and not as deep as some overnight fermented bagels I've been making, a little spotty, despite that they had a nice shine. 

I think next time I will add a little bit of salt, perhaps dial sugar back. Not sure if I find this a keeper yet, probably because I prefer savory bagels, and my NY bagel recipes fit that profile.  

Thanks for sharing the recipe! I found it worked quite well. I did 2min mix, 20 min autolyse, 7min at KA speed #3, 1hr rise, shape in 120g portions, boil for 10sec per side in malt syrup water, then immediately 460F bake for 19 min. Would share photos but too lazy :)

glortman's picture

Hey Apprentice:

Thanks for this recipe.  I am anxious to try it, but curious about the very short ferment and proof times, I suppose because I have been doing all sourdough and pre-ferments over the past 2 years.  Still I have had St. Viateur and Fairmount bagels and love them both, so as you say, they must be doing something right.

To my point:
1 ml of water at 4° C = 1 gram
500 ml of water at 23° C = 499.1 grams

The metric system has a simple one-to-one ratio for grams to milliliters that accurate enough for most water temperatures. I am confused by your volume/mass conversion. Do you typically weigh your water, or measure it volumetrically? This might have contributed to Loonie's stickiness issue.

Anyway, I am not trying to split hairs, but if you have any guidance, I would appreciate it.  Thanks.

apprentice's picture

Happy to help. Just hope I don't confuse you further. This was a large-scale formula given to me in weights during my training as a professional baker. I avoid working in volume measures like the plague, and my personal preference is the metric system over pounds and ounces. I weigh everything out in grams or kilos, including liquids. So originally, I scaled the formula down in grams for baking a small batch at home and shared the results on this site. Figured out the volume amounts for a relative who wanted to make bagels. He's a fabulous home baker, but only works in volume. Thought I might as well add those numbers to the post.

The conversion is based on values I trust because they come from one of the most exacting bakers on the planet: Rose Levy Beranbaum of The Cake Bible fame (and many other books). Her chart, page 440 in that book, gives the weight of one cup of water as 8.337 oz. or 236 grams. If you have an accurate kitchen scale, try measuring 250 ml. of water, and you'll be able to check her chart value for yourself. I can promise you that it won't weigh 250 grams!

Given that context, you'll understand that the most accurate measurement in my formula is the mass: 463 grams. Using Rose's value (463 divided by 236), you need 1.9618644 cups of water. I rounded that off to 2 cups or 500 ml. You're absolutely right. Doing that resulted in a tiny bit of extra water: 9 grams to be exact which is about 1.8 tsp.

Would 9 grams make a difference? If you were to scale the recipe back up significantly using my volume measure of 500 ml for the water, you'd compound my error. But someone wanting to make a bakery-sized version would probably use the figures I gave in weights, establish bakers' percentage values, figure out a conversion factor, and go from there.

The notion that you can use a simple 1:1 ratio in converting grams to ml. for water is only an approximation. It works for most recipes. Don't try it on anything where a small amount of water can make or break the results. For accuracy, there is no substitute for weighing your ingredients as Rose has done. I recommend her chart to you without reservation.

I'm not sure if this is the sort of guidance you were seeking. What I would say is to try the recipe and see what you think. Hold back a couple of teaspoons of water if you like. Do let me know how you get on.


glortman's picture

Hi Apprentice!

Thanks for your very prompt and thorough response.  My big question was whether you were using the volume or the weight, and I appreciate your answer. I will use 463 grams of water and see how that goes.

With respect to the equivalencies of grams and mls of water, however, this is the part of the thread where I peel off my mask to reveal that I am not a cute and cuddly novice artisan baker, but a hideous PhD scientist! (insert evil laugh here).  While I can't comment on the venerable Beranbaum formula, I can speak with a reasonable degree of confidence (and pedantry) about the weight of water. Until 1964, a kilogram was actually defined as a litre of water at standard temperature and pressure, however more precise measures have emerged redefining both the gram and the meter and the units have diverged slightly.

So 1 ml water = 0.9982 gram water at 20° and standard pressure, but we can probably safely round to 1 gram, given most scales will have precision much smaller than 2 micrograms. If the recipe were scaled up by 1000, I certainly agree that there would be a vast difference between 463 kilograms of water and 500 kilograms of water, but there would be less than 1% difference between 500 kilograms and 500 litres of water, and given the nature of baking, this difference would be negligible.

My problem is most likely that in the recipe states:
"463 grams water (2 cups or 500 ml)"

So 463 grams of water might easily be 2 cups, but by definition, it can't be 500 ml.  The problem is in the equivalence between 2 cups = 500 ml, and while this is roughly correct, they are different. In fact 8 oz = 236.588 ml, which as Rose points out, is 236 (ish) grams when it comes to water. Because I am a metric guy, I just read 500 mls and was trying to figure out whether you were using weight or volume. If anyone has a 250 ml measuring cup that gives less than 250 grams (give or take 2 grams) when filled with water, there is problem with the cup or the scale.

For the kids reading at home this whole gram/milliliter thing only works with water.

Apprentice, you have been very kind in sharing this recipe and giving a thoughtful response, and this is my first engagement on the Fresh Loaf.  I know I have much to learn from you and everybody here, and don't want to come off as a know-it-all. But I was confused by the water amount, which led to my question, and now my punctilious response.

I will try the bagels in a couple of days and let you know how it turns out with 463 grams of water, at 173 meters above sea level, and a room temperature of 20° C. ;)





pmccool's picture

Since "metric" cups are often defined as 250ml, that might be the rationale behind the "2 cups or 500ml" note.  For most cooks and bakers, that isn't quite as helpful as it was perhaps intended to be since, as you note, the divergence between the stated weight and the stated volume get worse and worse as recipes are scaled up.


apprentice's picture

I haven't been able to contribute much to the site in the last four years or so. Too busy as a caregiver, then executor for my mother when she died and after that, figuring out what was next, whether I would re-locate, etc. But you can bet that any time I needed to research something to do with bread making, the Fresh Loaf community was and remains my first port of call. Coincidentally, I'm on a learning curve with spelt at the moment and was "lurking" a lot when glortman posted his/her questions and comments.

You're quite right that I was trying to be helpful when I posted the 500 ml figure. I reckoned that anybody who's working in volume measures is probably not in the market for a formula to scale up to bakery production levels . And chances are they might have the same Pyrex cup that's in my cupboard with the 250 ml and one-cup marks at exactly the same height on opposite sides (= 236 grams). Or they might have one like my two-cup Pyrex, which is more accurate. Since the days I said, "Yes, chef." and "No, chef" to my instructor about everything, including the weights vs. volume issue, I've never looked back. He was right. Using cups and tsp. is just asking for trouble -- especially when you want to scale up, as all three of us have noted in this thread. Or when you try, as I did, to convert a weight-based formula to volume measures.

Fortunately, the difference is not usually critical in a small-scale bread recipe. And there's room for every kind baker in this wonderful community, which is exactly why I posted the figures for volume-based bakers. I always admired RLB enormously for her dedication to serving North American bakers in that way despite the difficulties and frustrations; Hamelman, too, with the bracketed numbers in his "Home" column in Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes. In my opinion, we owe them a great deal.

See you around! Look forward to catching up with your bread experiments and those of others I remember, not to mention the new people who are doing some really amazing and inspiring work. Cheers.

apprentice's picture

Hey again, b.

Great! I see I can be a little more forthright. But please don't rule yourself out from the "cute and cuddly" category just because you're a scientist. It's hard sometimes to walk the line as a pro baker between too much and too little info when you want to be helpful. It wasn't clear to me that you mainly wanted to know whether I was using the weight figures or the volume amounts given in brackets.

So yes, I know that 236 grams for a cup of water is an -ish figure. Rose does, too. When building her conversion chart about 30 years ago, she used the kind of scale you'd be very familiar with, accurate to much less than a gram. How much less, I can't quite recall.

I understand hers was one of the first North American cookbooks to use ounces & grams as well as cups for the home baker. But she knew she'd have to be respectful as well as helpful if she wanted to make the case, which she did, that volume-based baking is inherently rife with accuracy problems. And way harder than scaling ingredients right into the mixing bowl. Precise and nearly effortless: It doesn't get better than that for baking!

The other thing she knew is that many people would resist change and continue to use the "standard" cups and measuring spoons available to them, which vary quite a lot in how much they hold. So by definition -- not even taking into account HOW people measure, e.g., sifting, lightly spooning or dip and sweep method for flour -- any conversion between volume-based amounts and imperial or metric is going to be an -ish proposition. My home scale is only accurate to 1 gram. So over the years, I've come to rely on her chart if I'm forced against my better judgment to bake from a volume-based recipe, or when I have to cost an ingredient that is sold in ml. However, there are some food items not on her chart, and then I have to get out my trusty scale and measure them for myself.

We're talking water, though, which is somewhat simpler. I also wanted to be respectful and helpful for my relative and the bakers at this site who use volume measures. I was trying to get them as close as possible to 463 grams of water, so I gave them options. I should have said 2 cups and left it at that.

Bottom line, I stand corrected. Two US cups = 473.176474 ml. water, close enough for this formula. I'll delete the reference to 500 ml, which I added without thinking since many people use 1 cup = 250 ml. That only applies if the baker and the recipe both happen to be using a metric cup. I appreciate your bringing the error and possible source of confusion for others to my attention.

Bake on! And welcome to the Fresh Loaf community.

glortman's picture

Hi Apprentice:

Thanks again for the time you took to answer, and thanks Paul for the assist.  I like weight-based baking because of the precision, but support Rose's (and your) idea of supplying people with units they will actually use.

I look forward to participating in the community!


Noonanna's picture

Hello apprentice,

I wanted to say thank you for the great recipe! I currently live in Ontario but have never been to Montreal to try their famous bagels (we are planning a trip later this year!) and was very excited to try your recipe.

For the past few years I have had a huge interest in sourdough leavened breads and so I actually just made your recipe but using my own sourdough starter instead of yeast. The results were fantastic! The bagels came out beautiful and are very soft inside like other commenters noted, with just a tiny hint of sourdough flavour. 

I thought I would share my process if anyone else is interested in omitting the instant yeast and using a sourdough starter instead. I simply omitted the instant yeast and instead added 300g of 100% hydration sourdough starter levain prepared the night before. I then followed the recipe as listed but omitted 150g each of water and flour to account for the starter. The only other significant change is that instead of a 45 min rest, I gave the dough a 3-4 hour rise after kneading during which it increased in volume maybe 20%. The dough did come out a bit sticky after the 3 hour rise and I had trouble shaping using a water spray bottle so I ended up using a fine dusting of flour to combat the stickiness which worked just fine.

Also in case anyone is interested I did not have malt flour on hand and instead replaced the malt and sugar in the recipe with malt syrup. I read a few other bagel recipes that called for malt syrup and so I believe this is an ok substitution. I'm not sure if this is related to the dough's stickiness or not...

All in all this recipe is a gem. I can't believe how well these bagels turned out! They are perfect, chewy, soft, and golden. It's a wonderful recipe and thank you so much for sharing!!

apprentice's picture

What a delight to get your message this morning and hear about your experiments with the recipe. Well done! Your tweaks sound right on to me for converting to sourdough and also for using the malt syrup substitution. Thanks for letting me know and for sharing with the Fresh Loaf community.

Enjoy Montreal. Be sure to check out advice ahead of time for good bakeries to visit if you have time to fit them in your schedule. You'll be spoiled for choice! One of my favourites is Boulangerie Guillaume on Fairmont just around the corner from St. Laurent. Trip Advisor shows it in the Plateau district, but I think locals call that area Mile End.

cybrok's picture

Perfect timing. I wanted to try sourdough Mtl bagels this weekend. Thank you :)

hundt's picture

Thanks so much for posting this, apprentice! I wanted to make my own Montreal-style bagels and I knew this was the recipe to follow because it was the only one I've seen that matches the ingredients in the packaged St-Viateur bagels sold in supermarkets in Montreal, most notably the malt flour and the lack of salt.

I made the recipe with the following variations:

  • "flax egg" (flax meal + water) instead of egg because my wife does not eat eggs
  • 12 g malt syrup (Eden Organic) instead of 9g malt flour - I did reduce water by 3g although I doubt it mattered
  • made 16 bagels (about 95g each) instead of 13 because 113g seemed large compared to what I remember, and what I had in the sleeve from the supermarket
  • forgot to add malt syrup to boiling water :(
  • baked 6 at a time on a pizza stone

The recipe was very easy to follow. The dough was difficult to knead (my first time making bagels so I didn't know what to expect) but because it was so tough the bagels were very easy to work with after forming: they held their shape well and didn't stick to pans or each other.

The final result was great! As in the photos in the original post, they came out puffier than the real thing, but the inner texture was good:

and the taste was about right.

After baking the bagels weighed about 90g each, still substantially more than the ones in the sleeve (75g each).

Next time:

  • 18 or 20 bagels for 1000g flour
  • boil longer to try to kill more of the yeast?
  • remember the malt syrup in the boiling water!
apprentice's picture

So glad you had some fun with the recipe, Hundt, and your results are great. Good to know that a vegan "egg" works. Boiling the bagels longer seems a bit drastic to me, but you could certainly try it with a few to see what happens. I assume you're wanting to make them denser/less puffy? You might also try to ensure that you're taking them very quickly through the production process, i.e. a short bulk ferment (or the overnight retardation), into the boiling water, seeds and preheated oven. Refrigerate the bagels, once shaped, if anything happens to hold things up for some reason. You don't want to proof these babies at all!

Bottom line for me is remembering that they can only be Montreal style - not the real thing. Great idea you had to try the pizza stone - a step in the right direction. But you'd need a wood-fired oven to get super close to the taste & texture that have made these bagels so famous and well-loved. Another tip is to use a strong baker's flour, i.e., high protein. My memory may be playing tricks on me, but I think I saw 20k bags of Robin Hood's Keynote 39 flour in photos online taken at the St. Viateur bakery. That's a flour sold in Canada, specifically recommended for pizza & bagels. If you're in the US, you'd probably find that King Arthur has an equivalent. I just use my regular bread flour, which is Robin Hood's Keynote 45.

Very kind of you to let me know how you got on. Thanks!

Cheers, apprentice

hundt's picture

Wow, so pleased to get a response from you!

Yes, I would like to make them a little less puffy.

I used the short bulk ferment method and regular King Arthur bread flour. (I am in the U.S.) I did take my time a little between boiling and baking. But I did three batches of baking, with all the boiling done ahead of time, and I did not notice any substantial difference between the different batches, so I'm not sure that was the issue.

I did find that the shape of the bagels was closer to what I wanted after boiling but before baking:

which was what gave me the idea of boiling longer. But perhaps it will make them too tough on the outside or otherwise hurt the end result.

Thanks again for all the advice! I'll let you know if I make any further discoveries!

apprentice's picture

Hello again! I was looking through the earlier comments for something in particular and came across this message from Westka:

"My bagels turned out wonderfully albeit with a few minor things I'd like to fix if possible. I know on the other thread Vincent from St. Viateur said it was in the wood oven otherwise they'd balloon and mine did just that. Not hugely but a few had minor 'bursts' around the inner 'equator' :) and they were a bit airier than I was expecting."

Westka asked for tips from others on how to get them less airy, but no one responded. So short of building a wood fired oven in your driveway, maybe try a little less yeast? It's already such a small amount, but maybe worth a try. You could also try skipping the bulk ferment. Or if you retard the shaped bagels overnight in the fridge, don't bother bringing them to room temp before boiling. Go straight from the fridge to boiling & seeding them. The dough will likely be warmed up enough from the shaping process not to slow the water coming back to the boil too much.

hundt's picture

Indeed, that is exactly what happened to my bagels as the photos show! I'll see what I feel like trying in a few weeks when I run out of the ones I made!

apprentice's picture

Hello again! I was looking through the earlier comments for something in particular and came across this message from Westka:

"My bagels turned out wonderfully albeit with a few minor things I'd like to fix if possible. I know on the other thread Vincent from St. Viateur said it was in the wood oven otherwise they'd balloon and mine did just that. Not hugely but a few had minor 'bursts' around the inner 'equator' :) and they were a bit airier than I was expecting."

Westka asked for tips from others on how to get them less airy, but no one responded. So short of building a wood fired oven in your driveway, maybe try a little less yeast? It's already such a small amount, but maybe worth a try. You could also try skipping the bulk ferment. Or if you retard the shaped bagels overnight in the fridge, don't bother bringing them to room temp before boiling. Go straight from the fridge to boiling & seeding them.

Intuitive Traveller's picture
Intuitive Traveller

Thanks for all this useful information.  I'm making bagels (similar recipe but far less flour) for a local market and learning as I go.  My first attempt at overnight refrigeration, for larger batches, resulted in flat bagels.  I think they were over-proofed, left out on the counter too long before boiling.  Will try going straight from fridge to pot next time.  My question is whether it's best to proof the dough before I shape them & put in refrigerator; or just shape and put in fridge?  I won't be letting them go to room temp the next morning.  Ditto if I use freezer instead of fridge.  All advice is appreciated.  p.s. bagels tasted great nonetheless despite my mistake.  Big hit!

apprentice's picture

IT, I'm not sure what you mean by "flat bagels." Montreal-style bagels don't get a full proof at any stage. They're not meant to be light, airy and puffed up like bagels from the supermarket or other traditions. If you're doing continuous processing, the dough gets a short bench rest after the mix, 45 minutes tops, before shaping, boiling, seeding and baking. That's it. You want them to be dense. 

Using refrigeration to retard fermentation overnight means that your dough gets its rest in the fridge. So no bench rest is required before shaping your bagels. Mix the dough, shape it, place them on your trays, bag the trays and refrigerate them. It would be best to let the refrigerated bagels have at least a little time at room temp before boiling, seeding and baking.

Glad you're having some fun with the recipe.

Intuitive Traveller's picture
Intuitive Traveller

Thank you for your reply.  My "flat bagels" last time were super flat.  I've made them before and they turned out perfect, exactly like Montreal style bagels.  I then sometimes have the reverse problem - puffy and bread-like inside.  All following the same recipe so I think it has something to do with the dough temperature and/or proofing.  Since I'm trying to sell at the market I'd like to solve the problem, to ensure consistency of quality.  I was fine doing single batches of 12 but now with a bigger batch I must find a way that's more efficient, using overnight retardation.  It's a fascinating journey!  How I'd love to take a workshop.    


apprentice's picture

Since you were doing fine with the single batches of 12, it occurs to me to wonder whether the problem is with the method you're using to scale the recipe up for a bigger yield. Have you come across info about baker's percentage, how to resize a formula using a conversion factor, etc.? If not, get your hands on a copy of Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman. In his 2nd edition, the section you want starts on p. 442. So much useful info in that book for anyone who wants to achieve good results on a consistent basis. Worth buying imo, but maybe you can get a copy through your public library system. Good luck.

Intuitive Traveller's picture
Intuitive Traveller

Thank you for your advice.  Unfortunately, it remains a mystery since I made 3 single batches (doing them different ways: one batch continual process that morning, one bulk dough refrigerated overnight, and one batch shaped into bagels and refrigerated overnight) instead of one big one.  Therefore, it's still my guess that since I had all three batches on the counter (at room temp or higher), waiting for their turn to boil and bake, that they became over-proofed and turned out super-flat.  And as for my opposite problem, of over-inflated bagels (with the same recipe and process), my only guess can be the boiling process or over-kneading.  In any case, I'll keep trying!  I'll see what the book says too.  My next strategy, to improve efficiency, will be to freeze them in advance and then boil and bake later.  Any input on this?  Mix, Rest, Shape, Freeze, and later boil (from frozen state?) and bake?

hundt's picture

I finally got around to trying again! In the meantime I saw this article on the Montreal Gazette, in which the owner says that the bagels are boiled for three minutes. This renewed my confidence in the idea of lengthening the boil to reduce the puffiness. I also made sure not to let the bulk ferment go on for long--it was probably only half an hour before I started shaping.

Other than that it was similar to last time (used malt syrup instead of powder, and a flax "egg" instead of a real one). I made eighteen 86g bagels. My pizza stone broke, so this time I baked them on two baking sheets preheated to 500 degrees F.

This time I also have an exemplar of the real thing that someone brought me back, so that I could do a side-by-side comparison!

The final product came out much closer to what I was looking for than last time:

In the side-by-side comparison, you can see that they are very similar indeed! (Original on the left, mine on the right.)

The main differences I would say are the charred spots and the external texture: the original is sort of wrinkly whereas mine is a little shiny.

The side-by-side comparison also allowed me to compare the taste! And in fact I find the originals are noticeable better! So that will be my next challenge. They have a distinct sweet note that is very tasty in the original and lacking in mine. It could be a product of the baking method, but my guess is that it's because they use (according to the video) honey water, compared to my barley malt water. I would like to avoid honey (to keep them vegan) so my current theory on the best alternative is to try to find a sweetener with a similar sugar profile (mostly fructose and glucose, roughly 55/45 ratio). High-fructose corn syrup is almost an exact match, but that doesn't seem to be available except commercially in very great quantities (think tanker truck full). So my next best guess is invert sugar, which is 50/50. Maybe I'll try that next time!

pmccool's picture

Not sure why you wouldn't consider honey vegan.  OK, maybe florian, since it is partially dehydrated nectar.  Other than the organism doing the dehydrating (insect versus mammal), it's analogous to maple syrup.  If you like honey, use it.  If not, don't.  In either case, don't make the vegan circle so small that a plant product like honey is excluded.

Good work with the bagels 


hundt's picture

Thanks, Paul!

Unfortunately, changing my wife's dietary constraints is outside the scope of this project for me.

pmccool's picture

No point in stirring up that which can be left alone. 


KxRjsWpO's picture

Thanks so much for posting this! I too am an ex-Montreal and greatly miss the taste of fresh *real* bagels.  These have so far come pretty close to scratching the itch! 

Regarding the boiling time.  Someone else posted a link above where a St Viateur baker discussed boiling the bagels for 3 minutes.  I found this older video from St Viateur where the baker says they boil it for about 5 minutes:

I'll try my next few batches with different boil times, but I'm curious about your thoughts.  

apprentice's picture

In baking school, we stopped asking our instructor how long to bake things. He always said, "until they're done." In other words, there's no substitute for developing and using your capacity for observation as a baker. As I said in the recipe, they float when they're ready. That might take a couple of minutes. Or 5. There are variables like how many you're trying to boil at once, whether the bagels are at room temp or fresh from overnight retardation in the fridge, whether you brought the water right up to a rolling boil, etc. Use all your senses as a baker, including common sense, and you can't go far wrong.

bluebagel's picture

hello apprentice,


thanks alot for sharing this recipe. To be honest I was skeptic at first that you had the real Montreal bagel recipe. as I read more comments it made sense to me that you might in fact had the original recipe.


does the flour have to be bread flour only?

can I use olive oil instead of vegetable?


best regards


apprentice's picture

All I can tell you, bluebagel, is that the head of my baking program showed us the brown paper on which one of the St. Viateur bakers scrawled the formula. I think it was a torn-off piece of a flour bag, but don't quote me.

What I can tell you about the flour is that it should be excellent quality and fairly strong, i.e. somewhere in the range of 13% gluten. A quality bread flour milled from blends of hard spring and hard winter wheats is what we used at baking school. In Canada, all purpose flour milled from hard spring wheat comes close and will do in a pinch. It contains sufficient protein to make decent yeast breads, yet not too much for quick breads, everyday cakes and cookies.  If you want to use exactly what the St. Viateur bakers use, I saw 20k bags of Robin Hood's Keynote 39 flour in one of their videos. That's a flour milled and blended especially for making pizza and bagels. And if you want to experiment with other flours, go for it!

Vegetable oil is used because it's light and adds no taste of its own. That's my preference because I like the taste and texture of a traditional bagel.

Cheers! apprentice

Chulamin's picture

For years I had been using a recipe I found in the Montreal Gazette that I thought was pretty close. Lately I was having a lot of trouble with it and wanted to try a different one. I found one a few months ago that created something that looked more like boiled oatmeal than a bagel. I could barely boil them and ended up tossing the whole mess before even baking. Yesterday I decided to continue my search and came across a few recipes that alluded to being true Montreal St. Viateur style bagels but they all looked suspect in one way or another. Your recipe intrigued me more than the others simply by what I thought was a typo.... 2/3 tsp yeast in 8 cups of flour? I said this can't be right and I kept looking but that still stuck in my head. I decided to go back to this site and started reading the comments and it all began to make sense. Today I rolled up my sleeves and ventured into one of the largest recipes I have tried to date. With a little tweaking, based on my own experience and taste, I was extremely pleased with the results. Not having lived in Montreal for over 25 years (we live in Alberta now) my taste buds were very happy (although my wife claims they were a little hard on the outside).

Just a few notes on my tweaks: That previous recipe that I discarded had copious amounts of malt syrup that made the recipe inedible so I decided to replace the malt flour with 1/4 cup of honey added to the dough. I also used 1/4 honey for the boiling water. In addition, considering the various comments of the quantity of water needed, I started of by using just under 2 cups of water but ended up adding a few splashes of water (probably another 1/4 cup) as I was kneading because there was no way that I was going to get the full eight cups absorbed into the dough. Even after kneading for at least ten minutes, I estimate there was at lease 1/4 to 1/2 cup of dry flour left on the work surface. I was however pleased with resulting dough and put it aside to rest as indicated.

Knowing all this now, I adjusted the recipe to my taste (I did add a teaspoon of salt and may add a bit more next time) and labeled this as the best bagel recipe I have to date!

Thanks to you and the comments of the other readers for such a wonderful experience and recipe.

P.S. Kneading this dough was a really great upper body workout! 

apprentice's picture

So happy that you had some joy and good results in working with this formula. That's exactly why I posted it in the first place.

painterman's picture

Hi Apprentice, A big thank you for the recipe. Tracked down some Keynote flour and made a dozen +1 bagels. Finally a correct recipe that works. Although my KA mixer is not happy mixing the dough. Broke the dough into smaller chunks and it was a little better to mix then finished by hand. 


apprentice's picture

So good of you to write. What a treat to hear from both you and KxRjsWpO today. You've got me craving them. If I weren't heading to Montreal to visit family in a couple of weeks, probably would have gone straight to the kitchen to start a batch. :) So glad you're enjoying them. And btw, smart to baby your KA mixer some with that dough. It's so dense! 

Marlayna's picture

So grateful to have found this forum and learning from everyone’s bagel experiences. I am a former Montrealer and want to make these beauties at home, minus the wood oven. I thought I’d try wood plank in my bbq.  

On the St Viateur website, their listed ingredients are wheat flour ( that’s unbleached bread flour, right?) and malted barley flour. Has anyone tried to use the barley flour, and if so where would you find it? 

I am going to try my hand at the bagels soon, but haven’t found barley malt yet. I may try molasses until then.