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How-To

Montreal Bagels Are a Family Affair

Fine Cooking Issue 23
Photos: Susan Kahn
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Montrealers are crazy about bagels from the Fairmount Bagel Bakery. Run by brother and sister Irwin and Rhonda Shlafman, the bakery was started in 1919 by their grandfather, a Russian immigrant, who baked the city’s first bagels.

Working from a huge lump of dough, bakers shape each bagel by hand. They tear off a piece of the freshly made dough, roll it into a rope, and wrap it around their hands to form thin rings.
Next the bagels take a bath in boiling water sweetened with honey. This hot-water bath gives a bagel its characteristic chewiness, and the honey bakes into a shiny golden glaze.
Irwin uses a twelve-foot-long board, known as a sheeva, to move the bagels into and out of the oven. “Baking in a wood-fired oven is a craft that requires your whole heart and soul,” says Irwin.
Working from a storefront that was once their grandfather’s home (now a Canadian landmark), Rhonda and Irwin Shlafman oversee the production of 25 dozen bagels an hour, 24 hours a day.

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