Cafe Society

Montreal-style bagels made-to-order by Small Batch Bagels in Boulder

The New York-style bagel is known the world over, but the Montreal bagel is now making its mark in Colorado, as Small Batch Bagels of Boulder churns out the hand-rolled, smaller and salt-free bagels.

Fatima Hirji, who started the company last May, got hooked on the bagels as a student at Concordia University in Montreal. Sneaking out to the famed Fairmount and St-Viateur bakeries during study breaks, she was determined to mimic the recipes and create the Montreal bagel in Colorado. But it proved more difficult than she expected; it took more than a year to get the chemistry correct.

"Its just a bagel, for God's sake," she recalls thinking. "It can't be that hard."

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It was -- but Hirji finally found the right formula.

An architect by trade, Hirji joined the Udi's food team on the "bench," where she pulled and punched bread by hand to learn more about the baking process. Today, working backwards from the weight of one bagel, approximately three ounces, she uses percentage baking to create the exact amount each of her customers will need. Rather than rising overnight like a New York bagel does, Montreal bagel dough -- combining flour, water, malt, eggs, sugar and yeast -- rests for 45 minutes before it is rolled, boiled in honey-water and wood-fire baked.

Sweeter, denser and with a crunchier outside than New York bagels, the bagels sell for $1 each.

Hirji's day starts at 3 a.m. "You gotta get up really early and be very efficient in terms of your time," she says. She bakes around a hundred bagels each week and delivers them to local businesses. The flavors include rosemary and sea salt, sesame seed, cinnamon raisin, caraway and rye and poppy seed. Rather than serve them just with cream cheese, Hirji recommends drizzling the bagels with olive oil, sprinkling them with spices or topping them with a soft egg. Small Batch Bagels takes orders as small a half-dozen in Boulder; orders of 100 or more can be delivered to the Denver area. All bagels are made to order.

On March 15, Small Batch will team up with Savory Spice Shop for a tasting at the Boulder location. Watch Cafe Society for details.

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Kate Gibbons
Contact: Kate Gibbons