If you’ve ever been to the Carlton Farmers’ Market on a Saturday, you’ll know the hysteria a Masses bagel can whip up in a crowd. Their small-batch, wild-fermented bagels have won a reputation as some of Melbourne’s finest, created with neither New York nor Montreal styles in mind – rather, simply as something owners Jack Muir-Rigby and Carmen Newton enjoy eating.

Masses Bagels are entirely naturally leavened, then boiled and baked for a thin, crisp exterior, a gentle chew, the depth of flavour from the mix of high-quality flours they use. Here’s Jack Muir-Rigby on how they came to be – and how they can come to be yours.   

Give us the elevator pitch, what makes your bagels different and/or special?
Good flour, a healthy sourdough starter, a long, slow fermentation to develop flavour and a drive to create the perfect bagel. We’re always adapting and tinkering to try and improve the end product.

Who are you and what are you all about?
My partner Carmen Newton and I have developed Masses Bagels. We’ve both proudly been involved in the Melbourne hospo scene for a while now. I’m a long-time chef-turned-baker with experience in some of Melbourne’s favourite spots, such as Embla, Etta, Hector’s Deli and Wild Life Bakery, and Carmen was a pattern-maker-turned-coffee-expert working at one of Melbourne’s best coffee spots, Market Lane, for many years now.

Masses has been a long time in the works; it’s been about five years now since we first came up with the idea while we were living in Japan. We tried some bagels fresh out of the oven at a tiny little bakery in the middle of nowhere. We started with some pop-ups at Etta where I was working at the time, which gained a small following and we then started selling through Instagram. Melbourne has always felt like the place we wanted to do this and the support from everyone has been incredible. The bagels have come a long way since our first pop-up and after thousands of recipe trials they’re now completely wild-fermented, which gives them the unique characteristics we love. Going from working as a chef to baking full-time has also contributed dramatically to the consistency of the current product. 

Explain like we’re five, how do you make them?
Mix together water, flour, salt and malt, chuck the mixer on full blast and you’re away! Nah, not really – anyone who’s made sourdough probably knows it seems really simple but can be incredibly complex and has lots of different factors contributing to the end product, which is what we love about wild-fermented products. We make the dough, ferment it, roll it and shape it, then boil and bake: a three-day process from start to finish. What makes us unique is the texture and open crumb of our bagel, which we haven’t really come across before. We also do a bagel special each week that usually plays around with interesting additions that complement the bagel, such as polenta porridge and thyme, or sprouted rye grain and black marley malt.

What excites you about this project?
So many things! The support and opportunities that have come from doing the Carlton Farmers’ Market have been crazy. We’ve met so many amazing people along the way and it’s great getting to chat to customers and seeing them enjoy our bagels and fillings at the market. The response has really given us the confidence to expand and try to make our bagels available to more people more regularly. Carlton is full of extremely creative people who have reached out to help us along the way with a variety of things.  

What are the perfect conditions to enjoy a Masses bagel
I believe any time is a good time for a Masses bagel to be honest. They can be enjoyed simply with good butter and some salt or topped with your favourite toppings. I’m a huge fan of our whipped cream cheese, local honey and olive oil bagel – it’s simplicity at its finest, and using really good quality producers like Schulz Organic Dairy and Mount Zero Olives lets the bagel be the star of the show. It’s pretty hard to beat on a sunny market morning with a group of mates and a bit of Bonobo playing on the speaker. 

Are you here for a good time or a long time?
Definitely always a good time but also a long time. We’re planning a sustainable way to set up and expand our project and hopefully open a little shop where people can come hang out and enjoy a bagel fresh out of the oven any day of the week. 

Where can I buy them?
At the moment we are only trading at the Carlton Farmers’ Market. Usually we’re there every second Saturday; keep an eye on our Instagram for updated dates. We are also doing an MFWF event at Clover, which we are extremely excited about. Stay tuned for other exciting events!

Masses Bagels are available at Carlton Farmers’ Market roughly every second Saturday – keep up with their movements on Instagram