DIY: Bagel Tutorial and More History.

How does working from 5AM ’till 10PM, seven days a week, in a remote location, for an entire summer sound? Ten years ago to me, it sounded like a pretty good plan…

Here’s a bit more history for you.

Flashback to 1999 in Northern British Columbia. I’m 19, no serious plans for the summer except slinging food in the mediocre bistro where I am presently employed, wishing to get out of my small town and see some of the world.
I get a phone call from George (same George as in this post but he had since moved to Vancouver) and he has a proposal.

“How would you like to be my sous-chef at a fly-in fishing resort on the BC coast for the summer? Financially, it’s very attractive.”

“What’s the catch?” I ask.

“Well, let’s see, the workload is extremely heavy, there is no contact with the outside world except snail mail once in a while, and once you’re in, that’s it, you can’t change your mind.”

“Hmm, sounds like fun.” I say. “I can be ready in a few weeks”.

And that’s how I found myself on a small floating fishing lodge in a quiet inlet on the Pacific Ocean, cooking three square meals a day for 35 people, and having some of the best adventures of my teenage years. Although the working hours were long and the nights very short, the benefits almost balanced out the hardships: whale watching, crabbing and fishing, sandy beaches and the sheer beauty of British Columbia’s rugged coastline in my backyard.

Life there revolved around one thing: the King Salmon. Clients didn’t pay the big bucks to fly in on a little Otter float plane just to taste my cooking (although luckily for them, it was a big bonus) but for the thrill of reeling in one of these beautiful fish. While they took home anything they caught, we always had plenty of fresh-caught salmon on hand for eating that the staff reeled in. George constructed a smoker and smoked huge fillets of the scarlet fish while I baked the best thing to complement smoked salmon: bagels.

When the guests came in for lunch at 11:30, ravenous from a morning’s work in the fresh sea air, they were treated to a decadent lunch of piping hot bagels, home-smoked salmon and the fixings.
No wonder the staff said that that summer had the best food they had ever experienced–probably no one else put the love into their cooking that George and I did, and everyone knows that’s what makes the difference!
I made enough money in that eleven week job posting to take the next half-year off and travel and that’s just what I did. I bought my first camera-a Pentax- and a one way ticket to….but wait, that is another chapter entirely and not for this post.

My family has been making these bagels for as long as I can remember and to me they are the very best I have ever tasted. While I know they might not be the definition of ‘the perfect bagel’, to me they are just that, and a whole lot more because I grew up eating them. My boys already love them, so things are going to stay this way for at least another generation.

Aimée’s Family Bagel Recipe

(adapted from The Breads of France by Bernard Clayton Jr.)
Makes 16 large bagels

3 Cups warm water

4 Tbsps yeast

1/4 cup Sugar

2 Tbsps Salt

7 Cups All-Purpose Flour (approx)

Toppings to taste:
diced onions, poppy, sesame or caraway seeds, etc…

Boiling Water:
2 quarts water

1 Tbsp sugar

1 Egg white
1 Tbsp water

Coarse salt

In a mixing bowl, pour water and yeast. Stir to dissolve, and leave for 2-3 minutes until yeast is creamy. Stir in sugar and salt. Add 4 cups of flour, and beat at low speed for 1 minute, then turn to high for 3 minutes. Stop mixer and add balance of flour. Stir with a wooden spoon to make a thick batter. When it becomes difficult to stir, remove from bowl and work with your hands on the counter. Knead dough for about 8 minutes. Dough should be firm – add more flour if sticky.

Return dough to clean, greased bowl. Cover it tightly with plastic film and allow to rise for 1 hour.
During the rising period, prepare water in a large 4-1/2 litre pot. Bring to a boil, and add sugar (the sugar will give the bagels a nice sheen when the come out of the water). Cover and leave simmer on low. Grease 2 baking sheets with oil and sprinkle generously with cornmeal. Whisk together water and egg white for glaze and set aside. Prepare toppings of choice and reserve.
Preheat oven to 450F

Turn dough onto work surface and punch down.
With a sharp knife, divide the dough into 16 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball as shown on video above. Allow to rest for 3-4 minutes.

With your thumb, press deep into the cente
r of the ball, and tear open a hole with the fingers. Watch the video above for a complete demonstration on the shaping. Place formed bagels together on the work surface, cover with a towel and leave until dough is slightly raised – about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, bring your water to a low boil. Gently lift bagels, one at a time, and lower into the hot water. Do not do more than 2 or 3 at a time. Cook for about 30 seconds, then flip them over in the water using a slotted spoon, and cook for another 15 seconds. Lift out with the slotted spoon, and place on your baking sheet. Repeat with all the bagels. Brush with egg glaze and dress them up with the topping of your choice and a sprinkling of coarse salt before popping them in the oven.

Bake for about 30 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. Keep an eye on them so that the bottoms don’t burn. Remove from oven, cool on a rack and enjoy!

These bagels freeze beautifully and toast up well for a perfect breakfast.

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. Wow, homemade bagels! So impressive! Almost as much as the fact that you had the guts to spend a summer like that! I’m sure you have some stories. 🙂

  2. Wow! Ça semble presque trop facile.

  3. The bagels looks perfect! Sounds like a fun summer too!!

  4. What an amazing experience to have at that age. Please tell me we don’t have to wait almost another year for the next chapter…. I loved that George focaccia post too, way back in Jan ’08.

  5. Congratulations on your nominations – unfortunately voting doesn’t seem to be working right now 🙁

  6. Hi Culinarywannabe- Oh yes I have stories, and the photos to prove them. 🙂

    Hi Annie- They really are easy.

    Hi Maria- Thanks! it was my kind of fun, but not for everyone.

    Hi Amanda- I’ll try to get it up sooner, but i don’t plan these posts, they just kinda happen!

    Hi Lunch Buckets- opps, hope they get that fixed soon.

  7. Congratulations on your nomination. Very well deserved!

  8. Thank you so much for this! My craving for real bagels has recently become so acute that I’ve been thinking I was going to have to figure out how to make my own. And…voila!

  9. First Congratulations for your nomination.

    This is an interesting part of your life. Can’t wait to read about all your travel stories.

  10. wow amazing!! thank you for your vote aimee. of course i returned the favor!

  11. I’m in disbelief that you made those bagels! They’re absolutely perfect. And of course the story was fun. I’m envious of your summer on the water.

  12. Congratulations on your nomination!

  13. And congrats on your nominations!! That’s so exciting as well deserved!

  14. What a great story Aimée! Thanks for the bagel recipe and tutorial. I only made bagels once and that was much too long ago, I need to try again. Good luck for the blog awards. 🙂

  15. i’m so impressed with homemade bagels! they look so great and i’ll definitely have to try them out! and i found your pizza dough recipe. i’ll definitely try that one out next 🙂

  16. Wow fantastic you made your own bagels. I’ve made them once before but they were nothing as pretty as these!!!

  17. I just made them. That cooling rack step was unneccessary. They didn’t last that long 🙂

    I was looking for a new bagel recipe. Thanks! We’ll make these again! I liked the video showing how to make the holes.

  18. Hi Andrea- Thanks for stopping by UtHC and congratulations to you too!!

    Hi Roving Lemon- have fun with that. you’ll love them!

    Hi Helene- Thank you! yes, I have a few stories. 🙂

    Hi Aran-Thanks for stopping by and for the vote!

    Hi Emily- I really made them, I did. PS Thanks for your vote.

    Hi Jayne- Thank you so much!

  19. Hi Culinarywannabe- Many thanks! I’m pretty surprised.

    Hi Lyb- Thanks for reading and for the well wishes.

    Hi Kickpleat- Great! You’ll love the pizza dough, it’s so soft.

    Hi Rachel- Thanks! I impressed you, yay!

    Hi Prudent Homemaker- Welcome to Under the High Chair! I’m so glad you enjoyed the bagels.

  20. Congratulations on your double nominations! Those bagels look incredible.

  21. First of all can I say jealous! I would have loved a summer like that but I like cooking, being with nature and fishing and …well I can’t say the ocean because I have only visited a few times and can’t say that I can truly appreciate it. But I think I would have. Great story but you really have left us hanging to hear about your next adventure.

    Second that you so much for a great looking bagel recipe. we are moving to Mexico next week and my 3 year old son is a bagel fanatic and I have been secretly trying to figure out how to solve the problem (maybe they have bagel readily accessible in Mexico city, maybe not) and while I have (kinda maybe) come to grips with leaving my kitchen aid behind (I wonder if I can put it in my carry on…I am serious) I still want to give my family what they love.

  22. Loving the videos Aimee! Really good.

    Can you email me please? Something I HAVE to tell you!


  23. Fancy videos!

    Sounds like a great trip and a fun job! I love memories like that.

    And I’ve always wanted to try making bagels but they seem so daunting!

  24. WOW! I’ve never made bagels at home before – your tutorial is so inspiring! And good luck on the awards…!

  25. I am such a dork: I voted once for me and once for you from the other computer 🙂
    It is an honor to be in your company Aimee!
    The bagels are just scrumptious!

  26. Hi Colleen- Thank you. Good luck to you.

    Hi Shayne- I hope you give them a go. A kitchen aid is not at all necessary, in fact I usually knead by hand.

    Hi David- Now I’m curious!

    Hi Abby- The video’s were fun, and really simple to do. Once you’ve done them a first time, it’s so easy after.

    Hi Cookie Pie- Thanks!

    Hi Helen- You are too cute! Thanks for the vote, and the honor is all mine.

  27. What a beautiful post! I truly would love to make my own bagels one of these days.

    Congrats on the nominations… I will be voting today!

  28. Just posted my version of these today on my blog. Thanks so much for the helpful videos and the inspiration! I’m in awe of how you manage to make these with a toddler at home.


  29. Yum, I can’t wait to try this! I’ll be a hero to my family with fresh bagels.

  30. Aimee, the bagels look so yummy! Especially since I’ve been bagel deprived since I left home a month ago. Funny enough, as I was reading, I was thinking “man, it would be great if there were a video to see exactly how their made” and poof…two seconds later, I scroll down to see that there’s a video! Hope all is well back home. Australia’s been great so far! I ended up getting my own backpack at MEC…it’s been great as well. 🙂

  31. I’m making them right now!

  32. I’ve tried other bagel recipes and have miserably failed. these are WONDERFUL. I’ve made them twice, and the second time I made them the night before and underbaked them, and then finished them off in the morning. They’re great! Thanks for sharing!

  33. Amazing story!! Sounds like a great job!!

    I can’t wait to try these. They look delicious and I’m a carboholic so these are right down my alley.

  34. I’m wondering – have you ever made your bagels as a whole wheat only bagel? I am just curious how you would alter the recipe to accomodate the whole wheat flour. Any suggestions? 🙂 My family is on a whole grain or whole wheat bread only plan so, even though these sound SOOOO good, I’d have to figure out how to trade out the white flour. Thanks!

  35. Melody Gardner says

    Well, just stumbled on to your blog. I have been making almost all our bread for years!! OK, I have never made a bagel—can you believe it?? So tomorrow is bread day here, and I am going to throw in a batch of bagels as well. Oh! just to have some smoked salmon. Thank you so much. I have enjoyed your blog.

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