In the Kitchen with Dad

August 22, 2009 at 2:47 pm 75 comments

This morning I woke up to Tilly and Otis. They were both sitting on top of me. Otis was staring at my bedroom window, eyes locked on a fly buzzing on the glass, and Tilly was lying on my stomach and gazing intently at me. Ever since we got Tilly back, I appreciate every moment with her more than ever and she seems to appreciate it too.

Although it’s been a week since Tilly came home, Dad still gets calls from people who think they saw her. While most are mistaken, a few have been right, and we’ve been able to piece together a bit more about what happened to her that night. Once again, I’m utterly amazed by how compassionate people are. Tilly was smack in the middle of a four lane 40 mph road, at night in the rain. A woman saw her and actually parked her car at an angle across multiple lanes to block traffic. Then she jumped out of her car to get Tilly.

Tilly ran, but this woman chased her between houses and through neighborhoods before finally realizing she couldn’t grab Tilly. She walked back, sopping wet, where a police car was parked, lights flashing, and an officer was directing traffic around her car. I honestly can’t believe it! Knowing people like that exist make me feel all warm and soft inside. Warm and soft as… a fresh bagel.

By the time I got out of bed, the house was warm and smelled like flour and yeast – one of my all time favorite smells. Dad was in pajamas too. He had already made the dough and it was rising in the microwave, one of my mom’s tricks. The kitchen counter isn’t warm enough in Seattle, so she microwaves a small cup of water for 3-4 minutes. This makes the microwave warm and humid, a great place for the bread to rise.

“Bagels?” I asked, seeing the open cookbook. “Can I help?”

The first thing I helped do was punch down the dough. As some of you might know, I have no bread experience at all and get a little nervous about it. But I’ve always wanted to make bagels, and I love the feeling of the dough. It’s soft and firm and elastic all at once.

Even though I mostly bake cakes, cookies, and sweets, there’s something about baking breakfast that brings me unique happiness. It’s something about the soft natural light, streaming in through the windows, and the birds making their first rounds around the yard. It’s the warmth of the kitchen in comparison to the cool wood floors of the rest of the house… And the fact that I’m in pajamas still and there is no stress whatsoever.

I watched Dad separate the dough into 8 and then we started forming the bagels. He formed each 1/8th of the dough into a ball by cupping the bottom between his palms and squeezing together. He rotated the ball and kept cupping and pressing together, so that it formed a smooth sphere. Then he floured a finger and made a hole in it, pressing straight through. Then he worked the entire thing, using more fingers, to expand the hole and smooth the sides.

The bagels rise a bit longer, then you boil them and bake them. And wow… there’s really something about pulling a rack of perfect, golden, puffy bagels out of the oven. It makes your heart flutter a little bit. It makes you wonder why you even bother with cinnamon raisin or chocolate chip or blueberry when you can make these simple, delicious ones all by yourself.

Of course, I have yet to make them all by myself. But my Dad is a good teacher. He mostly cooks dinner, which may or may not interest me depending on my mood. He bakes a little… not as well as me :) But his eclairs are always delicious and he will always make me a birthday cake if I want one, even though it’s admittedly not his thing. But the one thing I always like to see him make is bread. Challah, parker house rolls, Italian flatbread, spinach rolls, it always fascinates me and makes me suddenly forget all about chocolate and vanilla beans.

We ate our bagels outside with the dogs, and it was perfect. I went pretty simple. I spread some slightly cold cream cheese, which softened right away on the warm bagel. Then I topped it with some homemade blackberry jam that our friend A- made for us. The bagel was chewy and soft and puffy, and the jam and cream cheese was perfectly sweet and tangy. I think I ate the whole thing in record speed.

But Dad is a bit more sophisticated. He went for cream cheese too, but added some capers. Then he grabbed a Mr. Stripey tomato that he grew himself in his own garden and sliced it into thick, juicy rounds.

I was starting to wonder whether I should have forgone the jam.

He topped the bagels with the tomato and pulled out some of his very own homemade lox. If there’s one type of fish I can’t resist, it’s salmon, and his lox is the best.

How can any day go wrong when it starts like this?

Basic Bagels
From Ultimate Bread
Makes 8 bagels

2 tsp dry yeast
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) warm water
3 1/2 cups (500 g) unbleached flour, plus extra for kneading
1 1/2 tsp salt

Sprinkle the yeast and sugar into 1/2 cup of the water in a small bowl. Leave for 5 minutes and then stir to dissolve. In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt together. Form a well in the center and pour in the dissolved yeast.

Pour half of the remaining water into the well. Mix in the flour and stir in the reserved water as needed, forming a firm and moist dough. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Gradually work in as much additional flour as possible while comfortably kneading to form a stiff and firm dough.

Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turning the dough to coat it. Cover with a towel and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size. Punch down and let the dough rest 10 minutes.

Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Shape each piece into a ball – cup between your hands and press the bottoms together between your palms. Press down to get rid of air bubbles and roll the dough between your palm and the work surface to form a smooth ball. Coat a finger in flour and press it through each ball to form a ring.

Work the rest of your fingers into the hole, stretching the ring and widening the hole to about 1/3 of the bagel’s diameter. Place the bagels on a lightly oiled baking sheet and cover with a damp towel. Let rest for 10 minutes and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Bring a large pan of water to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Use a perforated skimmer to lowel the bagels into the water in batches of 2-3. Boil, uncovered, until they rise to the surface, about 1 minute. Turn them over once. Then remove from the pan, letting the water drain, and transfer to a lightly oiled baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes, until golden, and cool on a wire rack.

Dad’s Homemade Lox

1 lb skinless tail section of salmon (tail section doesn’t have pin bones)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup smoked salt (use kosher if unavailable)
Heaping tbsp dried dill
1 tsp finely ground black pepper

Place a large sheet of plastic wrap on a tray. Sprinkle half the cure over the wrap and place the fish in it. Sprinkle the top of the fish with the remaining cure, and wrap tightly. Cover heavily with weights (Dad uses a large pot filled with cans.) Refrigerate. Cures in about 24 hours, depending on the thickness of the fish.

Drain the drip tray and rinse the fish. Pat dry with a paper towel and slice thinly on a bias. Keep refrigerated.

Printer Friendly Recipe – Basic Bagels and Dad’s Homemade Lox

Entry filed under: Breads, Breakfast/Brunch, Other Treats. Tags: , , , .

Happily Ever After Baking with an Honorary Daring Baker – Mini Dobos Torte

75 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Preston  |  August 22, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    Wow, that’s an amazing story with Tilly. And bagels are absolutely the best breakfast food! I’m jealous of you being able to have homemade bagels.

  • 2. Sara@SproutedKitchen  |  August 22, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    yum, your dad’s bagel looks like a masterpiece. great photos!

  • 3. Julia @ Mélanger  |  August 22, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    I’ve only made bagels once. They were okay, but these look so delicious. Lovely and chewy! I would love to have baked with my dad. What a real pleasure it must be for you!

  • 4. Sis  |  August 22, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    YUM! Those bagels look so amazing and tender! I remember my very first bagel ever, I fell in love immediately…

    My mom taught me that trick too, about the microwave and warm water. :)

  • 5. Shannon L  |  August 22, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    loooks amazing! for some reason i always do yeast goods for breakfast like cinnamon rolls and donuts instead of any other time going to have to try these

  • 6. Amanda  |  August 22, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    I really want to try making my own bagels too! Until then, I’ll just have to settle for Thomas’. :)

  • 7. Kim, Rambling Family Manager  |  August 22, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    You are making some lovely memories with your dad! I’m betting this is a post you will treasure for a long, long time. :)

  • 8. Monica H  |  August 23, 2009 at 12:38 am

    Oh yum! I can’t resist the smell of baking bread. I wish someone would bake for me while I was sleeping. can I come over?

  • 9. Hannah  |  August 23, 2009 at 2:39 am

    I’ve been a long time reader of your blog. Being a ‘young’ (not quite as young as you, I’m 20) foodie seems quite rare, so I was drawn to your blog instantly. Plus, the things you tend to make are always delicious and similar to the things I like to make.

    I’ve been wanting to make my own bagels for ages now. Here in England it’s immensly hard to come across a decent one, you (and your dad) have inspired me to go for it, so I’m going to pick up the ingrediants to make some today. I’ll let you know how they turn out!

    Quick question before I dash off, what camera do you use? Your photos are always beautiful, yet ina simplistic way that I adore. It’s my 21st soon and a decent camera may just be the perfect present.

    Hope you’re having an enjoyable weekend.


    • 10. Elissa  |  August 23, 2009 at 10:00 am

      Jon and Hannah – Thanks so much for de-lurking! I appreciate all the comments! :)

      Hannah, the camera I’m using is a Canon Rebel XTi with a 50 mm 1.8 lens. It seems to be the most common “food blogger” camera and lens. When I started this blog, I was using a Kodak Easyshare point and shoot. I think the first post where I switched cameras was the Lemon-Thyme Shortbread Hearts. I absolutely adore the Canon. It takes gorgeous photos, the colors are simply beautiful and the photos are sharp. The lens is also a great deal, much cheaper than most lenses (around $100) and it takes nice food photos and portraits.

      Puppydog – To make the microwave a warm place for the bread to rise, take a coffee mug and fill it with some water. Then microwave it for 3-4 minutes until it boils a little, filling the microwave with steam and hot air. This is a really good place for your bread to rise. Don’t open the microwave, just leave the cup there. Meanwhile, you can deal with the yeast. The yeast doesn’t go in the microwave. You take a cup or bowl of warm water and put your finger in it, it should be at that temperature or a little warmer, but not hot – better too cold than too hot. If the recipe calls for sugar, like this one, dissolve the sugar (mostly) in the water and then add the yeast. Let the yeast sit on the water for about 5 minutes, then stir to dissolve. Break up the clumps with a wooden spoon, then pour it into the flour as directed in the recipe. Use additional water to remove the yeast that sticks to the sides. After you’ve added the yeast water to the flour, stir a little to make a thick paste and then let it sit for a minute. Most of the flour will be dry and unstirred. By this point the microwave will be pretty warm, and that’s where you can put the dough, in the bowl and covered with a towel, to rise. Keep the microwave closed and leave the mug inside. Check it in about an hour, it should double in size.

  • 11. Hannah  |  August 23, 2009 at 2:40 am

    Oh and I forgot to mention – smoked salmon (lox) is definitely in my top 5 favouriten foods ever. In the UK Scotland is famed for it and I always enjoy it. I have it on thinly sliced buttered wholemeal bread. x

  • 12. Lucy  |  August 23, 2009 at 4:10 am

    The Tilly story just gets more special – its like something out of a movie! I’m wary of making anything that involves yeast, but your bagels turned out so perfectly!

  • 13. Cousin Sharon  |  August 23, 2009 at 5:56 am

    Looks like your dad is a better cook than your grandfather was!

  • 14. Jon H  |  August 23, 2009 at 7:29 am

    I’ve been reading your blog for about a month now, and I have to say, I am really amazed with your talent. Not just as a chef, but as a storyteller and photographer. Keep up the good work!

  • 15. Puppydogs  |  August 23, 2009 at 8:45 am

    Hi, Love your site!

    Can you tell me a little more about yeast in the microwave? Please, pretty please?

    I am yeast challenged and have problems with getting my dough to rise.


  • 16. carolyn  |  August 23, 2009 at 11:14 am

    this sounds like a lovely morning :)

  • 17. Valérie  |  August 23, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    Indeed, a wonderful way to start the day…

    Bagels with salmon and cream cheese is a staple food here in Montreal. Our bagels tend to be hard and crispy, rather than soft, but either way, it’s a winner of a sandwich (though I’m more likely to have it for lunch or brunch than for breakfast). You’re so lucky to be able to share baking experiences with your father, it sounds like you have a great time together. And if there are such lovely golden bagels at the end of it, so much the better!

  • 18. Melissa  |  August 23, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    I love your blog! I have a little something for you over at my blog at


    (I know you’ve seen this before, but I couldn’t help but recognize you again!)

  • 19. conniex721  |  August 23, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    I’ve wanted to make bagels for so long! These ones look delicious. I’ve always thought about making banana walnut bagels. Or banana peanut butter bagels. Would that work? I have no idea. =p

  • 20. swee  |  August 23, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    wow, this looks great!! I’ve never eaten bagel before cause they don’t really appeal to me .. but this looks good. sounds easy to make too..
    Great job!

  • 21. Erin  |  August 24, 2009 at 5:47 am

    These are some of the most perfect homemade bagels I’ve ever seen! My mom and I used to make bagels and they always came out looking like a 4th grade pottery experiment gone wrong. Lovely work!

  • 22. stephchows  |  August 24, 2009 at 8:37 am

    what an amazing story! It makes you feel better and gives you hope that there are good people out there :)

  • 23. Tania  |  August 24, 2009 at 10:49 am

    Oh my goodness!!

    I love the way you tie your stories to your recipes (: I was wondering how you’d relate Tilly’s story to the bagels..

    And I wasn’t planning on eating breakfast… but I think this post just reversed my decision. Home-grown tomatoes? Smoked salmon? Haha I really wish I was your neighbor!!! (: You would get sick of me pretty quickly!

    Yummy! Can’t wait for your next post–checkerboard cookies? :D

  • 24. Bones  |  August 24, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    I have made bagels in the past, but I always find that they get stale after about a day, even with proper storage. How do yours keep?

    • 25. Elissa  |  August 24, 2009 at 5:48 pm

      Bones – First of all I think bagels keep best uncut. Right now ours have a double protection. They’re individually tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, and under a glass cake dome. They are a little tougher/chewier, but otherwise okay after two days. There’s a few different things you can do… microwave the bagel for 15 seconds if you’re in a hurry, this warms it up and softens it a little. Or you can bake the bagels again in a 350 degree F oven for 8-10 minutes, spritzing them with water and wrapping them in foil. If the bagels are stale, popping them in the toaster could help. Finally our bagels freeze pretty well, so freeze all that you can’t eat in a day and take them out when needed.

  • 26. Madison  |  August 24, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    I’m so glad your dog was found. I know the agony of wondering where your dog is if they’re hurt, etc. There are some good people left in the world.

    Thos bagels look so yummy, thanks to your pictures!

  • 27. Madison  |  August 24, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    I forgot to add that I’ve never heard the trick about putting the dough in the microwave to make it rise. Neat!

  • 28. Steph  |  August 24, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    Your bagels are gorgeous! I can never get mine as smooth as yours.

  • 29. nutmegnanny  |  August 25, 2009 at 8:55 am

    I have always wanted to make bagels. It looks like you two had a great time:)

  • 30. Gala  |  August 26, 2009 at 3:42 am

    wow! these look amazing!!!

  • 31. Rosa  |  August 26, 2009 at 4:21 am

    Fantastic! I cannot live without that kind of homemeade food! Your bagels are beautiful!



  • 32. Brian Robertson  |  August 30, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    Great blog post and wonderful recipe. I will have to try it since I have never made a bagel before.

  • 33. Eliana  |  August 31, 2009 at 9:47 am

    Homemade bagels are the absolute best. These look super yummy. If you weren’t on the west coast, I’d figure out a way to “stop by” to have some.

  • 34. Juli  |  September 8, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    We make homemade bread and I love it so much more than the bread we made from the store.

    Also, I never really realized what the thing was in the third picture. Because we have one, but we just use this huge knife to chop the dough.

  • 35. Joanne  |  September 9, 2009 at 9:46 am

    Tilly’s story is an amazing one and I am so happy for you and your family! On a different note, I have always wanted to make my own bagels! If I get lucky, I make it to my neighborhood bagel shop while the bagels are still warm and soft. Yours look wonderful and the process looks fun too so I definitely think it is worth a try.

    You have a great site here, well done! I have just recently started my own blog with my husband of 4 months called Inspired Taste. We are definitely in the beginning stages, but seeing how well you are doing and how talented you are is inspiring. I will definitely be following 17 and baking to see what is next! Thanks!!

  • 36. Yumi  |  September 9, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    I live in NYC, and supposedly the bagels here are the best…but I don’t think they can top this. No way. I LOVE smoked salmon, but on the funds of a starving (student) artist, there’s no way I can afford it. Tell your dad to send some lox my way! >w<

  • 37. Bagels and Homemade Lox « Foodshots  |  September 10, 2009 at 1:26 am

    […] This morning I woke up to Tilly and Otis. They were both sitting on top of me. Otis was staring at my bedroom window, eyes locked on a fly buzzing on the glass, and Tilly was lying on my stomach and gazing intently at me. Ever since we got Tilly back, I appreciate every moment with her more than ever and she seems to appreciate it too … [read more] […]

  • 38. Bianca  |  October 4, 2009 at 2:04 am

    Yum, mine are in the oven right now. So far so good, they surely won’t look as fine as yours but I hope they’re still gonna be yummy. Can’t wait! I’ll let you know how they turn out :)

  • 39. Jessica  |  October 8, 2009 at 6:24 am

    I came across your blog on Tastespotting, and just had to try these. They came out perfectly, thank you so much!! I’m an American in Northern Ireland at the moment, so it’s great to have a taste of home that I can make myself. :)

  • 40. Emily  |  December 12, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    I made your bagels this evening in my little steamy kitchen and they turned out amazing! Can’t wait to eat them for breakfast tomorrow. I am a Canadian living in Dublin, Ireland and I have discovered that finding more specialized baking ingredients in Ireland can be quite a challenge, if not impossible! I loved this simple recipe.

  • 41. stephanie  |  December 23, 2009 at 9:01 am

    You are having an amazing life! Your passion for what you love is inspiring! I think I just got one of the best Christmas presents ever….your blog.
    Smiles and Encouragment to you=)

  • 42. Tiffany  |  December 27, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    Can’t wait to try this recipe. Always have a craving for “everything” bagels, and can’t get them when I want them! I will make my own!
    Congrats on the blog! I tried, and can’t stick with it : /

  • 43. Elizabeth  |  January 25, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    These were wonderful – thanks for the recipe and great directions! It was also helpful to see what the dough should look like. I sprinkled mine with sesame seeds :)

  • 44. Jasenka  |  February 28, 2010 at 5:03 am

    Thank you and your dad for these perfect bagels :)

  • 45. erinholcomb  |  March 1, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    omg. your dad is my kind of bagel eater. can’t wait to try these!

  • 46. gena  |  March 4, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    all the best for you and for you family, from Romania

  • 47. Zara  |  May 24, 2010 at 6:18 am

    Hi! I found your blog a few months ago and love it! I’ve been planning on making these bagels for a while and it finally came together yesterday.

    I had some challenges (I’m a Peace Corps Volunteer in Cameroon), like the fact that my oven is a big pot, I can’t set a specific temperature and I could only cook 3 bagels at a time (threw off the timing a little). But the bagels turned out delicious! (A little flat, my yeast didn’t proof well, it’s a new brand). Unfortunately there was no cream cheese or lox in sight, but they made great egg and avocado sandwiches this morning.

    All the best! Thanks for providing a taste of home.

  • 48. Emma @ Poires au Chocolat  |  May 25, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    I made these this morning – they’re gorgeous! I ended up eating one of them with cream cheese, raspberries and passionfruit which turned out to be a great idea. I posted about it on my blog – have a look if you like :)

  • 49. Carly  |  May 27, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    I woke up yesterday morning with an itching to do something new in the kitchen. I had never worked with yeast before, only because it always seemed so daunting, but yesterday I was so in the mood for a challenge. I decided to make these bagels, and 1. it was much simpler than I expected! and 2. they were absolutely delicious! I ate one fresh out of the oven with a bit of avocado, tomato and fresh cracked pepper, and then had a second one this morning for breakfast with a bit of cream cheese, some fresh blueberries and a drizzle of honey. SOOOOOO YUMMY! Thanks, Elissa :)

  • 50. Boiling bagels - Olivia's Blog - Butler University  |  June 1, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    […] I struck out one morning with bagels. The recipe, which you can find here, is not that difficult, but I forgot to factor in all the in-between rising times (ten minutes […]

  • 51. My Top 5 Favorite Foodie Blogs « Warm Vanilla Sugar  |  June 18, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    […] unique, and often not found on any other blogs. My favorite 17 and Baking recipe is definitely the homemade bagels, they are perfect. Jut look at this amazing photo taken by Elissa: *Photo taken by Elissa at 17 […]

  • 52. Stephanie  |  October 16, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    Just made these this morning, they turned out deliciously!

    I was lazy and i used the dough hook on my kitchen aid to knead the dough


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Elissa Bernstein

I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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