On any given Saturday morning, Rebelle Artisan Bagels is teeming with people. Rhode Islanders young and old rise from their warm beds and venture out to queue in a long line for that chewy, crispy, savory goodness toasted with cream cheese (thank you very much).
Texture, flavor, and atmosphere collide to provide you with the ultimate breakfast experience. But, has the average patron ever stopped to think about the work that goes into making these bagels? Apparently, they have, and now you can learn to make your own.
When owner Milena Pagan first began teaching bagel workshops at Rebelle, she was "feeding" the curious appetite of her customers. According to the self-made bagel expert, many people had questions about how the bagels were made and if store quality was achievable at home. Lucky for them, Pagan was willing to divulge the tricks of the trade.
"A lot of people were really curious to learn how our bagels are made, and given that I started doing this in our home kitchen, it felt like... it's an experience that people can replicate at home really easily if they just understand the techniques and have the right tools."
Workshops are held twice per month on a Sunday after the store closes for the day. When participants arrive, Pagan wastes no time putting them to work. Rebelle's apprentices are told to "scrub in" surgeon-style from the elbows down to ensure the bagels and work space aren't contaminated. Both Pagan and her kitchen manager break down the recipe ingredient by ingredient as they mix the dough. Rebelle's bagel recipe is kept under wraps, but for this two-hour stretch of time, students are let in on the secret.
The two are adamant that the more you know about the chemical makeup of your ingredients, the more prepared you are for a SNAFU, and the better your baking will be. Once the dough has mixed for an appropriate amount of time, it's left to rest, and the staff fields questions. Inquiries range from Rebelle's new culinary endeavors to their business model and inspiration. After the dough has proved or risen, the students learn the proper techniques of pulling, rolling, and "sealing" the dough into a perfect bagel shape.
The next steps in the process go by in a flash. A flurry of boiling, flipping, topping, and baking ensues as the class watches, dumbfounded by the deftness it takes to make a simple product.
The final part of the bagel-making process is by far the best: getting to take the end result home with you. Even more exciting than the bagel-making itself is the sense of fellowship and camaraderie that develops between the participants and staff at Rebelle. For Pagan, community is one of the most important things about her business, and her classes are a way to strengthen her relationship with her customers.
"It helps us build our community, it helps me talk to our customers in a different way than the day-to-day interaction. It just helps strengthen the bond with the community."
Register for classes at Rebelle by signing up for their email updates on their website, RebelleArtisanBagels.com.