Holey moly: Yukon’s new bagel business is already generating buzz

By 5 a.m. every Saturday morning the commercial kitchen owned by L'Association franco-yukonnaise in downtown Whitehorse is already humming.

By 5 a.m. every Saturday morning the commercial kitchen owned by L’Association franco-yukonnaise in downtown Whitehorse is already humming.

If you were to walk by there’s a good chance you’ll hear CBC radio 2’s Nightstream on the radio. There are no hosts on the air at that hour, just music to entertain Alena Puskas and Adrian Burrill as they go about what is quickly becoming a weekly ritual.

It’ll probably smell really good too.

Puskas and Burrill are behind the territory’s latest culinary venture, Bullet Hole Bagels. In the three weeks since the company started offering freshly-made bagels to Yukoners once a week the pair is already having to turn out about 300 bagels at a time.

Their bagels are made from scratch, which sets them apart from the store-bought variety that are often frozen and shipped in from Outside, Burrill said.

Puskas insists getting up that early in the morning is actually fun.

“You get there early in the morning and you just feel ready to make as many bagels as possible and there’s no slow time,” she says.

“It’s constant, you’re either making and mixing a new batch, you’re boiling some, you’re putting some in the oven, watching what’s in the oven.”

Burrill agrees, “It’s kind of like a challenge every morning.”

When the duo made their first publicly available bagels for sale they sent out an email to family and friends. By the second week the line up included many unfamiliar faces.

“The second Saturday we were really surprised. All of a sudden there were people who saw it on Facebook or came across our website or (heard) through word of mouth and it had already grown beyond friends and family,” Puskas says.

Bullet Hole Bagels takes pre-orders for bagels on its website. Half a dozen bagels cost $7.50 and come in either sesame or poppy seed varieties.

Burrill and Puskas bake the bagels in the wee morning hours every Saturday, to be picked up between 8 and 10 a.m. They’ll make a few extras to sell alongside the pre-orders on a first-come first-serve basis.

For those not eager to bounce out of bed early on a Saturday morning Bullet Hole Bagels will have a booth at this year’s Fireweed Community Market, starting tomorrow in Shipyards Park.

Those bagels will be made fresh from scratch Thursday morning.

The idea to start making their own bagels came in January. Burrill and Puskas were at dinner with friends chatting about the dearth of fresh bagels in the Yukon.

By the end of the night things had gotten much more serious, discussing would-be business models and business names.

Burrill once lived next to the famed Fairmount Bagel, Montreal’s oldest bagel shop, and he knew what a good bagel could taste like.

Whether or not they would be able to make a version of their own was a different question altogether.

To make a bagel from scratch the dough gets mixed, kneaded and left to rise. It’s then cut up and rolled into the recognizable ring shape, boiled in honey water and baked.

Both Burrill and Puskas bake for fun at home, but neither have any professional training.

Their first attempts were more likely to turn into “poofs” – something closer to a bun – or “pretzels” than recognizable bagels, Burrill says.

“There was a lot of experimenting that happened and eventually we got good enough and decided to make it a reality.”

It took months of practice, the help of a friend who used to bake bagels professionally, and many, many willing taste-testers before they were able to come up with a flavour they like.

To be labelled a Montreal bagel, the holey creation has to be baked in a wood-fired oven. Since Burrill and Puskas are confined to conventional ovens they’ve come up with a new name for their bagel.

“We like to say that they are Yukon bagels, not Montreal bagels. They’re Montreal inspired,” Burrill says.

Burrill says the Yukon bagels have the malty flavour people associate with the Montreal variety and “a nice dense and chewy dough.”

He says he’s flattered that people think the pair have been professionally trained.

“It’s great that we’re fooling people. It means that we’re doing a good job.”

Eventually both Burrill and Puskas say they’d like to expand beyond their rented kitchen. Right now this is a part-time job for both of them. This summer is a trial run of sorts to see if the business is sustainable.

“We have dreams of a little shop some day…” Puskas says.

“Sell some sandwiches and coffee on the side,” Burrill adds.

More information on the company and how to pre-order bagels for a Saturday pick-up can be found online at bulletholebagels.com.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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