I Took a Cooking Class Through Amazon Explore. Here’s What I Thought.

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Make bagels with a baker in Montreal, take on tacos with a Mexico City chef or sync with an empanada expert in Buenos Aires—all through Amazon Explore.

Ever follow along with a popular cooking show and swear the host is talking directly to you? Maybe it’s permission to eyeball a measurement (phew), a warning not to rush (guilty) or a legendary line that makes you feel seen—like Julia Child saying, “Every woman should have a blowtorch.” (Right on, Julia!)

With Amazon Explore‘s new cooking classes, the star of the show is, quite literally, talking to you. I signed up for a lesson in making Montreal-style bagels to try the service for the first time.

What is Amazon Explore?

Amazon Explore is a collection of one-on-one virtual experiences, including culinary lessons, shopping excursions, outdoor adventures and cultural encounters that take place around the globe. When the company introduced the service last fall, I didn’t initially jump at the opportunity to spend more time with my laptop. Everything—from conferences to concerts to Grand Canyon tours—had already gone virtual.

But now, as I dive bagel-first into my introductory experience, I realize what sets Amazon Explore apart. These aren’t your basic broadcasts. Not only are they live, they’re private and interactive. So you can tell your host to hang on a sec while you scour your pantry for an ingredient, or you can ask, “Will pastry flour work in place of all-purpose flour?” (In the case of this bagel recipe, that’s a negative.) And for anyone who bakes (or sautes or rolls sushi) in their PJs, rest easy: Amazon Explore’s audio is two way but the video is not. You can see the host, but they can’t see you.

My Cooking Class Experience

“Everything OK with your sink?” my baking instructor asks as I anxiously wait for my tap to hit tepid. “Yeah, just a slow-warming sink,” I explain. “I’ll wait!” she assures me. “You said one cup, right?” I holler at my laptop. “That’s right!” she confirms. I’m only minutes into my first Amazon Explore cooking class and already I see the appeal of one-on-one attention.

My teacher today is Erin from The Lincoln Apartment Bakery in Montreal. And nice as she is, knowing she can’t see my occasional flub (or the state of my kitchen) takes the pressure off. After we compare weather (it’s sunny in both Montreal and L.A., where I am), Erin asks what interests me about bagels. I tell her I’m a former New Yorker and therefore view bagels as a lifestyle. I also admit that I’ve been to Montreal and tasted the doughy deliciousness at St-Viateur, Canada’s bagel haven. I know I’m supposed to pledge allegiance to NYC in the global bagel wars, but I confess that Montreal-style rings are also ridiculously good.

If I’m a bagel shop devotee, Erin is the dough-centric Dalai Lama. To my glee, she rattles off Montreal-style bagel facts as we combine ingredients. Here’s a sesame-tossed taste of what I learn:

  • In Montreal, bagels are made only as single-seed flavors: sesame and poppy (sorry, no “everything”).
  • They’re sweeter than the Big Apple version, thanks to honey.
  • They’re made in wood-burning ovens (locals joke that Montreal smog is bagel based).
  • They’re thinner and have bigger holes than the NYC kind.

Bagels Amazon Explore01Amelia Mularz for Taste of Home

Soon enough we’ve created dough. Erin asks about the consistency of my bready blob, and this is where a two-way camera might come in handy. But after comparing what she holds up to the camera to what’s in my bowl, I determine I’m in a good place.

Bagels Amazon Explore 02Amelia Mularz for Taste of Home

We’ve only got about 10 minutes left of our hour-long class and my dough needs time to proof (or rise) before I can begin shaping the rings. Erin explains that she has a pre-made batch of dough ready to go, so she’ll show me how to finish the bagels later on when I’m ready. I sit back and watch as she effortlessly forms rings that she then places on her wrists and circles like a rhythmic gymnast to create large center holes. She then boils the rings in honey-sweetened water before covering them in sesame seeds and baking them in the oven. “Voila!” she says. “Bagel magic.” I thank her for the class and we say our goodbyes.

Bagels Amazon Explore03Amelia Mularz for Taste of Home

A couple hours later, I pull out my dough and feel a minor pang of missing Erin, but tell myself, I can do this. My ring making is notably less rhythmic and when I drop a pair into the boiling water they open up and writhe like angry tentacles. “ERIN!” I screech.

My husband pops his head in and asks, “Who’s Erin?”

“Never mind!” I shout and shoo him away. He’s playing some apocalyptic alien video game in the living room, yet there’s more agonized yelling coming from the kitchen than the TV.

The photos! YES! I remember, as I run to my laptop. Amazon Explore’s platform includes built-in photo-snapping capabilities. At any time during class, you can click a camera icon and take a screenshot. The service then sends you all your photos after the lesson. I review the snaps I took of Erin forming her rings and this fills me with confidence.

Bagels 3Amelia Mularz for Taste of Home

Eventually, I get my rings to re-form and lay them on a plate to cover with seeds. Here’s where I’m thankful I’m on my own with no camera to catch my cooking. I’m about to commit the cardinal sin of Canadian bagel making: I blanket my creations in everything bagel seasoning. Sorry, Erin, I think as I chuckle devilishly to myself. I gotta do this my way.

The Final Verdict

Fifteen minutes later, I’m pulling warm bagels from the oven, wishing I could proudly show Erin my finished product. Instead, I plot my next class. Should I hang with pasta pros from Tuscany? Or meet a salsa savant in Mexico City? As I’ve discovered, the real treat of Amazon Explore isn’t the food you make, but the foodies you meet in the process.

Try Amazon Explore

Want to give Amazon Explore a go? Eligible Prime members can try their first live virtual experience up to $50 for free! Prime members can check out the promotion to browse experiences and learn more.

How to redeem your Prime free experience*:

  • Head to the Amazon Explore Prime member promotion page
  • Browse all experiences under $50
  • Once at checkout, enter code FREEFUN to redeem
  • The price of the experience will be deducted, bringing your total to $0.00

Try Amazon Explore

*The promotion code can only be used once by Prime members who have not yet purchased an Amazon Explore experience and only on experiences under $50.

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Amelia Mularz
Amelia is a writer who covers both food and travel. Her favorite pilgrimages include Mexico City for the mole, Tel Aviv for the hummus and Wisconsin for the curds. She lives in Los Angeles, where she can be found forever exploring the city's street taco scene.