After many attempts at making bagels, I finally found a great whole wheat-yeast bagel recipe from my friend Gina. But then my sourdough started taking off and I found I was making most of our bread with my sourdough starter, so I needed to create a way to replicate the successful recipe to work with my starter.
I tweaked two sourdough recipes and combined them with Gina’s method to develop what I think are the perfect sourdough bagels- in fact, my family loves it when I make these!
Simple Sourdough Bagels Tutorial
It’s always best to start with a really active sourdough starter. I’ve written previously about how I grew my sourdough starter and the tips I use to keep it active without a lot of work and I’ve managed to keep it alive for many years doing this.
The picture above was taken in the morning after I had gotten the starter out of the fridge the night before, fed it and left it on the counter so it was ready to go in the morning.
When all the ingredients are mixed, you will notice that this dough is much stiffer than other doughs, pulling cleanly away from the bowl. It really gives the mixer a work out!
TIP: Sourdough does take longer to rise, though, so I usually plan to mix it in the morning and finish it in the evening right before dinner.
When it’s ready to shape, transfer it to a floured surface (I use a towel whenever I’m dealing with bread- it’s easy clean-up and less flour needed).
Separate the dough into 12-18 pieces.
TIP: In order to get somewhat equal pieces, I like to flatten the dough with a rolling pin- approximately a 10×13-inch rectangle is good – and use a sharp knife to cut into equal (or as equal as you can) pieces. Then it’s easy to cut a little from the bigger pieces and add to the corners.
I used to make a dozen, but found that the bagels just were too big (I think store-bought ones are too big, too – it’s part of my real-food-in-moderation philosophy), so now I cut the dough into 18 pieces.
There are two ways to form bagels:
- The first is to roll each piece of dough into a rope and pinch the ends together creating the bagel.
- I find the second way to be the quickest: pinch each piece together creating a ball, like my Soft 100% Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls, and then:
Simply use your thumb to punch through the center of the dough ball, stretching a bit as you do in order to create the classic bagel shape.
It’s not perfect (but that’s hardly ever my goal, remember?), but it will puff more during the boiling and baking stages.
After all the bagels have been shaped, set them aside to rest for about an hour under a dampened towel.
The classic ingredient to add to the water for bagels is malt syrup. Right. Obviously most of us never have that around.
That’s one of the reasons I loved Gina’s yeast recipe- she used baking soda and it turned out wonderful bagels that weren’t all misshapen like the others I had tried that used honey as a replacement. For some reason using just soda alone creates the most uniform bagels for me.
Boil the bagels for one minute, turning them at the halfway mark.
The bagels on the right have been boiled, those on the left not. You can see that they puff up a bit during this stage. It’s OK to put them close together on the baking sheet, as they won’t puff up much more during baking.
Bake as is, or coat with a bit of milk or an egg glaze (water+beaten egg) and the topping of your choice- sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried onion flakes. Even a bit of kosher salt is yummy on these sourdough bagels.