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!
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!
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. 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), so now I cut the dough into 18 pieces.
There are two ways to form bagels. One way is to roll each piece of dough into a rope and pinch the ends together creating the bagel. I find it quickest just to pinch each piece together creating a ball, like we do for our Soft 100% Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls.
And then simply use my thumb to punch through the center of the dough ball, stretching a bit as I 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 and even a bit of kosher salt is yummy.
- 2 c. sourdough starter
- 1-1/4 c. water (if your starter is thick, use ¼ c. more)
- 1 Tb. oil
- 5-1/2 -6 c. bread flour (I use ½ whole wheat & ½ all purpose and they're good)
- 1 Tb. salt
- optional ingredients for bagel dough: onion powder & dried flakes for onion bagels; cheese for cheese bagels, herbs, raisins & cinnamon, etc. - this is where you can get creative!
- 1 Tb. baking soda
- Optional glaze & toppings: milk or a glaze made of an egg + water (the egg glaze creates a shiny bagel) and toppings of choice like sesame or poppy seeds, dried onion flakes, cheese, etc.
- Mix starter, water, oil, flour, and salt together and then let rest for 10 minutes.
- Knead the dough with a dough hook on low speed for about 4 minutes - the dough will be very stiff.
- Transfer to a greased large bowl and let rise for 4 hours. Fold the dough over on itself 2 times (or try to- sometimes I don't always remember both folds)
- Pour out the dough onto a floured surface (a lightly floured tea-towel works great), knead a couple of times, flatten and cut into 12-18 equal pieces (about 5 oz. each).
- Shape the bagels by making each piece into a ball and using your thumb to punch a hole through the middle of the ball, stretching to make the center hole. Set the shaped bagels on a parchment or silicone lined baking sheet (12 will fit on one large sheet, if making 18, use two smaller sheets) - they are known for sticking, so this will make removing them much easier.
- Cover the shaped bagels with a damp towel (the one used for cutting works great) and let sit for about an hour.
- Fill a large 12-inch skillet ½ to ¾ full with water and add the tablespoon of soda. Bring it to a boil. Start the oven preheating to 450 degrees at this time.
- When the water is boiling, drop as many bagels as will fit, one at a time, into the boiling water. Boil for 1 minute, turning at the halfway mark. Use a slotted spoon to place the bagels back on the baking sheet. Continue until all the bagels have been boiled.
- Brush the bagels with milk or an egg glaze at this point, if you wish, and top with your desired toppings.
- Bake for 14 to 15 minutes, alternating pans at the halfway point if needed. Cool on a rack.