Recipe: Sourdough Bagels

A Wordloaf/Grainiac co-production


Sourdough Bagels

Makes eight 130g bagels

Overall Formula

100% high-gluten or bread flour 

61% water

6.75% sugar

1.5% barley malt syrup

1% diastatic malt powder (optional)

2.2% salt

75% stiff levain/30% pre-fermented flour

Sweet Levain

83g 80˚F water

37g sugar

124g 50% hydration starter (see below for details)

165g high-gluten or bread flour


386g high gluten or bread flour

6g diastatic malt powder (if using)

254g cool (60˚F) water

8g barley malt syrup

409g levain (from above)

12g salt


5 quarts water

1/4 cup barley malt syrup

1 tablespoon baking soda or 2 teaspoons sodium carbonate or 1 teaspoon lye

1 teaspoon salt

  1. FOR THE SWEET LEVAIN: Combine water, sugar, and starter in a medium bowl and stir until combined and sugar is dissolved. Add flour and knead by hand until even in texture. Cover bowl and let sit at 75-80˚F until doubled in volume, 4 to 6 hours. Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 12 hours before using.

  2. FOR THE DOUGH: Place flour, diastatic malt (if using), water, malt syrup, and all of the sweet levain in a food processor (or a stand mixer fitted with dough hook) and process until dough is just mixed and no dry flour remains, 20 to 30 seconds (1 to 2 minutes in a stand mixer on medium speed). Allow to sit for 30 minutes (loosely covered if using a stand mixer).

  3. Add salt and process until even ball forms (dough will remain slightly rough-textured), 20 to 30 seconds (5 to 7 minutes in a stand mixer at medium speed).

  4. Desired dough temperature: 78˚F

  5. Knead dough on lightly-flour counter until smooth. Transfer to lightly-oiled bowl, cover, and let sit at 75-80˚F for 2 hours, with coil folds at 45 and 90 minutes.

  6. Transfer to refrigerator and let sit for 12 to 18 hours.

  7. TO BOIL AND BAKE: Line cookie sheet or rimmed baking sheet with silicone mat (or parchment paper lightly coated with nonstick spray). Divide dough into eight 130g pieces, transfer to sheet, cover, and let rest until dough has warmed to 60˚F, 60 to 90 minutes. 

  8. Working with 1 dough ball at a time and keeping remaining pieces covered, shape each ball into a tight, smooth round and return to sheet. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes.

  9. Coat dough balls lightly with flour and then shape bagels and return to sheet. Cover bagels and let rest until slightly puffy, 30 to 90 minutes.

  10. Thirty minutes before baking, set oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Bring water to boil in large Dutch oven. Remove pot from heat, add malt syrup and stir to dissolve. Add baking soda and salt (slowly to avoid foaming) and then cover pot until needed.

  11. Bring pot of water back to boil over high heat, then reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Transfer 4 bagels to water, top side down, and let cook until they float, 20 to 60 seconds. Using a wire skimmer or slotted spoon, flip bagels over and cook 20 seconds longer. Using wire skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer to wire rack to drain. Repeat with remaining 4 bagels.

  12. Coat bagels if desired (see below for directions), transfer to parchment, and bake until deep golden brown, 18 to 24 minutes, rotating pan after 10 minutes. Transfer bagels to a wire rack and let cool for at least 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

TO COAT BAGELS: Place 1 cup poppy seeds, sesame seeds, caraway seeds, onion flakes, garlic flakes, or everything mix in small bowl. Place just-boiled bagels gently in topping, flip to coat second side, then return to pan. 

EVERYTHING TOPPING RECIPE: Combine 2 tablespoons poppy seeds, 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, 1 tablespoon onion flakes, 2 teaspoons garlic flakes, 2 teaspoons caraway seeds, and 1/2 teaspoon coarse or pretzel salt.

TO CONVERT A LIQUID STARTER TO A STIFF ONE: Combine 100g flour, 37g water, and 50g 100% hydration levain in a bowl, and then knead until uniform. (Aim for a DDT of 78˚F.) Transfer to a covered container and allow to proof at 78˚F until doubled, 4 to 6 hours, then use or refrigerate for up to 1 week.

TO REFRESH A STIFF STARTER FOR USE HERE: 2:1:1 flour/water/starter, i.e., 150g flour, 75g water, and 75g stiff starter.