Recipe: Sourdough Bagels
A Wordloaf/Grainiac co-production
This recipe works with high gluten (King Arthur Sir Lancelot) flour, bread flour and high-extraction (bolted) bread flour from Ground Up, with no other changes to the recipe. (If using other high-extraction flours, you might need to reduce or increase the water slightly.)
Diastatic malt, a specialty item you can get from baking supply companies, will help with browning if available. If you don’t have any yet, don’t sweat it.
The barley malt syrup in the dough is for flavor. You can also use 6g dry malt powder (not malted milk powder or diastatic malt). If neither of these are unavailable, use 6g (1 teaspoon) of molasses instead. (Use 2 tablespoons molasses in the bagel bath too.)
Barley malt syrup should be available in supermarkets, and is definitely available at beer brewing supply shops.
Non-diastatic malt powder is also available from baking supply companies and beer brewing supply shops:
You can mix this dough entirely by hand if desired. Just be sure to combine the levain with the water in the final dough evenly before adding the remaining ingredients (a French whisk or pastry cutter can help to do so).
You won’t see much activity in the dough before retarding it; not to worry, the high percentage of preferment in the dough means it will be plenty proofed nonetheless.
I have made this recipe with both the belly-button-poke and the rope & twist bagel shaping method, and both work, though the latter can tend to unravel in the boil if not very forcefully sealed. For that reason, I think the belly-button-poke method works best here. (This is something I’d like to fix someday.)
No matter which shaping method you use, be sure to stretch the bagels to about 4 inches in diameter, with a 2-inch center hole, otherwise the bagels will close up and have a conical shape.
If you really want to emphasize the hole, you can give the rings one last stretch just before they go into the bath.
Lay the bagels on the pan in an 8-of-diamonds pattern, like this:
The baking soda/carbonate/lye in the boil will also help with browning.
The malt bath will foam up when adding the baking soda and salt, so sprinkle them in a little at a time.
The bagel bath should not be at a rolling boil when adding the bagels, but it should be boiling hot.
If the bagels sink when placed into the bath, gently move them around to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Makes eight 130g bagels
100% high-gluten or bread flour
1.5% barley malt syrup
1% diastatic malt powder (optional)
75% stiff levain/30% pre-fermented flour
83g 80˚F water
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)
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
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.
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).
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).
Desired dough temperature: 78˚F
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.
Transfer to refrigerator and let sit for 12 to 18 hours.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.