Sourdough Bagels: a love story

Bagels are pretty much amazing, right?  Chewy, dense, and able to provide a lot of cream cheese delivery ability.  I’ll admit that I’m a little picky about my bagels though; don’t try to feed me bagel shaped bread and expect me to eat it, ok?  Bagels aren’t bread. Bagels are bagels.  Don’t mess with this.

We had an ok bagel place in Texas but Tennessee is sadly lacking in bagels.  Its been a few months now and my need for a bagel was pretty overwhelming, so I’ve been plowing through recipes looking for a good option.  First, I tried the recipe from Classic Sourdoughs, a book I really like.  I am chalking that failure up to my halving the recipe though as the dough was soft and ultimately bready.  They couldn’t hold their shape during boiling so I ended up just baking them.  bleh.

I finally came upon the recipe for 100% sourdough bagels over at The Wild Yeast Blog.  The pictures looked amazing and I loved the no additional yeast thing.  Then, when I was admiring some bagels on instagram (who doesn’t do that?), azture mentioned they were from the same recipe I had been eyeing.  It was meant to be.

I made a few slight changes to the recipe.  I didn’t have high gluten flour or vital wheat gluten on hand (though I have since gotten some from amazon to try with), so I used bread flour.  I also kneaded it all by hand since thats my thing.  The dough was super tough to knead but came together nicely.  I kneaded it for maybe 15-18 minutes.

Where I differ with the wild yeast blog was in the shaping.  I tried the rolling method but…its a total pain in the ass.  The dough is super tough and elastic even after a resting period and sticking the ends together with water is too fussy for me.  Poke my finger though the ball and shape the bagel all the way.  It takes 1/zillionth of the time.

Proof, refrigerate overnight and they are ready for the final steps in the morning.  I was a little intimidated of the boiling part since my previous attempt at bagels went south here but I trusted in the dough.

They held together and, while they looked a little gross, I knew this step would give me that amazing exterior shell that really differentiates bagel from bread.

Baked!  My bagels could have been a little more evenly sized but whatever.

Sourdough Bagels

Ingredients:

  • 349 g bread flour
  • 121 g cold water
  • 28 g baker’s dry milk powder (King Arthur Flour’s is the best here)
  • 16.4 g non-diastatic malt powder
  • 10.1 g (1 2/3 teaspoons) salt
  • 301 g active 100%-hydration sourdough starter
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda for boiling

Combine all the ingredients (except the baking soda for boiling).  Mix with a spoon in a bowl until it becomes to difficult to work.  Turn out and knead for 15+ minutes or until your dough is smooth and satiny.  Cover the dough and rest for 10 minutes to help it relax before shaping.

Divide dough into 8 pieces and shape into a ball.  Allow to rest for 10 minutes or so.  Prepare a sheet pan with parchment and a heavy sprinkling of semolina flour.

Shape each bagel by sticking your finger through the center of the ball and gently pulling it into a bagel shape.  Make the hole a little bigger than you think to account for puffing during the long rise.

Cover with cling wrap and proof at room temperature for 4 hours.  Then put in the fridge overnight (or about 8 hours).

In the morning, turn the oven to 425 and start a large pot of water to boil and get a cooling rack with a towel or sheet pan under it ready.  Once the water reaches boiling, add the baking soda and stand back!  It will bubble up a bit and then calm back down.

Add the bagels a few at a time for 20 seconds each.  If your bagels don’t sink/stay under water in the beginning, just flip them halfway through the boil.

Remove and allow to drain for a few minutes.  If your bagel’s holes have closed up, you might want to dab the top with a towel.  Transfer back to the semolina dusted sheet pan and put them in the oven.  Turn the oven down to 400.  Bake for 20-27 minutes or until golden brown. Open the oven halfway through to vent any steam out.

Allow to cool on a cooling rack.

Eat with cream cheese!

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