09 September 2009

Sourdough Bagels

I spend quite a bit of time in the kitchen. When it comes to experimentation with food, I can't seem to get enough of it, especially when it both allows for my creativity to flow while (usually) satisfying my vegan belly. And if the food is carbohydrate-heavy, it's even better.

Bagels are a good example of the type of starchy goodness that I love. Because of a need for versatility with my sourdough starter and a sudden desire to have fresh bread within immediate reach, I began searching for some kind of foundation recipe for sourdough bagels. Many of the sourdough recipes call for the use of yeast. No thank you. As I understand it, when used in sourdough recipes, yeast lends the finished product that certain bread flavor. I don't know, maybe it also speeds up the rising process, as starter takes more time than yeast to work its leavening magic. But honestly, if I'm using the starter, it's already got cultures working (slow as it may be) and lending its own distinctly sour flavor into the dough and I'd rather patiently let it do its thing than help it along with yeast (not that I have anything against yeast).

So after some online searching for basic bagel recipes--excluding those for Montreal-style bagels, which include eggs--I put my starter to work. The recipe included here is a sort of mash-up of recipes I found online (sourdough and traditional), based on my own adjustments. For purists or those who fiercely defend how a "real" bagel should look, taste, etc., please note that I by no means claim that this approach is traditional (although I did make sure to factor in the high gluten factor, as well as the "traditional" inclusion of barley malt syrup). I'm just hungry and being creative with my food. By the way, if you're wanting these babies done right away, this is not the recipe to try; the lack of yeast means that the fermentation process requires a lot more time than if it had yeast (you could probably proof a packet of yeast in the warm water to speed it up, but it probably won't taste the same and it's merely my guess as to how the yeast would affect everything else). Anyway, as many recipes go, this one could probably use a bit of tweaking, but I am happy with the results: chewy, slightly sour-sweet bagel goodness.

Sourdough Bagels (printable recipe)
Makes 12

1 c sourdough starter
1 c warm water
2 T vegetable oil
5 T barley malt syrup or granulated sugar, divided
2 tsp salt
1/4 c vital wheat gluten
4 to 4 1/2 c bread flour (amount needed depends on wetness/"hydration" of starter, among other things--I'm no expert on the subject, so look it up if you want to know more)
3 T maple syrup
toppings of choice (sesame seeds, poppy seeds, minced onion, etc.)

In a large bowl, mix the warm water with three tablespoons of the malt syrup or sugar, salt, and oil. Add starter and mix well. Mix in the vital wheat gluten. Add flour one cup at a time, until you are unable to mix it with a spoon. Knead in enough of the remaining flour so that the dough is a bit stiff and no longer sticky. (I used between 4 1/4 and 4 1/2 cups of bread flour.) Place the ball of dough in a large, oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Let it rise somewhere warm and draft-free until the dough approximately doubles in size (this can take a few hours, depending on the conditions, so expect a long wait). The dough will seem a bit heavy.
Punch down the dough and divide it into 12 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball, then poke a hole through the middle and stretch it out into a ring. Place the rings on floured baking sheets and let rest for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the remaining two tablespoons of malt syrup or sugar to the pot and dissolve. Place two or three bagels in the boiling water at a time. When they begin to float (after a few seconds), allow the bagels to gently boil for 40 to 45 seconds, then flip them and boil them for another 40 to 45 seconds. Drain on a wire rack and repeat the process for the remaining dough.
Brush the boiled bagels with the maple syrup. If desired, dip the maple-brushed side in toppings of choice (I used raw sesame seeds, minced onion, and cinnamon sugar, and left some plain). Feel free to be creative with the toppings. Arrange the bagels on prepared baking sheets and bake for approximately 20 minutes, turning the pans midway through and checking the undersides for browning at around 16 minutes. The bagels won't end up as brown and crusty as the more typical egg-washed varieties, but you don't want the bottoms to burn. The tops may be a bit sticky due to the maple syrup. Cool on a wire rack. Enjoy!


  1. Just made a version of these! So glad so far

  2. Thanks, I'm glad to hear it!


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