Imagine: Fresh tangy bagels right out of the oven for breakfast. Ones made by YOU.
Sounds great? You can do this and it’s not that hard.
This blog tells you how – and in particular bagels of the sourdough persuasion.
There are a few sites that will teach you about making bagels, but they are usually done by professional bakers, thinking of larger scale production. They also are yeast based.
I’m a home baker, not making any more than between 4-6 at a time. This is important as I am interested in both freshness and efficiencies of both time and ingredients. And sourdough is my baking medium of choice.
This blog is associated with some of my other blogs on sourdough:
- Sourdough Bread – simple and delicious!
- Making sourdough easy and ‘just in time’
- Fun stuff to do with sourdough
- Backwoods Sourdough
but bagels are a particular kind of baking process that requires a different treatment.
There is one really excellent instructional video you really ought to view before doing your own – Breadtopia’s bagel video http://breadtopia.com/how-to-make-bagels/ This one is a yeast based recipe, is considerably bigger scale, and with respect to the water in the oven, a tad complex for my liking. But its the one that made the most sense to me when I was developing my own technique.
Sourdough bagels can either take a really long time to pull together, or they can be relatively fast. The relatively fast version means that you already have a bag of dough ready to go in the fridge. The slow version means you begin with a starter, refresh, refresh again, make a bulk dough, THEN put the bagels together. I will describe both, beginning with the fast version.
The Fast Version
To do this version, you need to have at least a .5k or 1lb of sourdough bulk rise dough in the fridge. Check out my Making sourdough easy and ‘just in time’ blog for the backgrounder on how you can set up a truly efficient sourdough regime.
The night before (best done when preparing dinner.)
Time : about 20 minutes
- Bulk rise dough
- Weigh scale
- Parchment paper
- Plate or baking tray
- Wet (rinsed wet) cloth
- Dry malt extract or sugar
- Check your dough’s hydration. You should already know this. Bagels require a 60% hydration. If your dough is different than that you can use my hydration change calculator to make the adjustment. If this is still a tad confusing and you just want to get on with it, bagels need a stiff dough – however you get there.
- Assuming 110g or 1/4lb per bagel, take out the dough needed to make the number of bagels you want.
- Also add some sugar. This can be in the form of regular sugar, or dry malt extract. For these small batches I add about a tablespoon or so. The sugar encourages more yeast action in the bagels. Maple syrup or honey can also be used but if you do, you have to treat them as liquid and add flour to keep the hydration at 60%. For our small batch I would suggest 30g honey/maple syrup and 50g flour. Knead the dough, the sugar and (if needed) extra flour or water until it is a well kneaded ball.
- Separate the dough into balls of dough – one per bagel. Weigh them so they are all the same weight. Vigorously knead and roll the dough as you would plasticine to make each dough ball into a long sausage shape. [photo showing the rolling and twisting]
- Twist the sausage shape working to stretch the gluten in the dough as much as possible. Form it into the classic bagel shape crimping the ends together.
- Prepare a parchment paper with a thin layer of corn flour, place the bagels on the flour, leaving lots of space between them. Cover with a damp towel and put into the fridge overnight. [photo of bagels ready for the fridge]
In the morning…
Time: 40 minutes in all, 10 minutes of active work
- Baking soda and sugar
- Baking stone
- Widest frying pan you have, but should be at least 2” deep
- A slotted spoon
- A tablespoon measure
- Pizza peel
- Parchment paper
- Bagel toppings (egg wash, poppy seed, sesame seed, flax, other grains and nuts….)
- Make sure you have a baking stone in the oven, more or less in the middle, and enough space below to fit the frying pan with water. Turn the stove on to 480F/250C.
- Using the widest frying pan you have, fill it ¾ full of water, add 1 tsp of baking powder, 1 tbs sugar (or if you have it, dry malt extract) and set to boil, lid on. Your timing on these two items depends on how fast your stove and your heating element heat up. Ideally the oven should reach 480F about the time the water is boiling on the stove. What you are trying to avoid is having the bagels ready to go into the oven before it is properly heated.
- Remove the bagels from the fridge and place them next to your frying pan of boiling water. Gently make any final shape adjustments you want (bigger/smaller hole, rounder etc.)
- When the water is at a rolling boil, place the bagels in it. You should be able to place between 4-6 bagels in a 12” skillet. It will initially go off the boil with the fridge cold bagels. Once it comes back to boiling, boil the bagels on one side for 30 seconds at least . Sometimes the bagels stick to the bottom – if so gently pry them up about 10 or so seconds into this first boil. They should rise to the top once they expand and they must do this before they are turned. It’s important to note that most of their rising occurs in the boiling. After 30 seconds, flip the bagels with the slotted spoon and continue to boil for another 30 seconds.
- While the boiling is happening, sprinkle more cornmeal on the parchment paper (or you can use new parchment paper if you like) and prepare the toppings and a spoon.
- Working quickly, remove the bagels from the pan and place them on the cornmeal parchment paper.
- Using a spoon, sprinkle toppings as desired
- Put the frying pan of nearly boiling water in the oven under the baking stone
- Using a pizza peel, slide the parchment paper with the bagels into the oven [photo of bagels ready to go into the oven]
- Turn heat down to 450F/233C (it will likely be at that once the water and bagels have gone in) and bake for 20 minutes.
- Remove and place in a basket – parchment paper and all.
- Enjoy! (and don’t forget to remove the pan from the oven too.)
So that was the short version: about 20 minutes in the evening and about 45 minutes the next morning. Here’s the longer version for a 6 bagel batch. I use organic whole wheat flour for the starter and a combination of all purpose organic and red fife flour for my dough.
The LONG Version
24 hours ahead (morning)
The timings for these risings are a little shorter than what I would usually do, and the compensation is rising them in a warm location. Alternately you could do the first refresh the night before (2 nights before the bagels are made), plan on about 8 hours per rising, and in a cooler environment of 20C/68F
- Refresh 100g of starter with 100g water and 60g flour, and let it develop for 6 hours at a warmish room temperature around 24C/75F (e.g. 6AM-12 PM)
- Refresh this starter again with 250g water and 150g flour, letting it develop for 6 hours. (e.g. 12PM-5PM)
- Prepare a bulk dough with 120g of this starter, 360g flour, 170g water, and 8g salt.
- Let rise for a further 5 hours or so before proceeding to ‘the shorter version’.
The following table shows how you would manage things beginning 36 hours ahead or 24 hours ahead.
||10 PM (36 hours before)||6AM (24 hrs before)|
|2. 2nd starter refresh||6 AM (24 hours before)||12PM|
|3. Bulk dough||2PM||5-6PM|
|4. Shaping into bagels/refrigerating||8PM||10-11PM|
As you can see this is a day long project and a lot of attention to time, detail, and being available all to get only 6 bagels. It’s not even ideal, as it really is best to prepare the bagels around dinner time the night before. To accommodate this you would need to begin your starter refresh in the middle of the night. That’s why I prefer to do the shorter version – but you would need to be doing what I note in my “Making sourdough easy and ‘just in time’ “ blog.