Sourdough Bagels

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:

 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

You need

  • Bulk rise dough
  • Weigh scale
  • Parchment paper
  • Plate or baking tray
  • Wet (rinsed wet) cloth
  • cornmeal
  • Dry malt extract or sugar

Instructions

  1. 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. 
  2. Assuming 110g or 1/4lb per bagel, take out the dough needed to make the number of bagels you want.
  3. 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.
  4. 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] 
    Bagels can be anywhere from 100g to 150g

      Bagels can be anywhere from 100g to 150g

    Bagels rolled and twisted in a sausage shape

    Bagels rolled and twisted in a sausage shape

    bagels-6

  5. 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.
  6. 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]

    Bagels ready to go in the fridge (with a wet towel of course)

    Bagels ready to go in the fridge (with a wet towel of course)

In the morning…

Time: 40 minutes in all, 10 minutes of active work

You need:

  • Cornmeal
  • 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….)

bagels-12

 

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.) 
  4. 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. 20161103_061600
  5. 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.
  6. Working quickly, remove the bagels from the pan and place them on the cornmeal parchment paper.
  7. Using a spoon, sprinkle toppings as desired 20161103_061721
  8. Put the frying pan of nearly boiling water in the oven under the baking stone 20161103_061816
  9. Using a pizza peel, slide the parchment paper with the bagels into the oven [photo of bagels ready to go into the oven]
  10. 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. 
  11. Remove and place in a basket – parchment paper and all. 
  12. Enjoy! (and don’t forget to remove the pan from the oven too.)

20161103_064041

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

  1. 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)
  2. Refresh this starter again with 250g water and 150g flour, letting it develop for 6 hours. (e.g. 12PM-5PM)
  3. Prepare a bulk dough with 120g of this starter, 360g flour, 170g water, and 8g salt.
  4. 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.

Step 20C/68F 24C/75F
  1. First refresh
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
5. Boiling 6AM 6AM

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.

Kombucha!

Kombucha is the perfect answer to our craving for fizzy non alcoholic beverages. It is wonderfully flavored, gently effervescent, only slightly sweet, nicely complex, and overall delicious. Although made with black tea and sugar, the bacteria have feasted on these very ingredients, changing them in their wonderful alchemy into more bacteria, yeast, carbon dioxide and a slight bit of alcohol. 

My journey with fermented foods is now well into its second year. Such a lot has happened, and what our household consumes has remarkably changed. Health has also subtly but perceptibly changed too. I now can’t remember when anyone was down and out with a cold or flu, yet we’ve been in contact with many who have. No one has reported urinary infections, yeast problems, or anything like.

My initiation to kombucha had nothing to do with this though. I was aware of kombucha, but had never tried it. One day shopping, I bought a bottle and it was decent if unremarkable. There was a small slimy thing in it I now recognize as a tiny scoby. I set aside a 1 cup jar with the scoby and some mango-orange juice to see what would happen. Indeed in about a week, it consumed all that juicy sugar and now had grown. “Well”, said I, “this is most interesting. Lets see where we can take this.” Long story short I began investigating, joined the Kombucha Nation FB group, started a spreadsheet to chart my initial attempts, purchased a 3 gallon stone crock. By far the most succinct and useful article on it is a Wiley Library online article. I strongly advise readers to click the link for their overview

Initially my family members were pretty skeptical, and in my initial attempts, understandably so. They still kept going for the spritzer, worried the bottles might explode in their faces or that somehow they might be poisoned, or that it would be simply awful. None of that happened, and now our homemade kombucha is the go-to drink. In fact I’m having to increase my bi weekly production by about 50% to keep up.

That all said, they now have their favorites, and just like with commercial products, they expect them to taste consistently similar and be available when needed. My kombucha making is now post experimental and can be said to be in regular consistent production.

Now that I am at this point, I thought I should share what I do. My final ‘push’ came when my butcher to whom I had given a bottle to try really liked it and wanted to make her own. Just passing on the starter and a scoby might not necessarily guarantee the success sought, at least immediately.

But why should I bother to do all this when there are so many other excellent blogs out there? For me, the answer lies in identifying and illustrating a consistent and manageable process that will always give excellent results. Judging by the feedback I have received I know I have an excellent product doing it this way. I look forward to hearing how you have made out with it, and also I look forward to hearing from more experienced kombucha makers than I with your ideas and comments on this process.

Here’s how it goes….

Every 10 days or so I do a Kombucha brew day. I start a new batch and bottle (second ferment or ‘2f’) the old. I process about 4-5 litres at a time and the method I have worked out gives me reliable, delicious kombucha every time.

Materials:

Mise en scene

  • 6 litre (or so) pot
  • 3 gallon crock
  • Bottles – beer bottles, or flip lid bottles. The shape of the narrow necked beer bottle encourages natural carbonation. This is because the fermenting yeasts do not require oxygen, whereas the bacteria involved do. The narrow neck in a sealed bottle reduces the oxygen available, encouraging the yeast to continue fermenting, converting the sugars into carbon dioxide. Once everything is added in you will need about 6 litres worth of bottles. You can use anything technically, but unless you use a narrow necked bottle of some kind, it won’t carbonate as well. 
  • Bottler and caps if you are using old beer bottles. 
  • Measuring cups – 1L, 500ml
  • Funnel
  • A strainer that can nest in the funnel
  • 7-8 1L mason jars
  • Thick kitchen towel
  • Weigh scale
  • wooden spoon

Ingredients

  • 4-5L Good quality water – not flouridated or treated tap water
  • 20g loose tea: It can be a variety of teas – I have used Darjeeling, Earl Grey, Kukicha, and Green tea – any will do
  • 200g sugar
  • 1L of kombucha starter (from previous batch)
  • 1 SCOBY (from previous batch)
  • A variety of good quality juices – about 1.5L in total
  • 1L Sugar syrup (weigh a bag of sugar in a pot, add an equal weight of water. Heat until the sugar is dissolved, yielding a 1:1 syrup. Pour into jars for a variety of uses. )

The very first time

You need to find a scoby – most people get one from a friend, or someone you know.  Anyone who makes kombucha can peel off some of their scoby and give it away. If you are truly in need, take one of the tiny scobys from a commercial Kombucha and put it in a 1 cup jar with a little juice. Leave it out, covered, on the counter. It should grow. As it gets bigger, feed it more juice, and work up towards the container you will be fermenting your kombucha in. You also need to get a litre of kombucha as a starter. This can be from said friend, or can be bought commercially.

Make a tea with 2L water, 20g loose tea and 200g sugar. Boil for a few minutes, cover and let cool down.

20160823_083122

Loose tea works well – you are trying to extract as much as possible from it.

Once cool (under 100F) pour in the crock, add 2L water, 1L Kombucha starter, the Scoby.
Cover with a thick kitchen cloth and let it ferment in a coolish dark room (60-70F) for about 8-10 days. (Note – fruit flies love kombucha too, so you will need to both cover the kombucha and tie it tight with a string or elastic if you have these bugs around)

First ferment ready to do its thing.

First ferment ready to do its thing.

Brewday! (your Kombucha is initially fermented)

This quantity will make a total of 7 litres of kombucha.

  1. Make a tea with 2L water, 20g loose tea and 200g sugar. Boil for 5 minutes, cover and let cool down while you do everything else.
  2. Gather all your materials and ingredients together.
  3. Remove the scoby from the crock and set it in a bowl with water.

    Scoby in water - but if fruit flies are about, cover it up.

    Scoby in water – but if fruit flies are about, cover it up. In the jar beside it is the 1L starter kombucha for the next batch.

  4. Pour 1L of kombucha from the crock into a mason jar, and cover. This will be the starter for your next batch.
  5. For the 2nd ferment, or 2f, the kombucha is flavored and bottled in such a way that it naturally carbonates. Pour the rest of the kombucha into the remaining 1L mason jars with 650 g (or ml) of kombucha in each 1L jar.

    20160823_082534

    The reason for the 1L jars is to make the whole process efficient, predictable and manageable. The jar is filled with 650g of f1 (first ferment) kombucha.

  6. Pour 100g of the sugar syrup in each jar. For kombucha, 5% sugar is an ideal fermentation ratio. Since your sugar syrup is 1:1 sugar to water by weight, you are therefore adding 50g of sugar to your 1L (1000g) of 2f kombucha – or 5%.

    About to add 100g (=50g or 5% sugar)

    About to add 100g syrup (=50g or 5% sugar). The sugar syrup is easy to make ahead of time. It’s also a good base for desserts.

  7. Pour 250ml of the juices you have for your batch of kombucha into each mason jar, filling them to the top. You now have about 6-7 litre bottles comprising 650ml kombucha, 100ml sugar syrup and 250g juice. Stir to mix thoroughly.
    20160823_084211

    Be careful of the sugar content of the juice you use, since you are already adding sugar for the f2. The juice should be as natural as possible. Juicing your own is even better, and since it flavours the kombucha with only 25% of the total content, it goes a long way.

    20160823_084828

    I like to sort out how much of each kind of flavor I want. Using the 1L base quantities helps in this process. Note the pot of tea/sugar brewing and now cooling for the next batch.

  8. Pour each jar into narrow necked bottles, using either a funnel or a 1L measuring cup. If the juice or the kombucha has any sediment you may wish to use a tea ball in the funnel to filter this out. If you are using 344 ml beer bottles, you are looking at 3 bottles per litre. If you are using Grolsh style flip top bottles, its approximately 2 bottles per litre. If your bottle comes up a little short, top it up with more juice.

    A fine mesh teaball inside a funnel to filter out juice sediment.

    A fine mesh teaball inside a funnel to filter out juice sediment.

  9. Bottle and label

    Bottled and labelled. It will be ready in a few days.

    Bottled and labelled. It will be ready in a few days.

  10. Go back to that tea you made that has now cooled down. It should be less than lukewarm. Press out all the tea flavor you can and pour it into your now empty crock through a filter (unless you used a large tea ball). Add 2L of cold water to it, add the litre of kombucha starter, and the scoby along with the water it was in. Cover the crock with dry thick tea towel and let it ferment in a cool dark place until your next brewday 10 or so days away.

    20160823_094359

    The next batch of kombucha (about to be covered) in its basement hideaway at a comfortable, dark, consistent 68F/19C along with some beer, wine – and, yes, the household tools.

  11. Let your bottles sit at room temperature for a couple of days – less if your location is warm. After, move them to a cool location or your fridge. This recipe is quite happy for a couple of weeks in a 65-68F environment, though it will get fizzy! Before consuming, put them in the fridge to cool – it tastes better, and the carbonation is less active.

Keeping it clean: If you are using beer bottles, rinse them out thoroughly and wash them thoroughly once you have poured your drink. If you use your crock only for kombucha and are filling it in the same session you are processing your 2f, a rinse with water works fine.

Enjoy your brew! A word of warning though. The first few times you open them, do it in the sink, with your hand firmly over the top in case it is over carbonated. This might happen for example if the juice you decide to use has a higher sugar content than what I am using. To deal with your own variables you would need to make adjustments – either a warmer or cooler ferment for your 2f period.

There are many ways to make kombucha. All of them are fine, and all of them feature tea, sugar, a scoby and starter, and time. This simply happens to be what I have evolved. I hope this can help to both make conversation about kombucha, and also help readers who have been considering making it.