Now that I’ve made Mike Avery’s Sourdough Bagels a few times over, (below is my slightly modified version of that recipe) I’m very happy with the results. These sourdough bagels are coming out nice and golden with a dense and slightly chewy crumb, a good crust and terrific flavour.
I’ve done one round of the Bagel recipe from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice as well (these are the ones in the photo above) and although they came out looking great and tasting very nice indeed, I found I was missing the interesting flavour “tone” that the sourdough gave when using the Mike Avery recipe. It was also good to give a try to a recipe that many people have used and to make a definite comparison.
Hands down winner: the Sourdough Bagels.
So here then is the (slightly modified) recipe for Mike Avery’s Sourdough Bagels (link to the original web page at the bottom of the post). I’ve modified the amounts since his recipe, as he states on his web page, was designed for a class and therefore makes only four bagels… hardly enough to make a run at home when that would only last maybe a day, if you are lucky! So I bumped it up in increments to a more useful 12 bagel size. This would then be enough to bake on two normal sized home baking sheet (6 per sheet with a fair bit of elbow room) in a home oven and last you more than just a day or so. (We normally freeze six, they still taste just fine after thawing.)
|Ingredients||Number of bagels|
|(Weights are in grams)||4||6||8||12|
|High Protein Bread Flour||300 g||450 g||600 g||900 g|
|Salt||7 g||10 g||14 g||20 g|
|Malt Powder||10 g||15 g||20 g||30 g|
|Water||150 g||225 g||300 g||450 g|
|Light Olive (or veg) Oil||5 g||8 g||10 g||16 g|
|Sourdough Starter||30 g||45 g||60 g||90 g|
|Total Weight:||506 g||759 g||1012 g||1518 g|
(Site-wide tip: Hover your cursor over the Grams to see the weight in Ounces)
Where do I get High Protein Bread Flour?
High Protein Bread Flour, which has a 14% gluten protein rating compared to 12% for bread flour and 10% for All Purpose (in the US; Canadian All purpose is 11.5 to 12%), can be found through mail order, specialty or natural food markets. US residents can get “Sir Lancelot” High Protein Flour from King Arthur Flour either online or may have a store that carries it nearby.
Vital Wheat Gluten or VWG:
If high protein flour is just not available, an alternative is to use the highest protein content flour you can find regularly (i.e. bread flour) and 6% in Vital Wheat Gluten (VWG) powder to increase the gluten content. So starting with typical bread flour at 12% protein, we can reduce the flour amount by 6% and add that quantity back in VWG. Here’s the amounts needed for the batches noted above:
4 bagels: 282 g bread flour + 18 g VWG = 300 g
6 bagels: 423 g bread flour + 27 g VWG = 450 g
8 bagels: 564 g bread flour + 36 g VWG = 600 g
12 bagels: 846 g bread flour + 54 g VWG = 900 g
In Canada, I’ve found Vital Wheat Gluten in the local big grocery store’s Organic Foods section among the Bob’s Red Mill products, but I’ve also found it at Bulk Barn.
If you simply cannot get or concoct High Gluten Bread Flour, you can still use normal bread flour; the bagel texture will be a little different.
Where to get Malt Powder and why do I need it anyway?
Check out you local Brew It Yourself shop, as malt is used in beer making. It may be available in powder and/or syrup form. You might also find it in a natural food store, although I found it highly overpriced there. A 500 ml tub of light malt at the beer maker was $2.50, while a 360 ml jar at the natural food place was $9.95. If you get the syrup form (it’s like honey) just add a gram more than the powder malt for each bagel to account for the extra moisture.
Why do you need malt powder? It helps give the bagels a shiny, rich golden brown colour when baked, the sugars help feed the yeast culture and it add a specific flavour to the finished bagels. You can do without but your bagels will be paler, take longer to proof and taste a little less authentic. You can use honey instead although this will, clearly, change the taste.
Sourdough Bagels Process:
1) By hand:
Mix all the ingredients above in a large bowl until relatively well incorporated. The dough does not need to be perfectly smooth (yet), as long as all the flour is mixed in and there aren’t large clumps of dry flour.
Now turn the dough out onto your counter, no need to add flour as this is already stiff dough and won’t stick much if at all. Cover with the bowl and rest the dough for 5 – 10 minutes of autolyse.
Once rested, begin to knead until the dough is smooth and velvety. If you do find it sticks a bit, use your bench scraper to help gather the wet bits; after a bit of work, it will stop being sticky. The kneading will take about 10 – 15 minutes or so. Check if you can successfully do the windowpane test and knead for 5 minutes more if you can’t. Check again. Once it passes, it is ready to rise.
2) By mixer:
NOTICE: Be forewarned that bagel dough is VERY STIFF and will be a definite workout for your mixer and may even burn out the motor. The batches given above in the green columns (4 and 6 bagels) should be OK for your standard KitchenAid mixer; the ones in red (8 or 12 bagels) are pushing the limit. Pay close attention and give the mixer time to cool down before starting again. If you don’t allow the motor to cool down after 5 minutes of mixing, you may also burn out your gears. It may be wiser to make two half-size batches instead.
If your mixer is straining, pausing, starts to smell like it is overheating or is getting hot to the touch, STOP.
Alternatively, you may want to mix by hand for the larger amounts; yes it can be done and has been for eons before stand mixers were invented. It is simply not worth burning out a $200+ machine to make a dozen bagels. Go the old fashioned route and save your mixer. You’ll then be able to really say “I made these by hand”.
First, at low speed (1 on a Kitchenaid) use the paddle attachment to mix all of the ingredients together roughly for a minute or two until no dry flour remains; you may need to stop the machine and get at the dry flour at the bottom with a spatula or bowl scaper.
Once you have a rough mass, switch to your kneading hook and, at speed 2, knead the dough for five minutes. Pull this dough off the hook and let it rest, covered, for its 5 to 10 minute autolyse rest. This pause also lets your machine cool down.
After the autolyse rest, knead the dough for another 5 to 10 minutes. Check at the 5 minute mark to see if it passes the windowpane test and if not, knead for another 5 minutes or until it is smooth and passes the test. Touch your machine’s motor area to see if it is overheating; if it is, stop and let it cool down before continuing. The rest won’t harm your dough, just cover it with some cling film to keep it from drying.
If you are doing two half-batches, repeat the above for your second half.
Hand or mixer method:
It can not be overstated that the dough must be smooth and well developed. It is not easy to develop a dough as thick as bagel dough. Although Mike says you can do a “stretch and fold” on this dough, I’ve found this pretty much impossible because the dough is so stiff. So it’s your basic kneading in this case.
Mixing/kneading is complete once your dough passes the windowpane test.
If you are doing two half-batches, combine the two mixed doughs at this point by hand kneading for a few seconds.
First Rise: 2 hours
Allow the dough to rise, covered, for about 2 hours. The dough is so dense that it probably won’t visibly rise. You may proceed when the dough will not spring back when gently pressed.
Because the dough is so thick, there is little reason to try to punch the dough down. Just use it.
Divide the dough
Cut the dough into the expected number of pieces that are more or less the same size. An easy way is to make a ball and start cutting it in halves until you have the desired number of pieces. Keep the dough ball and pieces covered with a barely damp cloth while you form the bagels.
Shape the bagels
There are two main ways to shape bagels: balls or rope.
BALL & POKE:
One way is to roll the dough into a ball, poke a hole in the center of the ball and then stretch the ball into the doughnut shape we all know and love.
Pokey photos above from SourdoughHome.com
Pinch, poke and stretch.
ROPE & WRAP:
The second way is the more traditional way.
Take your pre-weighed chunk of dough and flatten it into a small rectangle. Roll this little sheet into a stubby cigar shape, don’t taper the ends. Repeat for the rest of the dough chunks.
Roll a stubby piece starting from the center and moving your hands outward to stretch it to a rope about 10 inches long (25 cm). Wrap the rope around your hand overlapping the ends at your palm by about 1 or 2 inches (2.5 – 5 cm). Wet the end a little if the dough is too dry. Now press the ends together rolling the dough back and forth so they seal well. This doe NOT have to be perfectly smooth – you’re not a bagel extruding machine.
And voila, a finished rope-style bagel.
In the second photo, we see Pokey bagels on the left, Ropey bagels on the right. The surface of the Pokey bagels is bumpy while the Ropey bagels are smoother (click to see the image full size); the little tail is a nice “this is a real, hand-made bagel” cue.
Both methods work. Poking is easier, but it is also easy to stretch the bagel dough too far. The cigar roll can make a bagel with a more consistent size, but it is also easy to not seal the seam well enough and have the bagel fall apart.
If you don’t stretch the bagels far enough, they’ll be too bulky and, when sliced, too thick to fit in a regular toaster. Whether poked or roped, the hole should be about 2″ in diameter when you have just finished shaping. This may seem big but the hole will get smaller as the bagel rests and when it rises in the boiling and baking stages.
Once the bagels are formed, put them on a baking sheet that has been covered with baker’s parchment, spray them with some oil, and cover them with cling wrap.
You’ll want to make sure any dough you’re not busy shaping is kept under wrap, whether the raw balls or the shaped bagels. If you make an error while shaping a bagel, roll it back to a ball or rope as best you can, put it back on the tray and let it rest, covered, about 3 minutes while you work on the next; this rest will let it soften up a bit again.
Let the shaped bagels rest, then test
Once all your sourdough bagels are shaped, let them sit for about one or two hours. This is called “floor time” in the biz. Here you’ll check to see if they’re ready to retard or bake. After the first hour of floor time, take one of the bagels and drop it in a bowl of room temperature water. If the bagel floats within 10 seconds, you’re ready to go to the retard stage. If it doesn’t float, they need more floor time. Pull the bagel out of the water, pat it dry and put it back on the parchment to rest some more. Check the bagel again in 30 minutes.
Retarding the bagels overnight
Once the test bagel can float in a few seconds, you can now retard them in the refrigerator overnight (or up to two days) and bake tomorrow. Retarding is a step that allows the sourdough to develop a lot of its flavour. If you want to get them going right away and pass on flavour development, you can hop right to the boiling stage below. Doing it the faster way, however, means you will miss out on a lot of the great flavour that develops in the longer overnight method.
Boil the bagels
In the morning, take the bagels out of the refigerator and let them warm. Place a large pot of water on to boil and set your oven to 500F with two racks set in the middle of the oven.
If you want to seed the bagels, put some poppy/sesame seeds or rehydrated onion flakes (although I find onions burn when baked) onto a plate as the water is heating. Add a tablespoon or two of malt extract, either liquid or powdered, to the water once it is boiling. Note, this is in addition to the malt extract that was included in the dough, or, there is malt extract in BOTH the dough and the boiling water.
Have a minute timer ready and set to one minute. Once the water/malt is at a rolling boil, put the bagels into the boiling water, flat side down; start the timer. Don’t crowd the bagels in the pot as they need room to move around and they do get bigger. Let them boil for one minute then flip them over and reset the timer to let them boil one more minute. OK, “about” one minute; you don’t need to panic if you’re over 60 seconds a bit.
For plain sourdough bagels, pull the bagels out of the water with a slotted spoon and place them on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and sprinkled with a little cornmeal or semolina.
If you want seeded bagels, take the bagel out of the water and place it top side down into the plate of your chosen coating. The seed will stick to the wet bagel. Place the now coated bagel on the baking sheet as above.
Repeat with the next set of bagels until all the bagels are boiled and, if desired, coated, and placed on the parchment-covered baking sheets.
Bake the bagels
Put the bagels in the oven and bake at 500ºF for five minutes or so. Then rotate the baking sheets 180º so the bagels at the back are now at the front, and switch the top sheet to the lower rack and the bottom sheet to the top rack. Bake another 5 – 10 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. It may take about 15 minutes total.
Once out of the oven, place the bagels onto cooling racks and leave them be for at least 10 minutes. Once cooled, you can slice and toast them.
The original sourdough bagels recipe can be found on Mike’s SourdoughHome.com site (where the Ball & Poke pictures above came from). Be sure to check out the site for this and tons more terrific sourdough info.
If you do try this recipe out, take a moment and add a comment here to let others know how it went!