Sourdough Bagels recipe

Bagels are wonderful. Round, shiny, caramelized crust and a chewy interior. Bagels are versatile. They can be baked using a variety of grains and the possibilities for toppings are almost endless. And you can put almost anything on them, your imagination sets the limits. This is my recipe for sourdough bagels.

I’m sure you are familiar with bagels. Some time in the late 1990’s I came across a bagel sandwich shop in my local neighborhood Nørrebro, which was called The Bagel Co.


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At this point I had never heard of bagels before. I was intrigued and went inside and ordered a bagel. I honestly cannot remember which one I got, but it was delicious and you could tailor it to suit your tastes, which I thought was great.

I had a chat with the woman that prepared my bagel. She was apparently one of the founders, and she told me that she and a group of friends had gone to New York City for a vacation and had fallen in love with the bagels shops they had found in the city.

sourdough bagels on a row in front of a brick wall

So when they got home to Denmark they made this shop. Today The Bagel Co is a huge franchise chain in Denmark.

Well, as much as I love a bagel on the go, I love to make things at home in my kitchen.

The history of bagels

Bagels are believed to be a distant cousin of pretzels, which came from Germany to Poland with immigrant bakers in the 1300’s. Scholars believe, over the next couple of centuries, that the shape changed from pretzel shape to a round and it came to be known as obwarzanek.

Another origin story states that they were invented in 1683 by a Viennese baker as a tribute to the Polish king. The king loved horses, so in tribute he shaped the bread as a stirrup – beugel in German.

four different kinds of sourdough bagels in stacks in front of a brick wall

That also ties in with the Yiddish name for a bagel which is beygal, meaning ring or bracelet.

The bagel was brought to the United States by Jewish immigrants from Poland in the early 1900’s. They quickly became very popular and a lot of bakeries opened. They even had their own trade union called Bagel Bakers Local 338.

After the advent of automated machines for bagels in the 1960’s bagels swept the nation and in turn the world. Nowadays bagels are eaten everywhere.

The formula in this sourdough bagels recipe

Vitals

Total weight1245 grams
Prefermented flour29.4%
Hydration55.6%
Yield12 x 100 grams bagels

Levain

The levain in this recipe is used to time using the starter at the most opportune moment in its growth process. If you want, you can replace it with 450 grams of mature sourdough starter.

WeightIngredientBaker's Percentage
90gstarter (100% hydration)50.0%
180gbread flour100.0%
180gwater100.0%

Dough

To get that chewy and dense texture which is a hallmark of a classic bagel, we need a pretty low hydration dough. This one sits at around 55%.

The higher protein bread flour will help accentuate the chewy texture and the milk powder will aid in getting the right browning.

WeightIngredientBaker's Percentage
540gbread flour100.0%
200gwater37.0%
40gmilk powder7.4%
15gsalt2.8%

If you want to tweak or play around with the formula, you can do so here in my Bread Calculator.

The conclusion of this sourdough bagels recipe

These sourdough bagels are absolutely perfect. Caramelized crust, dense and chewy center. Exactly like you want a good bagel to be.

They taste wonderful with just the slight tang from the sourdough starter. They are great right out of the oven, cold or toasted.

stack of sourdough bagels, plain, everything bagel seasoning, poppy seed and sesame seed made with the recipe on this page

They are great for breakfast, lunch and dinner, or for a snack. They’ll send you straight to New York heaven.

Bagel ideas

If you are not sure what to put on your bagel here’s a list of ideas:

  • The “Classic” Bagel – Just a good layer of cream cheese.
  • The “Foodgeek” Bagel – Toasted really dark and with an obscene amount of cultured butter.
  • The “New York” Bagel – Cream cheese, smoked salmon, red onions and capers.
  • The “Breakfast” Bagel – Cream cheese, a fried egg and a lot of crispy smoked bacon.
  • The “Pizza” Bagel – Add tomato sauce and mozzarella and your favorite pizza toppings on top (pineapple anyone?) and toast in the oven for 10 minutes.
  • The “Tuna Melt” Bagel – Mix tuna and mayo and spread on each half. Add sliced tomatoes and slices of cheese and toast in the oven for 10 minutes.
  • The “Ham and Cheese” Bagel – Add copious amounts of delicious cheese and wonderful country ham on top – Can be eaten both cold or toasted in the oven.
  • The “Peanut Butter and Banana” Bagel – Toast the bagel, smear on some crunchy peanut butter and add slices of bananas. Add some chopped salted peanuts on top.
  • The “Smashed Avocado and Poached Egg” Bagel – Toast the bagel. Mash the avocado with salt and pepper and put on the bagel. Top with a freshly poached egg.
  • The “Cheese Burger” Bagel – Toast the bagel, smear with mayonnaise, add a beef patty and two slices of mature cheddar and shredded lettuce. Top with homemade ketchup.

Please share this sourdough bagels recipe on social media

This is my recipe for sourdough bagels. I hope you will want to try it, because they are just so good.

If you bake these bagels and post them on Instagram, please tag me as @foodgeek.dk so I can see it. That would make me very happy.

Ad links! The links in the recipe for ingredients or tools are affiliate links, which means that I get commission if you purchase the product!

Perfect Sourdough Bagels

Course: Breakfast, Dinner, Lunch, Snack
Cuisine: American, Jewish
Keyword: bagels, sourdough, sourdough bagels
Prep: 1 hour
Cook: 26 minutes
Proofing: 8 hours
Total: 16 hours
Servings: 12 bagels
Calories: 272kcal
Author: Sune Trudslev
Nutrition Facts
Perfect Sourdough Bagels
Amount Per Serving (1 bagel)
Calories 272 Calories from Fat 18
% Daily Value*
Fat 2g3%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Sodium 664mg29%
Carbohydrates 52g17%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 2g2%
Protein 9g18%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Delicious homemade bagels leavened with wild yeast. Wonderful shiny and caramelized crust. Dense and chewy center.
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Ingredients

Levain

  • 90 g starter
  • 180 g bread flour
  • 180 g water

Dough

  • 540 g bread flour
  • 200 g water
  • 40 g milk powder
  • 15 g salt

Water bath

  • 2200 g water
  • 3 g food grade lye

Toppings

  • sesame seeds
  • poppy seeds
  • everything bagel seasoning

Everything Bagel Seasoning

  • 2 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp black sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp dried minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp dried minced onion
  • 2 tbsp flaky sea salt

Instructions

Mix levain – morning

  • Mix 90 grams of sourdough starter, 180 grams of bread flour and 180 grams of water (luke warm if you are in a hurry) in a glass container that has enough room for the levain to triple.
  • Leave to ferment somewhere warm until it has tripled.

Mix dough – about noon

  • To the bowl of your stand mixer add 540 grams of bread flour, 40 grams of milk powder and 15 grams of salt. Mix with the paddle attachment until combined.
  • Then add the entire levain on top and add 200 grams of water.
  • Knead the dough using the dough hook until it is completely kneaded. About 10-12 minutes.
  • Form the dough to a ball and let it rest for 30 minutes to relax the gluten.

Divide and preshape – about 12:40/12.40 p.m.

  • Divide the dough into 12 equally sized pieces about 100 grams each.
  • Shape each dough piece into a ball by tightening the surface. Press the side of the piece up and into the middle of the ball, and then turn the about ¼ turn and repeat until it's a taut ball.
  • Repeat with the remaining dough pieces. Keep them under a damp dish towel to avoid them drying out.
  • Let the dough balls rest 20 minutes.

Shape the bagels – about 13:10/1.10 p.m.

  • Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper topped with semolina flour.
  • Take a dough ball and roll it out into a very flat disc about 0.5 cm (⅕ inch).
  • Roll the dough tightly into a cylinder.
  • Roll the cylinder together. Then it's the right length roll one hand away from you and the other one towards you, so the dough gets twisted.
  • Pick up the strand and wrap it around your hand over your knuckles.
  • Join the dough pieces the palm of your hand put it down on the table and roll the seam til it's completely stuck together.
  • Put the shaped bagel on the semolina and put plastic wrap over top, so it doesn't dry out.
  • Shape the remaining dough balls.

Proofing – about 13:25/1.25 p.m.

  • Put the baking sheets somewhere warm and let the dough proof until they are puffed up. 4 to 6 hours.
  • Once the bagels look puffy put them in the fridge for at least 4 hours, but up to 5 days.

Make all bagel seasoning

  • To a small bowl add 2 tbsp poppy seeds, 2 tbsp flaky salt, 1 tbsp sesame seeds, 1 tbsp black sesame seeds, 1 tbsp dried minced garlic, 1 tbsp dried minced onion.
  • Mix with your hand. Voila.

Boiling and baking

  • Turn your oven on to 220°C/425°F/Gas mark 7. No fan assist.
  • Get the baking sheets from the fridge and put on a pot with 2.2 liters of water. About 10 ⅓ cup. Bring it to the boil.
  • If using, add 3 grams of food grade lye to the water and wait for it to be completely dissolved.
  • Boil the bagels 30 seconds each. I put 3 at a time in my pot.
  • Put them on a wire rack to drip off. Top with whatever toppings you like while they are still wet.
  • Put them back on the semolina topped baking sheet. You should be able to comfortably fit 6 bagels on each sheet.
  • Once you've finished all the bagels, put both sheets in the oven and turn the oven down to 200°C/400°F/Gas mark 6.
  • Bake for 24-26 minutes until they are looking gorgeous and shiny.
  • If you know you oven to heat a bit unevenly, switch the pans and turn the around in the middle of the bake.
  • Cool on a wire rack.

Video

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  1. Diane Reply

    I can’t wait to try your bagel recipe, but cannot use dairy ingredients (milk powder). What adjustments can I make? Thank you!!!

    • Omit it. It’s there to help browning 🙂 They might get a little less brown though 🙂

  2. Daniel Reply

    Hi Sune! Thanks for this recipe! We’ve made it twice and it makes a tasty bagel, but I have a question. After shaping bagels, we proof on counter for 4 hours, then to refrigerator, usually overnight. But I notice when you go to the boiling step, your bagels are already much taller than ours. While taste is great, I’d like a taller bagel like yours. Any suggestions on a change for that? Should we proof longer? (Video doesn’t show bagels before they go to fridge). Thanks for sharing!