The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough Bagels - My Weekly Treat!

rossnroller's picture

Sourdough Bagels - My Weekly Treat!

In his recent thread, Bagels From BBA, David (dmsnyder) responded affirmatively to my offer to post my sourdough bagel recipe. I’m very pleased to be able to repay him, just a little, for the many fantastic bread recipes of his I have baked over the past months. So here’s the recipe, and hope you like these bagels as much as I do, David!

Acknowledgements: I think the original source was a bagel recipe posted on Dan Lepard’s forum, but adapted for sourdough and re-posted on the Sourdough Companion forum.  Unfortunately, I have so far been unable to retrace my steps to the post in question. Once I do locate it, I’ll post the URL here.

I have been baking these bagels just about weekly for the best part of a year, and during this time have made multiple small tweaks to arrive at the recipe I am about to post.

I have to admit to being a sourdough nut, and probably biased towards sourdough as a leavening agent, but I do take the point that some types of bakery products are not ideally suited to sourdough and turn out better with dry yeast. That bias acknowledged, my firm opinion is that this sourdough bagel recipe yields better flavour – actually, an all-round better bagel - than I have encountered in any commercially yeasted version (and I speak as a committed bagel consumer from way back, not just as a home baker). 

What does ‘better’ mean? Well, for me, a lovely caramelised thin shell of a crust that crackles a little when you bite into it, and a crumb that is tightish and firm, as it should be, yet not dry – and of course, full flavoured and delicious. (I like a touch of rye nestled in amongst the flavours, so often use a starter with 30% rye/70% white flour.)

These babies are best fresh, but toast up well the day after baking, and work beautifully with butter and honey (and a nice cup of good leaf tea brewed for 4 minutes!), as well as the more traditional savoury toppings.

I usually make only 6 bagels per bake, as my partner and I prefer to have them fresh as a once weekly treat, rather than freezing any that are not consumed on the day of the bake or toasted the next day. I suspect others might prefer to make more in one batch, so the following recipe is for a dozen bagels.


  • 400g starter* (100% hydration)
  • 150g filtered water
  • 550g flour (plain flour if you’re in Australia, AP in the US)
  • 38g oil (I use non-GM canola oil)
  • 25g malt extract (I think this is referred to as malt syrup in the States?)
  • 10-12g salt (15g if you are not used to lower salt doughs)

*As mentioned, I like a suggestion of rye in the flavour, so I use 30% whole grain organic rye and 70% organic white plain flour in my bagel starter. However, I’ve quite often used an all-white flour starter, and the end result is just as good.



  • Hand-mix all ingredients in bowl.  Will be quite a dry dough, but persist in mixing for a few minutes and only add a little extra water if the dough won’t come together. No need to rest the dough once mixed.
  • Do a couple of short kneads (say, 2 or 3 minutes) at 10 minute intervals. Use conventional-style kneading: this dough is too stiff for stretching and folding. Leave to rise for 3-4 hours.
  • Divide into 12 equally weighted portions, and pre-shape into balls. Flatten them a bit, then poke a hole in the middle with a skewer and work it around until you can use your finger to take over and create a bagel-sized hole (I prefer to keep the hole small so toppings don’t fall through, but I take full responsibility for this idiosyncrasy and don’t expect anyone else to take it on!).
  • As you complete each bagel, place it in a lightly oiled container large enough to allow the batch to sit there shoulder to shoulder, so to speak. Rub both sides of bagel on the oiled container surface to coat lightly with oil. Put ‘good side’ up.
  • Retard overnight in fridge (cover bagels with plastic, and put entire container in a plastic bag)
  • Preheat oven to 215C (420F). Fan off if you have a convection oven.
  • While oven heats up, bring about three or four inches of water to boil in a large pot, then add a couple of good dessertspoonfuls of malt extract and stir it in to dissolve. The colour of the boiling liquid should resemble weak tea (unmilked, of course!).
  • When oven is ready, plop into the pot as many bagels as will fit in the boiling malty water without piggy-backing on each other – I manage 3. Flip after 30 secs (so, each bagel gets a malt bath of 1 minute in total). Drain on cake rack or similar for a few minutes.
  • Line a baking tray with baking paper (‘parchment paper’ in the States, I believe) and sprinkle lightly with semolina.
  • Sprinkle on toppings – sesame or poppy seeds or whatever – if you want. (I prefer my bagels plain). Transfer bagels to baking tray, and put in oven.
  • Bake @ 215C (420F) for 18 mins. I don’t use steam for these bagels.
  • Let your bagels cool for 30 minutes or so before topping and attacking them.
  • Yeah, I know - I said I make the holes small!


    Whoops - this hole has closed up completely.



    Sans hole, too - but this is the best crumb shot (despite the camera angle warping the shape of the bagel), so it stays in. My photographic standards are low.


    Cheers all, and best of bageling to you!


SylviaH's picture

I was thrilled you put in a sourdough 'Hand Kneaded' formula.  I had just about given up to make bagels after reading about the mixing methods being so rigorous...I've burned up my little only mixer once already and had to have it repaired..I love mixing by hand and do a lot of it.  My artisan KA mixer doesn't get anything stiff these days to mix or knead.  Your bagels look so delicious and are on my to do list.  Thanks again, Ross!  Thank you to David for starting bagel craving posts!


rossnroller's picture

Hi Sylvia. Yeah, no need to worry about rousing the KA for this recipe. I hand-mix everything (don't even own a mixer!), and this is one of the easiest doughs I do. Do lemme know how you find these once you've given them a try.

PS: Still planning on trying your hot cross buns recipe, but without the crosses since we're past the moment. Yours is the last of 3 recipes I had on my must-try list (I saw it last). I was going to do a post on the other two I've done, with a critical comparison, because they were very different - one was Reinhart's and the other a SD version from a home baker. Sorta feels like there's not much point now, though, with Easter having come and gone. Anyway, definitely doing yours, and will get back with my findings.



wally's picture

I'm spoiled being able to mix my bagels with a spiral mixer, and frankly the thought of going through the process of mixing completely by hand gives me the shivers.  But your product looks good and I imagine the flavor is wonderful.


rossnroller's picture

Nice to have some positive comments from someone as experienced as you! I've been taking note of your sage comments on the quiet for quite a while, so thank you!

The hand-mixing is pretty easy with these. And the kneading is nothing - over in 1-2 minutes, and only 2 kneading sessions. In fact, I always look especially forward to bagel day, because the whole process is so undemanding compared to bread (not that I mind doing my thang with bread - like most here, I'm sure, I love everything about baking).

And yes, the flavour is quite honestly as good as I've experienced in a bagel.

dmsnyder's picture

It's great when you have been able to tweak a recipe until it's just the way you like it best.

I see a few things I might tweak myself, just because my idea of the perfect bagel may differ somewhat from yours (or anyone elses'). Be that as it may, you have inspired me to work on SD bagels.

First though, I should make a bigger dent in the bagels I baked last weekend.


rossnroller's picture

First though, I should make a bigger dent in the bagels I baked last weekend.

But you know, I have full confidence you'll manage without too much pain!

So you know my criteria for a good bagel. Interested to compare - what are yours (apart from a hole big enough that the creation qualifies as a bagel!)?


dmsnyder's picture

Hi, Ross.

You know, this would be a good new topic, but here goes ....

Well, I've never lived in NYC (or Montreal or anywhere else that claims to make the best bagels). So, my "ideal" bagel is a composite of ones I've had and liked, things I've heard about others' notions of bagel perfection and fantasy.

First thing is the crumb has to be chewy, not soft. It doesn't have to be "dense," though. If the crumb tears when you spread cream cheese on it, it's too tender, under-baked or both.

The crust is chewy too, not crisp. However, the very best bagels I've ever had were from Rosenfeld's Bagels in Newton Center, MA, ca. 1975. Fresh out of the oven, the crust was crisp while the crumb was chewy. The flavor was terrific. The problem was that Rosenfeld bagels got stale faster than any bread I've ever eaten. We're talking minutes, not hours.

The flavor of the bagels I've liked best has a sweetness to it. I don't know if that's from perfect fermentation, like a really good baguette, or from added sugar (more malt?).

I do like bagels with toppings - seeds, onion, garlic, all of the above - but the perfect bagel doesn't need topping. (I think we are in agreement on this point.) The perfect bagel is a plain "water bagel." I never have liked rye or pumpernickel or egg bagels. Cinnamon-raisin bagels are (please excuse me, those of you who love them) an abomination. We won't even talk about blueberry bagels and their ilk.

Big holes. Little holes. No holes. Who cares? I don't eat the hole. I like the appearance of a classic bagel with a substantial hole, because it's ... well ... classic. But I wouldn't turn up my nose at a bagel that was otherwise wonderful because the hole was too small.

I hope others chime in on this. I'm curious about their notions of the perfect bagel.


rossnroller's picture

Yes, I've never had the pleasure of sampling one of the famous bagels, like the New York ones. Would certainly love to do so, because I guess a good NY bagel has to be the benchmark...although I didn't know about Montreal's bagel reputation until now, so no offence to Montrealeans - just label me ignorant!

Actually, David, it seems to me we are pretty much in agreement - your words are a little less extravagant than mine (I do tend to go on a bit), but our criteria basically match.

I didn't mention sweetness, but that's in there for me, too - just a touch, though. The original recipe had brown sugar as an ingredient, and one of my tweaks was to replace this with the malt extract. I find that lends a subtle, warming, tantalising note of sweetness that is just as I like it. Of course, it's a traditional ingredient, too, which is where the idea for the tweak came from.

Maybe we differ somewhat in the crust. I like it chewy, certainly, but I do enjoy that little sense of crackle when you first bite into it. But maybe we're not so far apart on this: like you, I would sum up a good bagel as 'crisp and chewy'.

I find these have just the right degree of chew, with a firm but yielding crumb, but you might consider substituting a higher protein flour for the plain flour I like to use. As you'd well know, this will add chew to the crumb.

I'm with you on the crumb tearing when spreading bit. You don't want that! That's why I toast these ones after the first day. The crumb does dry a bit over 24 hours - although I've never frozen them, and maybe that's a key to storing them.

I think I'm pretty much with you on rye/wholemeal/and certainly pumpernickel. And egg? Don't like the sound of that at all! The proportion of rye I use - when I use it - is small, being in the starter only, and merely adds a hint of rye to the flavour profile. Use a white flour starter though, by all means. I love both end results.

Haha...enjoyed your hole comments! Indeed, never have tasted one that added to - or detracted from - the flavour of the bagel!

Tell me, am I all alone in the wide wonderful world of bagels in enjoying them toasted with butter and honey spread atop? Gimme the news on this - I can take it...and I ain't givin' this combo up anyway! No way, no how!

When a bagel is fresh, though, gimme savoury toppings every time...and surely there are none better than the classic smoked salmon (lox?), capers and cream cheese. It's lunchtime here - I'm torturing myself!

And yes, I'm also curious to hear from others about their bagel preferences.


ehanner's picture

Ross, your Bagels are great looking. But, you and David going on and on about the chewy crumb and savory toppings has me drooling. I picked up some smoked salmon yesterday as a treat with some dark rye I'm making today but I'm tempted to get a batch of bagels started for Saturday. Nice post.


rossnroller's picture

It's our lot as food maniacs to drool and pine as we work our way through posts by other food maniacs.

Could it be that bagels have, indeed, ended up being on your Saturday menu? If so, don't forget to raise one to this thread before you chow down!


rockstarmomof2's picture

how would i make transfer this recipe to cups and not grams? i really would like to make these ...

rossnroller's picture

I don't use volume quantities, so can't help you. Besides, American cup measures are different in size from Australian ones, so any attempt on my part to convert to cups would be inaccurate. Why not get a set of digital scales? The cheap ones are fine, and there's no substitute for accurate weighing if you wish to try different recipes (most folk here use gram measures for their ingredients). My scales cost under $50 and are one of the best investments I have made! Besides which, IMO they are indispensible.