The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough Bagels (recipe!)

Quantum's picture

Sourdough Bagels (recipe!)


For my first blog post (on what my girlfriend refers to as "the bread facebook"), I'd like to share my recipe for sourdough bagels. I started with Hamelman's bagel recipe from Bread (a fantastic technical book, as I'm sure many of you know!), adapted for sourdough starter in lieu of commercial yeast. The end result is lightly sour and wonderfully chewy, and pairs exceptionally well with savory spreads. This recipe makes a dozen ~~120g bagels.

A note on ingredients: I used King Arthur brand Bread Flour (blue and white bag), and my sourdough starter is fed exclusively with King Arthur Whole Wheat (red and brown bag). Hamelman's recipe calls for a high gluten flour (e.g. KA Sir Lancelot), which I do not have ready access to--- I've instead added a small amount of vital wheat gluten to the recipe in order to bring the protein level of the bread flour up to that of Sir Lancelot. If you have access to high gluten flour, I'd imagine you can substitute the vital wheat gluten for an equivalent weight of high gluten flour.

I've tried to include as many photos as possible, but I'm limited to using my cell phone's camera so I apologize for any quality issues/the aspect ratio!



84g bread flour

84g water

171g 100% hydration sourdough starter


Bulk dough:

753g bread flour

20g vital wheat gluten

19g salt

1/2 teaspoon diastatic malt powder

377g water


The recipe also requires 4oz of malt syrup (or honey) per gallon of water used to boil the bagels prior to baking.

Mix the preferment ingredients in a plastic covered bowl, and allow to ferment at room temperature for 10-12 hours. After this period of fermentation, the preferment should be very bubbly--- you should see bubbles on the surface and gently knocking the bowl on a countertop should liberate more bubbles.

Dissolve the preferment in the bulk dough water in a large mixing bowl. Add the rest of the bulk dough ingredients and stir together to form a shaggy mass.

Knead for 20 to 25 minutes if kneading by hand--- when I first developed this recipe, I didn't have a stand mixer and kneaded this dough by hand exclusively. It's a stiff, strong dough, and is a heck of an upper body workout. I gifted myself a Kitchenaid model 7581 mixer, and used it to knead this batch of bagels (I've included some thoughts on its performance at the end of this post). Using a stand mixer, knead for 15-17 minutes on speed 1. The gluten should be very well developed, and the dough should feel strong and heavy.

Let rest a few minutes and form into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest at room temperature for 1 hour (it was a chilly day in the SF bay, and my kitchen was quite cold, so this particular batch of dough rested for an hour and a half). These two pictures show before and after--- note that the dough has not really visibly risen:

Scale and divide the dough into approximately 120g portions. When I scale the bagels, the portions I cut using a bench knife usually come off in a "log" shape--- the next step in shaping this log will determine the size of the hole at the center of the bagel. Option 1: roll the log out as is to a length of 10" to 12". Option 2: fold the log back onto itself (like a horseshoe) and then roll out to a length of 10" to 12". Option 2 stretches the gluten in the dough more than option 1, and will result in a bagel with a smaller hole (and a rounder bagel overall) since the gluten will snap back after forming the bagel, while the relaxed gluten in option 1 will yield a bagel with a larger hole. Note: shaping bagels requires a decent amount of work space--- I often just work directly on my (well cleaned) countertop.

Take the rolled out log and wrap it around your palm like so:

Now roll the ring of dough (palm down) on your work surface to seal the two ends of the bagel together:

Place each formed bagel on a sheet of parchment paper sprayed with Pam:

Note: the bagel in the right column and second row was formed as per option 1 above, while the bagel right below it was formed as per option 2.

Cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rest at room temperature for an hour (since my kitchen was cold, I again lengthened the rest to 90 minutes). Note the bagels have risen visibly, but just barely:

I've only ever tried this once, but at this point the bagels should pass the "float test"--- they should float in a bowl of cold water.

Place the sheet of bagels in the refrigerator and allow to cold ferment for 12-24 hours (the longer the ferment the better the flavor!).

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, and move a rack to the middle position. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and stir in your malt syrup/honey (4oz of syrup/honey per gallon of water, I generally use 7-8 quarts of water).

Boil the bagels four at a time for 1-2 minutes (the longer the boil, the chewier the crust of the bagel--- I generally boil mine for the full 2 minutes). The bagels tend to sink at first, and can stick to the bottom of the pot if you're not careful. Stir them around at first to keep them from settling onto the bottom. The bagels should float by the end of the boil. Remove the boiled bagels to a wire rack placed over a baking sheet to drain.

While the next set of bagels is boiling, press the drained bagels into a plate of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, etc. My personal favorite topping is a sprinkling of kosher salt and fresh ground telicherry peppercorns. Place the topped bagels topping side down on a sheet pan.

Once all the bagels have been topped and placed on the baking sheet, put the sheet in the oven and bake (topping side down) at 500F for 10 minutes. Flip the bagels (topping side up now), and bake for another 6-8 minutes (or until bagels are golden brown.

Note the untopped bagels on the bottom row have browned quite a bit--- I like the color, but if the bagels brown too deeply for your taste, bake with a second baking sheet underneath the first.

The crumb looks great--- plenty of nooks and crannies for cream cheese! My favorite spread is a little butter mixed with marmite.

The bagels toast extremely well, and will keep fresh for a few days in a breadbox. They keep well in the freezer--- wrap in a paper sack and place in a plastic freezer bag. Thaw, toast and enjoy!

A special thanks to dmsnyder, whose San Joaquin Sourdough inspired me to experiment in naturally leavened breads.

A note re: my Kitchenaid Mixer's performance:

I know that KA mixers are somewhat... contentious... 'round these parts, but sadly a Hobart mixer is beyond the means of my PhD student teaching stipend. I ordered a refurbished Kitchenaid model 7851 7 quart stand mixer for just over 300 USD, and hoped that it would hold up to stiff low hydration dough. The mixer performed impeccably in this respect--- it was able to handle a full batch of bagel dough on speed 1 with no difficulties whatsoever, and the top of the mixer was not even perceptibly warm after 15 minutes of kneading. The mixer head itself was warm to the touch, but I would not call it "hot". I did try to knead the dough on speed 2 for a few minutes (the mixer manual warns not to knead dough at speeds higher than 2), but at points the mixer seemed to strain slightly, probably not enough to damage the motor in any way unless kneading for hours at a time. I should say as well that I have used my mother's 6 quart KA mixer to make this same recipe, and while it was capable of kneading the dough, the top of the mixer was quite warm afterwards and it seemed to strain even at speed 1. The more powerful motor in the 7 quart series mixers seems to make the difference. In short, the 7 quart series of KA mixers can easily handle a batch of a dozen bagels. 


Floydm's picture

Awesome first post, Quantum, and welcome to the site!

Hey, would you mind if I shared this post on the homepage for a bit? 

Quantum's picture

Absolutely, I'd be honored!

Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

Wow, great looking bagels, and thanks for the detailed post! Including the note about the KA performance. That's helpful.

Have you tried different flour blends for your bagels? I make my sourdough bagels with a blend of bread flour (Roger's Silver Star), whole wheat and stone-ground rye flour. They're called "Miller's bagels" because, as the story goes, they were made at the end of the day when the millers swept up whatever flour was on the floor and baked bread with it! Just to note, I don't bake with flour that is swept up from the floor. :)

Quantum's picture

Thanks! I've not experimented much with different flours--- as written the recipe is about 10% whole wheat flour (from the 100% hydration starter), but I think you could reasonably sub in another 5-10% rye flour. I might just do that for my next batch, I think the rye flour would complement the sour flavors quite well. Do you add any vital wheat gluten to your bagels? I've always just assumed that you needed a ~~14% protein flour to make a respectable bagel, but your Miller's bagels (they sound fantastic) have me wondering whether or not you could omit the VWG or leave it in and sub the rye flour as above without compromising the bagel.

Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

No, I don't add VWG to my bagels. They end up nice and chewy anyway, but I think the Roger's Silver Star bread flour is quite strong. We mill the rye flour ourselves with a Wondermill Jr. and it's quite coarse.

Quantum's picture

Interesting, I don't think I've ever seen Rogers flours here in northern California, but according to this chowhound discussion the flour is 13.3% protein content (compare to KA bread flour @12.7%):

So it's a good bit closer to the ~~14% protein content that I think of when Hamelman calls for "high gluten flour". I might have to experiment with less/no VWG, or more whole grain flour in my next batch. Thanks for the info!

P.S. Is this the recipe you use? It looks quite similar to mine actually, but I'm surprised it doesn't call for a cold ferment overnight.

CAphyl's picture

Quantum:  I have made bagels a number of times (but not for awhile), and they never looked as good as yours.  I will have to try your recipe, as I think the process of making bagels is so much fun.  Thanks for sharing.  Best,  Phyllis

Quantum's picture

Don't give up! My first few batches were... less than satisfactory :P

When you get the knack for it, you won't be able to stop!

richkaimd's picture

I, too, love the Hamelman recipe.  I've been using it with Vital Wheat Gluten whenever I cannot get High Gluten Flour.  (I think it's available at the Berkeley Bowl.)  I like the chew of the crumb better than with bread flour.  (Or maybe I'm just imagining it's better?  Is there a device for measuring this?)  Anyway, I've been thinking for a while now that I'd try the recipe using my SD starter, so thanks for the impetus.

I'm an East coast immigrant to Davis, CA, who tried all the local store-bought bagels before, out of confusion (why do they call those things "bagels" when they're really just all-purpose flour unsweetened white bread donut shaped objects?), I decided to tried my hand at making them on my own and haven't stopped since.  Curiously, I sold a batch to a local coffee shop owner.  He, in turn, failed to sell them to his customers because they weren't perfectly formed and too chewy!  There's no accounting for taste. On the other hand, local friends who, as I, are transplants, say that my bagels remind them of home.

About the mixer issue:  I, luckily, came into a nearly new Electrolux DLX many years ago.  It works this dough so much more easily than my quite a bit older but still serviceable KA.  The DLX never walks off my counter!

Where are you in Northern California?


Quantum's picture

I'm a PhD student at Berkeley actually, so I'm well acquainted with Berkeley Bowl. I'll have to check next time I'm there--- have you seen it in the bulk bins or bags in the baking aisle? I get my VWG from the bulk bins, it'll be ironic if I've been overlooking the high gluten flour this entire time.

I don't have extensive experience with genuine NY bagels--- the closest I've come are bagels from transplant Jewish delis during the year I lived outside Ft. Lauderdale. That being said, I too have never understood the appeal of those soft spongey bagels. I believe they are steamed instead of boiled--- much easier for a commercial baker, but cutting the corners makes for an awful product.

Re: those poor benighted coffee shop patrons, they simply do not know what they're missing. If we can perfect our bagel shaping, we should go into business selling to hipsters in San Francisco, who are apparently willing to pay $6 for a plain bagel with cream cheese!

richkaimd's picture

maybe I bought my high gluten flour at the Rainbow Coop in SF. Why dontcha give'em a call?

baybakin's picture
baybakin's picture

The search for high-gluten flour in the bay area is a difficult one, unbleached at least.  There is high-gluten bleached flour at smart and final, but for unbleached, I typically end up using KA Bread flour (blue bag), or adding a bit of extra VWG.  If you can make your way up to Niki Gusto's baking supply in Petaluma, he sells a wonderful flour selection, including high-extraction flours.

Quantum's picture

Is this the place you're talking about? It's apparently also known as Keith Giusto Bakery Supply, but I had trouble finding a "Niki Gusto" on google. Apparently it's right around the corner from Lagunitas Brewery, one of my other favorite yeast based places. I think a beer and baking trip to Petaluma might be in order...

baybakin's picture

You're right, it's Keith Giusto, there's a Niki in the family as well.  definitely check out the type 70 and type 80 flours when you're there, great stuff for country sourdough breads.

joyfulbaker's picture

Hi Quantum,

Last time (several years ago, actually) I was at Central Milling, Nicky Giusto gave me a tour of the place.  He is a family member (cousin? brother? I'm not sure) of Keith.  He was so helpful, as I wanted 5-lb. bags (I had a cottage baking business in Santa Rosa).  He also contributed comments to TFL that were very helpful (again, it's been years, so I don't remember exact details).  Happy bagel baking.  I find a couple tsp. of diastatic barley malt powder in the dough formula works well; gives the yeasts sustained feeding (I overnight the shaped bagels, which gives a nice tang; and, no, I don't use sourdough starter, just a formula similar to Hamelman's).  The powder is available at, Stan Ginsberg's online baker's supply. 


Quantum's picture

Now that the my spring teaching assignment has ended I'll actually have time to go check out Central Milling--- it sounds like a neat little operation. Just wish it was a little closer, although the trip does gives me an excuse to go drink a few Russian River brews...

Monkadelic's picture

Marmite, eh?  I like the cut of your jib.

Quantum's picture

The paternal part of my family is English--- I developed a taste for it at some point and I use it in nearly everything. It's great to throw a teaspoon or two in e.g. lentil soup, really perks up the flavor (natural glutamates, tasty). I also once mixed some into an egg wash for some rolls, that was pretty interesting.

SpeculaasSpice's picture


Frank Zweerus – best artisan bagel baker based in Leiden in The Netherlands – used our speculaas spice to create a new bagel: the Betterbagels Speculaas Bagel. Here is the recipe:

Happy baking!

Steven - The Speculaas Spice 'Master Chef'

makebreadnet's picture

those look delicious.  nice work! i've been looking for inspiration to get me to do bagels again and this may have done the trick!

Motownvoice's picture

Just made my first batch of bagels.  EVER!

Thank you Quantum!

Quantum's picture

That's awesome! Glad I could inspire a few of you to try your hands at bagels.

cristina.w's picture

I look forward to trying these, thank you for the detailed formula! 

Happy baking! 

leda_g's picture

I just pulled these out of the oven. Thanks for the recipe and detailed instructions! I had been wanting to make sourdough bagels for a while and finally set aside the time. Haven't tasted them yet but they look great! 

ryebreadasap's picture

I like how it is like bread but doesn't heat up the oven too long.   Can someone give me tthe bakers math for using high extraction milled spelt? Saving this one to print and try. maybe a king aurther sir galead AP/spelt combo? Yes?

T. Fargo's picture
T. Fargo

  Good morning Quantum, Excellent post!  I would like to ask if you have ever used a different technique for forming your bagels.  The technique I use is to form the weighed portions into balls like a pizza dough, let rest for 20 minutes to relax the dough, then push my thumb through the middle.  Then I spin them on my finger until the hole is almost triple the size of the original ball.  Then cover & place in the fridge to retard the yeast.  Do you think this technique would work with your recipe?

  I'm making your recipe above with a slight augmentation, substituting 100 g rye for 100 g of the bread flower.  I bumped the VWG to 25 g and will add 8 g of ground caraway.  I'm not sure yet, but thinking of dividing the dry ingredients and making half of this batch pumpernickel.

  Again, thanks for a most excellent post, I will be adding this to my faves.

h2's picture

Actually, both techniques for forming bagels will work. The only problem with poking a hole in a round ball of dough is make sure you get the whole large enough. As the bagel dough raises, it will have a tendency to grow in all directions, thus making the hole smaller and smaller and if you're not careful, it will almost disappear.

Trilby's picture

Welp, now I have to make bagels! Mostly because I need to try out the way you roll the dough snakes to connect the ends.

MontBaybaker's picture

I've turned out some pretty good batches per Hamelman's recipe, and will try this one after I get the NMNF starter going (after houseguests leave).  I'm confused about what difference it makes if you do the float test after shaping but before overnight chill, vs. after the shaped bagels have warmed up slightly following the overnight proof.  I've seen recipes and videos for both methods.

Off topic, my first batch released fine from parchment lightly dusted with cornmeal (no oil), but after reading the problems so many have with parchment, I had a head-slap moment and remembered my silicone baking mats.  Ever since, I've dusted those with cornmeal, put the shaped bagels on them to chill, and they come off easily in the morning.  Tried the oil mister plus cornmeal on one mat, and it made no difference to the no oil mat.  After chilling I do lightly mist the plastic wrap with oil so they don't stick to it while waiting to be boiled.

MontBaybaker's picture

I've been making Hamelman's recipe with some grain & flavor variations, and pretty good results.  Will try Quantum's soon, once the houseguests leave and I get the NMNF starter going.  Thanks for the horseshoe shaping option, will try it next batch.  I have small hands, but still seem to get the holes too big.  If I add raisins to the dough, I sprinkle cinnamon on the inside of the rectangles, pincch long edges and rolling the log.   

Is there truly a difference in the end product between doing the float test on shaped bagels before the cold proof vs after the cold proof (to ensure they're ready for boiling)?  I've only done it the latter method, but have seen many recipes and videos for both methods.  

Off topic, I skip parchment and use a light dusting of cornmeal on silione mats for final proofing.  No need for oil.  The bagels come off easily, even warmed up and ready to boil.   

Lacking bagel boards (waiting for my husband to build them), I've been baking the first 3-4 minutes on a damp Egyptian cotton towel kitchen folded to about 5" wide, on a long pan, then flipping onto the stone.  Mist the towel between each batch.  

MontBaybaker's picture