Taking a Baking Challenge to the next level with Sourdough Bagels using sourdough starter discard. Sourdough tang & bagel chewiness. Yum!
Too Much Starter
I hadn’t used my sourdough starter discard for two weeks, and I didn’t feel like making pizza dough, bread dough, or focaccia…you know, my go-to recipes. But it was a bitter cold day and I wanted to bake something (my oven is a very effective heater in our small apartment). Enter the January Baking Challenge from Sally’s Baking Addiction. This month’s challenge was homemade bagels, and when I saw that, the wheels started turning…how about I substitute in my sourdough starter discard for some of the flour and water and make Sourdough Bagels? Challenge accepted!
Thinking up creative ways to use sourdough starter discard can be fun, ala Sourdough Pretzels or Sourdough Spice Cake, and when inspiration hits, experimentation follows. However, there’s some work to be done.
No worries, grasshopper! The trick for adapting a recipe for sourdough starter is to weigh the amount of sourdough starter discard you have, then divide it by half…that’s the amount by weight of flour and water you need to remove from the recipe. For example, for Sourdough Bagels the original bagel recipe called for 4 cups of flour and 1-1/2 cups of water (that’s 17 oz of flour and 12 fluid oz, respectively). Since I had 2 weeks’ worth of sourdough starter discard (14 oz), I needed to remove 7 oz each of flour and water from the recipe. Now do you see why I like my kitchen scale so much? I so appreciate it when a recipe writer provides the ingredient amounts in weight measurements, not just volume. If not, I do the conversions for myself (and for you, of course).
Does your brain hurt? I’m sorry. Here, have a sourdough bagel.
Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction Homemade Bagels
- 1/2 cup warm water (between 100-110°F, 38-43°C)
- 2-3/4 tsp (8g) instant or active dry yeast
- 2 cups (14 oz, 400g) unfed sourdough starter discard (about 2 weeks’ worth)
- 2-3/4 cups (10oz, 285g) bread flour, plus more for work surface and hands
- 1 Tbsp (19g) packed light or dark brown sugar
- 2 tsp (13g) salt
- coating the bowl: 1 Tbsp canola oil
- egg wash: 1 egg white beaten with 1 Tbsp water
- 2 quarts water
- 1/4 cup (3oz, 85g) honey
- Prepare the dough: Whisk the warm water and yeast together in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Cover and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
- Add the flour, brown sugar, and salt. Beat on low speed for 2 minutes. The dough is very stiff and will look somewhat dry.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. With lightly floured hands, knead the dough for 4-5 minutes. The dough is too heavy for the mixer to knead it! (Although, when I made it with my sourdough starter discard, it wasn’t as stiff as I thought it would be. The flour in the starter is very well hydrated, and that may be a contributing factor. Please let me know if you concur).
- Lightly grease a large bowl with oil. Place the dough in the bowl, turning it to coat all sides in the oil. Cover the bowl with aluminum foil, plastic wrap, or a clean kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rise at room temperature for 60-90 minutes or until double in size.
- Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
- Shape the bagels: When the dough is ready, punch it down to release any air bubbles. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball. Press your index finger through the center of each ball to make a hole about 1 1/2 – 2 inches in diameter. Loosely cover the shaped bagels with a kitchen towel and rest for a few minutes as you prepare the water bath.
- Preheat oven to 425°F (218°C).
- Water bath: Fill a large, wide pot with 2 quarts of water. Whisk in the honey. Bring water to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-high. Drop bagels in, 2-4 at a time, making sure they have enough room to float around. Cook the bagels for 1 minute on each side (2 mins per side if you want a chewier bagel). Remove from pot and drain slightly. When they’re cool enough to handle, gently reshape into bagel shape if needed.
- Using a pastry brush, brush the egg wash on top and around the sides of each bagel. Dip in toppings, if desired. Place 4 bagels onto each lined baking sheet.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. You want the bagels to be a dark golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow bagels to cool on the baking sheets for 20 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Slice, toast, top, whatever you want! Cover leftover bagels tightly and store at room temperature for a few days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- Overnight Preparation: Prepare the dough through step 4, allowing the dough to rise overnight in the refrigerator. The slow rise gives the bagels wonderful flavor! In the morning, continue with step 5. I don’t recommend shaping the bagels the night before as they may puff up too much overnight.
- Freezing: Baked bagels freeze wonderfully! Freeze them for up to 3 months, thaw overnight in the refrigerator or at room temperature, then warm to your liking. You can also freeze the bagel dough. After punching down the dough in step 6, wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap, then a layer of aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then punch the dough down again to release any air bubbles. Continue with the rest of step 6.
- Special Equipment: stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, large baking sheets, big pot, pastry brush, kitchen scale
- Yeast: Use instant or active dry yeast. If using active dry yeast, the rise is time may be up to 2 hours
- Bread Flour: Bagels require a high protein flour. Bread flour is a must.
- Bagel Varieties: The toppings are added after the egg wash in step 9
- Can make whole wheat bagels by replacing half of the bread flour with whole wheat flour
- If using Sourdough Starter Discard, add more flour if needed to get right consistency (flour is well hydrated)
- Don’t skip the water bath and egg wash — both provide an extra chewy and golden brown crust.
Homemade Bagel Varieties
- Plain Bagels: Follow the recipe as written
- Cinnamon Raisin Bagels: Check out Sally’s Cinnamon Raisin Bagels recipe
- Everything Bagels: Use a pre-made Everything bagel topping or Mix 2 Tbsp poppy seeds, 2 Tbsp sesame seeds, 1 Tbsp dried minced onion, 1 Tbsp dried garlic flakes, 1 Tbsp coarse salt all in a bowl (from Homemade Everything Bagels)
- Sesame Seed Bagels: Use 1/3 cup sesame seeds. After brushing with egg wash in step 9, top with or dunk each bagel into topping. Use more as needed
- Poppy Seed Bagels: Use 1/3 cup poppy seeds. After brushing with egg wash in step 9, top with or dunk each bagel into topping. Use more as needed
- Salt Bagels: Use 1/3 cup coarse salt. After brushing with egg wash in step 9, top with or dunk each bagel into topping. These are pretty salty, so feel free to go lighter on the salt
- Cheese Bagels (Asiago, Cheddar, etc): Add 1/2 cup of shredded cheese to the dough when you add the flour. After brushing with egg wash in step 9, sprinkle with extra cheese
Taking the Homemade Bagel January Baking Challenge to the next level was very successful. These Sourdough Bagels had a wonderful sourdough tang from the sourdough starter discard, yet still retained that bagel chewiness. Also, my apartment smelled like a bagel shop…that alone was worth it! Toasted with a shmear of cream cheese (my way) or warmed and eaten whole (my husband’s way)…however you enjoy your bagels, try making them yourself first. After all, it’s another way of using that discard in the fridge!
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!