Baking Sourdough Bagels

Now that we’re a few solid days into February it seemed appropriate that I acknowledge the fine dusting of flour on the floor, walls and furniture that is my loosely stated New Year’s resolutions.

I had been lamenting the lack of variation in my sourdough adventures and looking forward to a year of bread-based experimentation in the form of baked goods like doughnuts, English muffins and bagels.

So, it’s good that I can report I’ve checked at least one of those items off my list: bagels.

My initial attempt at making bagels — not just sourdough bagels, but bagels, period — full stop was based on a blurry-lined recipe I found online that was dancing between a New York style versus a Montreal-style bagel.

Sweetened, dry dough. Slow rise. Thick and chewy exterior.

The Ingredients

200g active sourdough starter
360g warm tap water
635g bread flour
30ml honey
12g salt
60g granulated sugar
10ml baking soda
1 egg white, whisked
sesame seeds, to taste

The flour, water, salt, starter, and honey went together just as I would have usually put together a basic bread dough. Blend. Hydrate. Fold. Rest. Fold. Repeat. And finally into the fridge for about 16 hours.

Things changed up on the back end, when after I let the dough warm back up for about an hour, I weighed out twelve equal(ish) portions and shaped into rings. The dough being fairly dry, this was a tough thing to do, at least in as much as I was hoping for smooth, beautiful loops. I wound up with scraggly rings that evened out a bit as they rose but even after twelve hours on the counter still bore my (trademark?) handmade look.

A pot of boiling water to which the granulated sugar and baking soda joined in to make a sweet alkaline broth gave each of the bagels, two at a time in my medium pot, a thirty-second-per-side bath before landing on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

A quick egg white wash on the top and a generous sprinkle of sesame seeds, and the dozen bagels were into the 450F oven for a solid 20 minutes before extraction.

They definitely had a homemade look, but the kid — a bagel aficionado already at age fourteen — scarfed two and declared them worthy. I guess I’m going to need to keep that recipe handy for another batch soon.

Sourdough But Not Bread

It’s been a long twenty-one months of pandemic craziness, but I’ve kept myself a little more sane by baking a lot of sourdough bread.

A few loaves per week. A regular diet of sourdough toast for breakfast. A healthy source of bread for the family.

But in all that time I haven’t explored much further into the sourdough family than experimenting with basic flour blends and a bit of beer hydration. I haven’t explored all the possibilities that a fine-tuned sourdough starter has to offer.

Whatโ€™s something you
should have cooked in 2021,
but didnโ€™t?

In the coming year I’d like to try at least three new sourdough recipes.

I don’t yet have these recipes, but I’ve encountered them in the past, online, and I know with just the right search words I’ll likely be able to find something that lines up neatly and to my satisfaction.

First up, bagels.

Bagels? You know the dense and chewy bready rings popular in different styles around the world, Montreal-style or a’la New York. A bit of cream cheese with some smoked lox from nearby British Columbia seems like it would suit a sourdough experiment just fine by me. I’ve seen a few Youtubers spinning up a delicious bagel recipe with a sourdough base and I’ve never had the nerve to follow all the extra steps to get that job done, but in 2022 I think this is something in my cooking queue.

Second, english muffins.

We’ve been buying only one type of bread with any consistency since the pandemic started and my adventures with supplying the household with sourdough loaves began. English muffins are the classic ingredient in a hearty breakfast sandwich, which also happens to be one of my daughter’s self-sufficiency foods: she cooks herself a breakfast sandwich for lunch on the weekends or whenever a teenage hollow-leg syndrome strikes. A fried egg, a slice of ham, a bit of cheese all squeezed between a toasted english muffin is also an ideal thing to prep on a cast iron griddle, but I think I can go one step further in 2022 and try making my own english muffins using my sourdough starter.

Finally, doughnuts.

Like our neighbours to the south, we Canadians can be fiends for our doughnuts. In the past I’ve used my big dutch oven to deep fry multiple batches of yeast doughnuts. My daughter loves this because not only do they turn out delicious but she enjoys decorating them with chocolate, sprinkles, or all sorts of other toppings. Like bagels and english muffins I’ve come to appreciate that store bought yeast has nothing on bready treats that start with a bit of mother dough instead. I’d like to put this theory to the test.

Next year, it seems, is going to be one where I explore the tasty potential of my sourdough starter. And who knows, I might even find a new specialty. If nothing else, you’ll be reading about it here.

Thirty one topics. Thirty one posts. Not exactly a list… but close. In December I like to look back on the year that was. My daily posts in December-ish are themed-ish and may contain spoilers set against the backdrop of some year-end-ish personal exposition.