Homemade Sourdough Bagels Recipe | Chocolate & Zucchini (2024)

When Maxence and I were in San Francisco late last summer, we had bagels for breakfast every single day. There were a couple of bagel shops not far from where we were staying, so we alternated between the two, and on those mornings that we went for a run through the Golden Gate Park, bagels awaited at a busy coffee shop by the ocean.

I like mine dotted with poppy seeds or sesame seeds, and spread with cream cheese and a juicy slice of tomato. And thanks to a reader who recently suggested the pairing, I’ve also taken to topping my bagels with peanut butter and a juicy slice of tomato. (I know, I was skeptical too, but try it: I think you’ll be surprised.)

On our last day, sad that our vacation was coming to an end and sad to be leaving the city, I saw this one way of making myself feel better: I promised myself I’d bake bagels for us back in Paris. It would at least alleviate the withdrawal symptoms on that particular front.

If you’re unfamiliar with the way bagels are made, the most characteristic thing you should know is that they are cooked in two steps: first you poach them in a pot of water, then you bake them in the oven.

Oh, sure, I’ve found bagels in Paris in the past, and you can even buy them from the ubiquitous chain of frozen foods stores (they come with a bunch of emulsifiers and preservatives, if you’re into that sort of thing), but it’s never been quite the same.

So I turned to Peter Reinhart* and his Bread Baker’s Apprentice book for guidance, compulsively reviewed the posts of every single BBA challenger who had followed his bagel recipe, and, on an afternoon when it seemed I could not sit at the computer for a minute longer, I fled to the kitchen and started up a batch. (Evidently, procrastination is a rich soil for baking projects.)

If you’re unfamiliar with the way bagels are made, the most characteristic thing you should know is that they are cooked in two steps: first you poach them in a pot of water, then you bake them in the oven. And for some reason, the poaching step had always seemed daunting to me: what if I dropped them in and they fell apart, or dissolved, or sank to the bottom of the pot and never floated back up? Would I have to hire divers and send them on a recovery mission to salvage the sunken bagels? Reinhart didn’t seem to suggest that this might happen, so I forged ahead.

Before I got to that point, though, I’d had to overcome two procurement hurdles. First, bagels must be made with flour that has a high rate of gluten: in the US, you would make them with high-gluten flour or bread flour. Unfortunately, French flour is significantly lower in gluten than American flours — it has to do with the different types of wheat that we grow and mill — and as Jane had warned me from her past experience, it would not work. So, my mission was to find powdered wheat gluten that I could add to my flour to boost its gluten content.

The bagels were fantastic, and just what I was hoping for: great flavor and just the right density and chewiness, the perfect carriers for the all-natural, chunky peanut butter I brought back from California.

Second, part of what gives bagels their distinctive flavor is that the dough is lightly sweetened with barley malt, in powder or syrup form. In France, this goes by the names of sirop d’orge, malt d’orge or sirop d’orge malté. I had to try a few organic food stores, but I ended up finding both of these ingredients at the same one**; I almost hugged the cashier.

I mostly stuck to Peter Reinhart’s method, except for a few things: I modified the recipe to use some of my sourdough starter in the sponge (enough to produce a final 1-to-3 ratio between starter and flour) and reduced the amount of commercial yeast. I also halved the recipe (his produces 12 large bagels; I made 8 medium).

I took some liberty with the order of the steps, too: Peter Reinhart’s recipe has you make the dough, shape the bagels, lay them out on baking sheets, and then leave them overnight in the refrigerator (a step called retarding), before you poach and bake them the next day. The thing is, I have a Paris-sized fridge that is stuffed to the gills with, well, food, and the notion that I should just free up two (of the four) shelves to place baking sheets for the night is heroic fantasy.

So, instead of shaping the bagels pre-retarding, I simply placed the ball of dough in the fridge (it was a challenge just to make room for the bowl) and shaped it the next day. I was not struck by the wrath of the bagel gods during the night, so I assume it wasn’t too big of a commandment to break.

The whole process was a lot of fun, and much less involved than I thought: the dough is rather stiff, which makes it easy to handle once kneaded (though I hear it’s quite a workout to knead it by hand), and the poaching step went surprisingly smoothly.

As for the bagels themselves, they were fantastic, and just what I was hoping for: great flavor and just the right density and chewiness, the perfect carriers for the all-natural, chunky peanut butter I brought back from California. Now, if only I could persuade my neighborhood grocery store to carry cream cheese, I’d be all set.

* I just stumbled upon this video of a talk Peter Reinhart gave on bread, via Nicole’s blog. I can’t imagine anyone watching it and not wanting to bake bread right this minute.

** I found malt syrup and wheat gluten at the Biocoop store at 73 rue du Faubourg Poissonnière in the 9th (map it!), 01 44 79 06 44, open Mon-Sat 9:30am-8pm.

Homemade Sourdough Bagels Recipe | Chocolate & Zucchini (1)

Homemade Sourdough Bagels Recipe | Chocolate & Zucchini (2)

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Sourdough Bagels Recipe

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 16 hours

Makes 8 bagels.

Homemade Sourdough Bagels Recipe | Chocolate & Zucchini (3)


    For the sponge:

  • 185 grams (6 1/2 ounces) high-gluten or bread flour (I used 180 grams French T65 flour plus 5 grams wheat gluten)
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast (I use the SAF brand)
  • 215 grams (7 1/2 ounces) water
  • 140 grams (5 ounces) 100% sourdough starter (read more about it here)
  • For the dough:

  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 235 grams (8.3 ounces) high-gluten flour (I used 230 grams French T65 flour plus 5 grams wheat gluten)
  • 6 grams (0.2 ounces) salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons malt syrup
  • For boiling and topping:

  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • an assortment of seeds: sesame seeds, poppy seeds, etc.


  1. On the first day, prepare the sponge: combine all the ingredients for the sponge in a large bowl or in the bowl of your stand mixer. Stir until you get a batter-like consistency, cover, and let rest for 2 hours, until bubbly.
  2. Homemade Sourdough Bagels Recipe | Chocolate & Zucchini (4)

  3. Make the dough: add the dough ingredients, from yeast to malt syrup, to the sponge, stir to combine, then knead by hand for 10 minutes (others have reported it took longer than that) or in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook for 8 minutes. All of the flour should be incorporated within the first 2 minutes or so: if the dough is too dry to incorporate all the flour, add a few drops of water. Knead until the dough becomes smooth and pliable; it will be fairly stiff, but it should feel pleasant to the touch, not dry.
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  5. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour, then cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge until the next day (the dough can stay in the fridge for up to 2 days).
  6. The next day, remove the dough from the fridge and let it come back to room temperature for 1 hour. Have ready 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper, lightly misted with oil, or a silicon baking mat.
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  8. Turn the dough out onto your work surface and divide it into 8 equal pieces, each of them weighing about 100 grams (3 1/2 ounces). Shape each piece into a roll as demonstrated in this video.
  9. Homemade Sourdough Bagels Recipe | Chocolate & Zucchini (7)

  10. Pierce each roll in the middle with your thumb, then use the fingers of both hands to stretch out the hole you've just created, and form the typical bagel shape. At this point, the hole needs to be somewhat wider than you think it should be, because the dough will spring back as it rests. As you shape the bagels, arrange them on the prepared baking sheet. Cover loosely with kitchen towels and let rest for 15 minutes.
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  12. Preheat the oven to 260°C (500°F) with two racks close to the center of the oven, and bring a wide pot of water (about 15 cm or 6 inches deep) to the boil. Have ready one or several wide, shallow bowls (or soup plates) holding the seeds you want to coat the bagels with.
  13. Check whether the dough is ready to be poached using the float test: drop one of the bagels in a bowl of room temperature water; it should float within 10 seconds (mine did a lot faster than that). If it doesn't, return to the baking sheet, and wait for 5 to 10 minutes before testing again.
  14. When the dough is ready, add the baking soda to the pot of boiling water and drop in as many bagels as will comfortably fit; my pot could accommodate 4 bagels. Cook for 1 minute, flip using a skimmer or slotted spoon, and cook for 1 more minute on the other side (extend to 2 minutes if you like them chewier). Notice that the bagels have a prettier, rounded side; try to keep track of which one it is.
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  16. Fish out the bagels with the slotted spoon one by one, dip them on both sides in the prepared seed bowls, then place them, pretty side up, on the baking sheet. Repeat the poaching process with the remaining bagels.
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  18. Once all the bagels are poached and coated with seeds, insert the baking sheets in the oven and bake for 5 minutes. Switch the baking sheets (so the bottom sheet is at the top and the top sheet is at the bottom) and rotate them front to back as well. Lower the heat to 230°C (450°F) and bake for another 5 minutes, a few minutes more if you like them a bit darker.
  19. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool for at least 30 minutes, or completely, before eating. (Once entirely cooled, they may be frozen.)



Unless otherwise noted, all recipes are copyright Clotilde Dusoulier.

Homemade Sourdough Bagels Recipe | Chocolate & Zucchini (11)

Homemade Sourdough Bagels Recipe | Chocolate & Zucchini (2024)


Why are my sourdough bagels so chewy? ›

If your weak sourdough starter is weak, your dough won't rise and your bagels will be dense and gummy. Additionally, a weak starter could make fermentation occur too slowly and will introduce too much acid to the dough. Acidification will cause gluten to break down and weaken the dough too much.

Are sourdough bagels healthier? ›

For both bread and bagels, whole wheat, rye, and sourdough bread varieties are the healthiest choice compared to regular white flour alternatives.

How to get crispy crust on bagels? ›

The boiling before baking step is crucial to get that firm, crisp crust and a chewy interior. Using a spider or spatula, gently place your bagels in simmering water (not a rolling boil) for twenty seconds and remove to a lightly oiled sheet pan.

Why didn't my sourdough bagels rise? ›

Flat sourdough bagels are generally a result of under fermentation or under proofing. This means you haven't allowed the sourdough starter or yeast to fully rise the dough which means they won't puffy up properly when you bake them. They will dense and much more chewy than they should be.

What is the best flour for bagels? ›

Bread flour – Because of its high protein content, bread flour makes these homemade bagels delightfully chewy. This recipe also works with all-purpose flour, they're just a bit less chewy than bagels made with bread flour. Maple syrup – It activates the yeast and gives the bagels a hint of sweetness.

What does overproofed sourdough look like when baked? ›

underproof dough will spring back completely correctly, proof will spring back slowly and only halfway, and overproof dough won't spring back at all. after baking, the underproof dough will be dense and deformed. while the dough that was ready will be fluffy and light. and the overproof dough will be flat and deflated.

Is it OK to eat sourdough bread everyday? ›

Is it healthy to eat sourdough everyday? You could eat sourdough every day, but it isn't necessarily healthy to do so. A healthy diet is characterized by balance and moderation. Whether or not it is healthy for you to consume sourdough every day depends on the rest of your diet.

Is sourdough good for your gut? ›

Sourdough bread may be easier to digest than white bread for some people. According to some studies, sourdough bread acts as a prebiotic, which means that the fiber in the bread helps feed the “good” bacteria in your intestines. These bacteria are important for maintaining a stable, healthy digestive system.

Can diabetics eat sourdough bread? ›

People with diabetes can eat sourdough bread or any other bread that fits into their dietary plan. That said, because sourdough has a lower glycemic index than other bread varieties, it can be a particularly good choice if you're watching your blood sugar levels.

Why are my homemade bagels so dense? ›

If your dough is too wet, it'll create large holes in the crumb of the dough and your bagels will be more like French bread, with a fluffy interior (see top photo). When too much flour is kneaded in, bagels become dense, hard and tough, instead of crisp and chewy.

Should you bake bagels on a stone? ›

And for best results, I bake my bagels on a large clay stone, but you can use a dark steel baking sheet instead. Please don't be afraid to try this recipe; I've already made all the mistakes for you!

Why are my homemade bagels flat? ›

According to Molly, “If the bagels proof too much, they'll deflate in the water bath.” If you're keeping an eye on your dough, she advises pulling it a little too early rather than a little too late (and definitely before they double in size), as it's better to be underproofed.

Can you let sourdough rise overnight on counter? ›

Turn the dough over so it has more of a smooth ball shape. Then cover it back up, and leave it on your counter until morning(Or for at least 9-10 hours)! By the next morning, your bread should have risen significantly. It usually doubles in size, if your sourdough starter was active enough!

How long should I proof my sourdough on the counter? ›

(The rice flour acts as a barrier to gluten formation and keeps your dough from sticking to the bowl.) To proof them, let them sit, covered, at room temperature for up to 3–4 hours, or let them proof for a little while at room temperature and then place in the refrigerator for 12–15 hours.

What does overproofed sourdough bread look like? ›

Note: As loaves begin to overproof they lose their height and shape. The crumb becomes more dense. The holes become more ragged and irregular in shape. The crust begins to thin and separate from the crumb.

How do you fix chewy sourdough bread? ›

Try less water with your flour. Uneven heat in your oven can be the culprit – if you loaf is nicely golden on the outside but gummy or moist in the inside, it's baking too quickly on the outside. Trying reducing the temperature you're baking at and bake for a bit longer.

How do you make bagels less chewy? ›

Swapping in ½ cup of whole-wheat flour for ½ cup of the bread flour will make the bagels slightly less chewy but will also give them a boost of flavor.

How do I make my sourdough crust less chewy? ›

If you are rubbing your dough with flour before baking to accentuate your scored designs, this too can dehydrate your crust, causing it to be tougher and more chewy. Try just spraying with water before baking or minimising the amount of flour you're using on the surface of your bread.

Why is my bagel so chewy? ›

What Makes a Bagel Chewy? Bread flour is the essential ingredient to creating that distinct chewy bite we all crave in a bagel. Its high protein content creates a stiff dough that holds its shape while baking and develops more gluten for more chew.

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