Sourdough Bagels

sourdough bagels 1

A few months ago, my husband casually mentioned that one of his favorite breakfasts was a bagel with cream cheese. How did I not know this, after five years of marriage??? After bemoaning that fact for awhile, I decided to get to work on a house bagel recipe.

I’ve posted a bagel recipe before, which is definitely delicious and worth making. But this time around I really wanted to put my own spin on bagels, incorporating my favorite features of New York (chewiness) and Montreal-style (a touch of sweetness and enrichment from eggs and oil) bagels and adding sourdough. After test batch after test batch, here we are!

A few notes:
  • There are many ways to shape bagels, but I prefer the rope method. It makes for a nice even crumb and the center hole stays a bit more open. If you need a visual, this video is similar to what I do.
  • This recipe calls for a couple special ingredients — vital wheat gluten and barley malt syrup. I can get both easily at my local bulk food / health food stores. In a pinch, you can sub in more bread flour for the VWG and honey or brown sugar for the barley malt syrup, but I really do feel like these two ingredients make bagels more….bagel-y! The VWG adds extra chew and the barley malt syrup has a unique flavor that is so distinctive.
  • This dough is quite stiff so it’s easiest to mix it in a stand mixer with a dough hook. If you do it by hand be prepared for a good workout — it’ll probably take a good 15+ minutes of hand kneading.
  • Bagels are best enjoyed soon after baking. You can toast them on the second or third day (store them in a plastic bag), but any longer than that I’d recommend splitting and freezing, then reheating in the toaster.
bagels with cream cheese
single bagel
split bagel

Sourdough Bagels

Makes ten 3 oz. bagels / Adapted from many sources


  • 340g bread flour (I have subbed in 15% whole wheat flour with good results)
  • 10g vital wheat gluten (makes bagels extra chewy — sub more bread flour if you don’t have it)
  • 100g water (room temperature)
  • 20g olive oil
  • 50g egg (about 1 large)
  • 28g milk powder
  • 16g barley malt syrup
  • 20g granulated sugar
  • 10g kosher or sea salt
  • 300g active 100% hydration sourdough starter
  • 2 Tbsp honey or barley malt syrup (for poaching)
  • 1/4 c regular or baked baking soda
  • Assorted seeds, for topping (if desired)


  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the bread flour, vital wheat gluten (if using), milk powder, sugar, and salt.
  2. In a large glass measuring cup or bowl, whisk together the water, olive oil, egg, barley malt syrup, and starter.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, then turn the mixer on low to combine.
  4. Turn the mixer up to medium-low and mix until the dough is very smooth and strong (about 8 minutes, but depends on the strength of your mixer).
  5. Turn the dough out onto an unfloured work surface and form into a smooth ball. Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap or a large mixing bowl and let rest for 10 minutes.
  6. Divide the dough into 10 equal portions, about 85g / 3 oz. each. Round each piece into a ball (it doesn’t have to be too tight) and let rest another 10 minutes.
  7. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and dust with semolina.
  8. To shape the bagels, roll each piece into an even rope (not tapered) about 10 inches long. Wrap the rope around your hand, with the ends overlapping by about 2 inches in your palm. Roll your palm firmly on your unfloured work surface to seal the ends together. Use a bit of water to help the ends stick together if needed. Transfer shaped bagels to the prepared baking sheet.
  9. Once all the bagels are shaped, cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature for about 4 hours, or until noticeably puffy (they will not double in size). To check if the bagels have risen enough, fill a bowl with warm water. Place a bagel in the water and if it floats within 10 seconds, the bagels have risen enough. If not, keep checking every 15-20 minutes until a bagel passes the float test. (Pat the water off the test bagel before returning to the sheet pan.)
  10. Place the bagels in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
  11. When you are ready to poach and bake the bagels, preheat the oven to 500F with a rack in the middle. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Prepare a large cooling rack with a dishtowel underneath and carefully transfer the bagels to the rack, brushing the semolina off the bottoms. Redust the sheet pan with more semolina.
  12. Once the water comes to a full boil, add the honey/barley malt syrup and baking soda. Stir to dissolve.
  13. Drop as many bagels as will comfortably fit in your pot (usually 3 or 4) and poach for about 45-60 seconds. Flip the bagels and poach for another 45-60 seconds. Remove the bagels with a slotted spoon and transfer to the cooling rack. Let drain for about 30 seconds, then transfer to the sheet pan and sprinkle with desired toppings. Repeat with the remaining bagels.
  14. Bake the bagels at 500F for 5 minutes, then turn the oven down to 450F and bake another 10-15 minutes, or until you reach the desired color. Cool bagels on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before splitting, slathering with cream cheese, and devouring. Bagels are best enjoyed the day they’re baked, but leftovers can be stored in a plastic bag for a couple days or split and frozen, well wrapped, for up to a month.
hands on bagels

8 thoughts on “Sourdough Bagels

  1. Made these twice now and we’ve really enjoyed them! They are soft and chewy the first day, and great toasted the second day (never had any left to try on a 3rd day ).
    Used honey and molasses instead of the barley malt syrup the first time because I didn’t have it.

    1. The bread flour gives the bagels their characteristic chew, so I would hesitate to use all purpose. They would probably end up more like plain bread rolls rather than bagels.

  2. Hi! Tried out your recipe today, just wanted to double check on the amount of the levain as it seems to be quite a lot and my dough only took less than 2 hrs to get pouffy… am doing anything wrong?

    1. Hi! Levain amount is correct. If your dough passes the float test sooner you can refrigerate sooner — will depend on the temperature of your kitchen.

      1. Thanks! The bagels turned out to be really well? So may I ask what’s the rationale for having such a high percentage of levain? Is it kinda like the “sponge method”?

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