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Sunday, 6 January 2008

wild bagels

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recipe: wild yeast bagels

[B]agels will not be perfectly shaped. They will not be symmetrical. This is normal. This is okay. Enjoy the diversity. Just like snowflakes, no two genuine bagels are exactly alike.
- excerpt from Real Honest Jewish Purist’s Bagels

(click on image for larger view and more photos)
bagels Even before reading Susan’s (Wild Yeast) post about sourdough bagels, I had been thinking about making bagels. Many times. Our bagel recipe has been on the recipe stand for months. Because I absolutely adore bagels.

But I kept getting distracted by other breads. And then Susan posted that her sourdough bagels were her favourite recipe from this past year. And that clinched it.

I decided I had to make bagels again! Now. But with wild yeast.

Initially when I made bagels, I made a starter that sat overnight and then added that to the rest of the ingredients the next day. But the last time, I just went ahead and threw all the ingredients together to make bagels on the same day. The resulting bagels were just as good as those made over two days.

I decided to do exactly the same thing this time. Besides, because of using wild yeast, the build-up is essentially a starter made the day before. And there’s no need to take THREE days to make bagels! That’s just way too much planning ahead.

I was tempted to use only wild yeast as a rising agent but then at the last minute, I caved and decided to add just a tiny bit of commercial yeast.

I’ve got to say I’m pretty happy!

In the past, I have used the first method of bagel shaping, outlined in the recipe for Real Honest Jewish Purist’s Bagels.

There are two schools of thought on this. One method of bagel formation involves shaping the dough into a rough sphere, then poking a hole through the middle with a finger and then pulling at the dough around the hole to make the bagel. This is the hole-centric method. The dough-centric method involves making a long cylindrical “snake” of dough and wrapping it around your hand into a loop and mashing the ends together. Whatever you like to do is fine.

But Susan’s description of the second method sounded so easy that I decided to give it a shot. And son of a gun; it is easy. In fact it’s easier than the first method. Of course, my bagels don’t look perfect the way that Susan’s bagels look (yes, once again, I have bread envy…). But I’m guessing my bagels taste as good as hers!

Here is what I did to make wild bagels:

based on “Jo Goldenberg’s bagels” in New Complete Book of Breads by Bernard Clayton and Peter Reinhart’s “Classic Water Bagels”, using the wild yeast starter recipe in Piano Piano Pieno by Susan McKenna Grant

wild yeast starter . wild yeast starter buildup . bagels

wild yeast starter buildup

  • 2 Tbsp wild yeast starter
  • unbleached bread flour (around 14% protein)
  • water*


  1. Day before Baking – Morning Take 2 Tbsp of wild yeast starter (discard the rest) and stir in 2 Tbsp water and 3 Tbsp unbleached bread flour . Cover and leave in a warm draft-free spot (counter in summer, oven with only light turned on in winter) til midday.
  2. Day before Baking Midday The mixture should have doubled and there should be lots of bubbling. Take 2 Tbsp of above mixture (reserve the rest to add to pizza or focaccia, or make crackers or bread discs – just don’t burn them like I did). Stir in 2 Tbsp water and 3 Tbsp unbleached bread flour. Cover and leave… etc.
  3. Day before Baking Evening Stir ⅓ c (85ml) water and ⅔ c (170ml) unbleached bread flour into ALL of the above mixture. Cover and leave… etc.
  4. Baking Day Morning The mixture should have doubled and be a bubbling mass.

    Reserve a portion for future bread making: Take 2 Tbsp of above mixture (reserve the rest for making bread) and stir in 2 Tbsp water and 3 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour. Cover and leave for 2 hours on the counter. Put it into a covered glass jar and store in refrigerator. (You should be feeding the starter every 2 days: take 2 Tbsp of the refrigerated mixture – discard the extra – and stir in 2 Tbsp water and 2 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour.)

bagel dough

  • ⅛ tsp active dry yeast
  • ¼ c lukewarm water
  • 1 tsp malt powder
  • all of the reserved buildup from above (about ¾ c (185ml))
  • ¾ c lukewarm water*
  • ½ c (125ml)** wholewheat flour
  • 3 c (720ml)*** unbleached bread flour
  • 2¼ tsp salt

after shaping

  • 3 l. water
  • 1½ Tbsp malt powder
  • sesame and/or poppy seeds


  1. Mixing the dough In a small bowl, put the yeast with a pinch of the 1 tsp malt powder into ¼ c lukewarm water (do the baby bottle test on your wrist to ensure the water is not too hot). Whisk until it is smooth and creamy looking. Set aside on the counter.
  2. In a bowl large enough for the dough to double, put the buildup from above, ¾ c lukewarm water, the rest of the 1 tsp malt powder, flours and salt. Stir with a wooden spoon to mix as well as you can. Stir in the reserved yeast mixture.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board. There might be some flour left in the bowl. Don’t worry. Dump that out onto the board too.
  4. Wash and dry the bowl.
  5. Knead the dough (kneading in any extra flour that didn’t get mixed in the bowl) for 10 to 15 minutes until it is smooth and springy. Note that this dough may seem quite stiff. As you knead, even if it feels sticky, resist the temptation to add more flour. Use a dough scraper to keep the board clean.
  6. Put the kneaded dough into the clean bowl, cover, and let rise til double on the counter (or in the oven with only the light turned on) in a non-drafty area.
  1. shaping: Turn the risen dough out onto a very lightly floured board. Divide evenly into 12 pieces.
  2. Shape each piece into a rope. Overlap the ends to form a ring. Pinch and roll the join and place the rings on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover with a damp (clean) tea towel.
  3. Leave on the counter to rise til the rings are almost doubled. (about an hour or so)
  4. Half an hour before baking, turn the oven to 450F.
  5. parboiling: Just before baking, pour 3 litres of water into a large pot and bring to a smiling boil. Stir in malt powder.
  6. Carefully lift a risen ring from the sheet and drop it gently into the boiling water. After 30 seconds or so, use a slotted spoon to turn the bagel over and allow it to boil for about another half minute. Remove from the water and place on the parchment paper. Sprinkle with sesame and/or poppy seeds. Repeat with the other rings. (Please see photo essay of shaping and parboiling bagels.)
  7. baking: Put the bagels into the 450F oven and immediately turn the oven down to 400F. Bake for 30 minutes, turning the pan after 15 minutes to allow for uneven oven heat.
  8. Allow to cool on a rack before eating.****

If you like warm bagels, reheat them after they have cooled. Serve them with butter. Or cream cheese. Or goat cheese. And apricot jam. Or smoked salmon and capers.


*Tap water is fine to use – just make sure that it has stood for at least 12 hours so that the chlorine has dissipated. However, under no circumstances should you use water from the hot water tap. Water from the hot water tap sits festering in your hot water tank, leaching copper, lead, zinc, solder, etc. etc from the tank walls… the higher temperature causes faster corrosion. Of course, saying that it is unsafe to use water from the hot water tap might be an urban myth, but why tempt fate? Heat the water in a kettle or microwave and add cold water until it is the correct temperature (use the baby bottle test on the back of your wrist – your fingers have no idea of temperature!)

** A Canadian cup holds 250ml. When I measure flour, I really fluff it up in the bag before scooping out flour to roughly fill the cup.

*** Please note that strong bread flour is best for bagels. While all-purpose flour CAN be used, the results are more like buns with holes in the center, rather than bagels.

**** If you wish to serve warm bread, reheat it after it has cooled completely. To reheat, turn the oven to 500F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread in the hot oven for ten minutes.

If you have not yet captured wild yeast, please take a look at:

bagels And how did they taste? Well, I liked them! I loved them on their own and also with goat’s cheese and red currant jelly. And coffee. Of course.

The bagels are firm and chewy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside – just the way that bagels should be (or at least I think so….) Another taster said that there was too much taste of sourdough and not enough of malt. I confess that I didn’t really taste the sourness but am certainly willing to tone it down.

Any ideas on how to go about doing that? Can I just add more malt to the dough?

Please read about other bagel making times:


This post is partially mirrored on The Fresh Loaf: wild yeast bagels


edit 31 july 2008: I’m not sure when went offline but the REAL HONEST JEWISH PURIST’S BAGELS recipe can be found on the Internet Archive Way Back Machine (IAWBM) (edit 21 April 2010: I have also taken the liberty of archiving the recipe onsite, just in case it disappears from the Way Back Machine site):

  • Susan

    Nice bagels, Elizabeth! I think you’d be fine to go up a bit on the malt if you like.

  • ejm

    Do you think that will reduce the sourness, Susan? Or should I be changing the amount of flour in the buildup on the starter?

  • Alanna

    I’ve had sour dough bubblin’ away in the frig for a couple of months now. I’m still feeding it and so have been strategizing how to use it: must admit, you’ve made me put bagels on the list! Thanks for the inspiration!

    You’re very welcome, Alanna! Do let me know how your bagels turn out! -ejm

  • pam

    I had not thought about using my sourdough starter to make bagels. I keep making the same old rolls. I am definitely going to try the bagels!

    Do let me know how your bagels turn out, Pam! -ejm


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