Combining sourdough tanginess with bagel chewiness, these sourdough bagels are a step above the norm and a great way to use sourdough starter discard!
What to do with sourdough starter discard
I hadn’t used my sourdough starter discard for two weeks, and I didn’t feel like making pizza 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 unfed sourdough starter for some of the flour and water and make Sourdough Bagels?
However, there’s some work to be done. (Wait, there's math?)
How to adapt a recipe to use unfed sourdough starter
No worries, grasshopper! The trick for adapting a recipe to sourdough is to weigh the amount of sourdough starter discard you have using a kitchen scale, then divide it by half. The result is the amount by weight of flour and water you need to remove from the recipe.
(Side Note: this calculation is based on a sourdough starter that's 50/50 flour and water. If your sourdough starter has a different makeup, use your ratio to figure out how much flour and water you'll be replacing.)
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.
I 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.
How to make Sourdough Bagels at home
After making the necessary ingredient substitutions, the rest, as they say, is history.
Ok, that's not what they say...just follow the directions in the recipe.
Make a variety of bagel flavors
You don't just have to make plain Sourdough Bagels. Here are some ideas for different bagel flavors to get you started:
- 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
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. After all, it’s another way of using that unfed sourdough starter in the fridge!
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!
More recipes using sourdough starter discard
- Sourdough Pretzels
- Sourdough English Muffins
- Sourdough Focaccia
- Sourdough Pumpkin Cake
- Sourdough Gingerbread
- Sourdough Naan
For the Dough
- 3/4 to 1 cup water, warmed between 100-110°F, see Recipe Notes (6 to 8 oz, 170 to 227g)
- 2-3/4 tsp yeast, instant or active dry (1/3 oz, 10g)
- 3 cups bread flour, plus more for work surface and hands (13 oz, 370g)
- 1 cup sourdough starter discard, unfed, at room temperature (8 oz, 227g)
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar, packed, either light or dark (3/4 oz, 20g)
- 2 tsp salt, (1/2 oz, 16g)
- 1 large egg white, beaten with 1 Tablespoon water, for egg wash
- Everything bagel topping, or other toppings as desired (optional)
For the Water Bath
- 2 qts water
- 1/4 cup honey, (3 oz, 85g)
- 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, sourdough starter discard, brown sugar, and salt. For the most accurate measurements, use a kitchen scale. Beat on low speed for 2 minutes, then knead for 4-5 minutes.
- Lightly grease a large bowl with oil. Place the dough in the bowl, turning it to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rise at room temperature for 60-90 minutes or until double in size (inside the cool oven with the light on works well).
- Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
- Shape the Bagels: Punch down the dough to release any air bubbles. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces, then shape each piece into a ball. Press your index finger through the center of each ball to make a hole about 1-1/2 to 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.
- Prepare the Water Bath: Fill a 4 to 8 qt stock pot with 2 quarts of water and whisk in the honey. Bring water to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-high. Drop the 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 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 the Bagels: 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.
- Cover leftover bagels tightly and store at room temperature for a few days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.