Switch up your bagel game with these delicious Sourdough Jerusalem Bagels. Slightly sweet & slightly tangy, these bagels are a hit. No boiling required!
A different type of bagel
Many years ago, we took a special sort of Mother's Day trip. It was homecoming of sorts, really. The travelers? Myself, my husband, our infant daughter, my mom, and my grandmother.
We brought my grandmother back to visit Israel, her home for decades before she emigrated to the US. She hadn't been back in 25 years, and it was the last time she'd go. It was four generations together on a special trip that's seared in my memory.
Something seared in my husband's memory of that trip was the Jerusalem bagels we ate just outside the gates of the Old City. As long as your arm, these oval, sesame-covered bagels were nothing like the traditional chewy bagels we were used to.
Many years later, another family trip included my parents and both my daughters, now grown. And my husband sought out and found those Jerusalem bagels outside the Old City gates once again.
We've found Jerusalem bagels over the years in the US. Most recently, Tatte Bakery here in Boston has a version that I must buy for him every time I go there (they also have wonderful baked items using Halvah, a sesame candy that I love, but I digress).
With my enduring search for sourdough starter discard uses, I decided to not only replicate those delicious Jerusalem bagels my husband so loves, but go a step further.
I adapted them to use my weekly unfed sourdough starter.
Sourdough Jerusalem Bagels are now a thing, and they're well worth making!
What are Jerusalem Bagels?
When is a bagel not a bagel? When it's a Jerusalem bagel.
Despite what the name implies, Jerusalem bagels differ from traditional bagels in one important way...the dough isn't boiled before baking.
When you boil bagel dough, the gluten firms up on the outside of the dough. Baking those boiled bagels tightens the outside even further, and that's how you get that distinctive bagel chewiness. It's the same with pretzels.
Since Jerusalem bagels aren't boiled before baking, the outside stays soft, more like roll than a bagel. And it simplifies the whole process considerably.
Jerusalem bagel dough is more similar to challah and brioche, just without the overabundance of eggs. The addition of milk softens the bagel even further than the no-boil recipe.
Also, the outside of Jerusalem bagels are coated with an egg wash and topped with sesame seeds, like challah.
Adding sourdough starter discard to my recipe for Jerusalem bagels adds an additional flavor dimension. Now you have a slightly sweet, slightly tangy, and slightly nutty Sourdough Jerusalem Bagel to snack on. Yummm...
How to make Sourdough Jerusalem Bagels
As you might expect, there are many versions of this Middle-Eastern staple.
I based my Sourdough Jerusalem Bagels recipe mainly on The Boy Who Bakes, but I also consulted From the Grapevine, The Cooking Foodie, and David Lebovitz. Each had a slightly different take on their Jerusalem Bagels recipe, so I selectively chose different elements to make my sourdough version.
By the way, if you don't have any yeast, you can use your fed sourdough starter like you would if you were making sourdough bread. Just make sure the sourdough starter is active and bubbly, and know that the rising times may take longer than stated in the recipe.
Like most bagel recipes, Jerusalem bagels come together easily. You mixed together a yeasted dough, knead it until it's smooth, then let it rise for a bit. Pretty straightforward, really.
Next, it's time to portion and shape the bagels. Here's another point where traditional bagels and Jerusalem bagels diverge. Instead of just making the bagel round, you shape them into a long oval. This can be done in one of two ways:
- Form each dough portion into a ball. Press a finger through the middle of the ball of dough then slowly stretch the dough to make the hole larger (like when making Sourdough bagels), until you get an oval about 8-inches in diameter.
- Make a rope about 18-inches long (like when braiding challah), then join the ends and press them together. Hook a forefinger into the bottom of the hole that you just made, and gently stretch the dough to make a long hole.
I chose the first method, because recently I've been making bagels a lot and, you know, muscle memory.
After the second rise and jumping over the whole boiling the dough process, it's time to brush these Sourdough Jerusalem bagels with egg wash, sprinkle them with sesame seeds, and pop them in the oven until they're golden brown and delicious.
What to serve with Sourdough Jerusalem Bagels
Unlike the cream cheese shmear a normal bagel would get, Jerusalem Bagels are traditionally served with a side of za'atar, a sumac-based spice mix with other savory herbs and earthy spices. Sometimes they're dipped in hummus and tahini.
My husband likes his Sourdough Jerusalem Bagel plain and warmed a bit. And you know what? They're wonderful that way!
A no-boil bagel...who knew? Easy and delicious, Sourdough Jerusalem Bagels will be a new staple here, bringing back memories of a long-ago trip.
Happy Mother's Day to all mothers...be they close by, far away, or in memories.
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!
When you maintain a sourdough starter, you have a dilemma. What do you do with your unfed sourdough starter discard? I've got lots of suggestions for sweet and savory ways to use your fed sourdough starter and the sourdough starter discard. Here are a few samples...
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No-Boil Sourdough Jerusalem Bagels
- pastry brush
For the bagels
- 2¾ cups all-purpose flour, or more as needed
- ¼ cup dry milk powder, see Recipe Notes
- 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2½ teaspoons yeast, instant or rapid rise, see Recipe Notes
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 cup sourdough starter discard, unfed, at room temperature
- ½ - ⅔ cup water, warmed between 100°F to 110°F, see Recipe Notes
- 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
- 1 Tablespoon water
- ½ cup sesame seeds, for topping
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, place the flour, dry milk powder, sugar, yeast, and salt. Stir to combine. Pour in ½ cup warm water and the olive oil. Mix on low speed for about a minute, then turn up the speed to low-medium and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 6 to 8 minutes. Adjust the consistency of the doughs needed by adding more flour or water in 1 tablespoon increments. This dough is fairly low in hydration, so it won’t be a super silky stretchy dough. The amounts will be based on the hydration of your starter, the hydration of your flour, and the humidity of the day.
- Form the dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl. Cover and set the bowl in a warm place for 60 to 90 minutes or until doubled in size. The oven with just the light turned on works well.
- Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface and press gently to deflate.
- Divide the dough into 6 equal sized pieces, forming each one into a ball. Press a finger through the middle of each ball of dough then slowly stretch the dough to make the hole larger (like when making regular bagels), until you get an oval about 8-inches in diameter. See the Recipe Notes for alternate shaping instructions.
- Set the shaped bagels onto two half sheet baking pans lined with a Silpat silicone mat or parchment paper,
- For the egg wash, beat together the egg and water. Lightly brush each of the bagels with the egg wash using a pastry brush, then sprinkle liberally with the sesame seeds.
- Lightly cover and set aside for about 30 minutes until risen and puffy to the touch (they won’t quite double in size but they will increase in volume). Meanwhile preheat the oven to 375ºF.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 18 to 22 minutes or until golden brown. Rotate the trays back to front and exchanging top to bottom racks halfway through the baking time.
- Remove the bagels from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool before serving. These bagels are best served within a few hours of baking.
- Serve with hummus, tahini, or za’atar seasoning mix. Or be like my husband and just eat them plain!
- The bagels are best eaten the day they are made. They'll keep for a few days at room temperature, but should be toasted or warmed in the oven before eating. They can also be frozen for up to two months.