serious eats

Sourdough BraveTart Bagels

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Bonus puppy shot of Archie hoping that I’ll drop this bagel.

This recipe is an adaptation of Stella Parks bagel recipe that replaces the commercial yeast with a wild-yeast/sourdough starter. If you don’t have a sourdough starter, use this King Arthur tutorial to get started! If you want to read about how I adapted this recipe check out this post. As this is a bread recipe, I am using gram measurements. If you don’t have a scale, I suggest Pebbly scale, or a similar flat-surface digital scale.

Starter:
I use whole wheat in the starter because it helps with yeast production, and I like the flavor. You can replace it with an equal measure of bread flour.

60g (~2 oz) mature 100% hydration starter
60g (~2 oz) room temp water
30 g(~1 oz) whole wheat flour
30 g (~1 oz) bread flour

Mix all the ingredients for the starter and let sit until it has reached peak activity, this can take anywhere from 8-12 hours depending on the activity of your starter and the temperature in your kitchen. If I am in a rush, sometimes I will place my starter in a warm place, or in the microwave with a mug of hot water. This can bring the time down to 5-6 hours. As with all things sourdough, patience is key.

Yukone:
100g bread flour
170g cold water

Mix the flour and water in a 10” skillet and mix over medium heat until enough moisture has evaporated so that it looks like mashed potatoes (roughly 2 minutes). Allow to cool for 30 minutes before making the dough.

Bagels:

295 g bread flour
15 g sugar
9 g salt
40g room temperature water
180g prepared starter
Yukone
1 oz malt syrup, for boiling

  1. Mix bread flour and sugar together in a large bowl. Mix water and starter together, mix in with the flour-sugar mix and the yukone. Mix until the dough is mostly hydrated but still slightly shaggy. Sprinkle salt over the top and let rest for about 15 minutes.
  2. Mix dough in the bowl with a sturdy spatula until the dough loses some of its shaggy texture. Then turn out on a clean and un-floured surface to knead with your hands.
  3. Knead dough for 5 minutes, it will be pretty sticky at first. After about 2 minutes of kneading, wash your hands so that there are no dough remnants on them and you will find that the dough will begin to regain its structure.
  4. Divide dough into 6 pieces for larger bagels, or 8 pieces for smaller ones. If you want to relive your childhood, you can even follow these directions to make mini bagels for bagel bites.
  5. Shape pieces into tight balls by rolling them on the counter, you can look at the original recipe for a video tutorial. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit for 15 minutes.
  6. Perform the final shaping on your bagels, either using the stretch-and-poke or roll-and-loop method. I would recommend roll-and-loop, but it is entirely up to you and what you feel comfortable with.
  7. Place shaped bagels on a well-greased, parchment-lined half sheet pan, cover loosely with plastic and leave in the fridge overnight for 8-12 hours. Allow the bagels to rise at room temp for 2-3 hours before boiling.
  8. Preheat the oven to 425F(218C) and make sure the rack is in the lower-middle position of the oven.
  9. Fill a large stainless steel pot with about 3 inches of water and add the malt syrup. Bring water to a boil and add the bagels into the pot, two or three at a time. Your bagels should float, if they do not give them a little nudge to make sure they haven’t stuck to the bottom of the pot and they should rise right up. Boil for 30 seconds on each side. Pat briefly with a paper towel, and pace on a parchment-lined half sheet pan.
  10. If you want to add toppings to your bagels (sesame seeds are my favorite), you can fill a bowl with your preferred topping and dip the top of the bagel in. The toppings should stick right to the bagel.
  11. Bake bagels until they are blistered and browned, 20-25 minutes, cool for 15 minutes before breaking into them. Top with your favorite condiments and store the leftovers in a paper bag for up to 48 hours.

Enjoy, and feel free to message me with any questions or problems you encounter.

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Bagel on, my friends.

For the Love of Bagels

 

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My favorite bagel combo is sesame seed bagel with cream cheese, lox, capers, red onion and tomato.

Want to get straight to baking? Find the recipe here!

Being from Los Angeles, I cannot say that I am the authority on what constitutes a perfect bagel. That being said, I love bagels. I have fond memories of my sister and I rewarding ourselves with a trip to the “bagelry,” as we had termed the local bagel shop, after coming off a hike. I have been guilty of bribing my husband with bagels in order to convince him to accompany me to the Hollywood Farmer’s Market as my personal pack mule of specially cheeses and heirloom produce. When I visited my best friend in New York, my only required plan was that we got bagels, piled high with lox and cream cheese. She ultimately improved upon the plan with the purchase of a couple of tall-boys and a suggestion to picnic in Central Park. As we sat there in the sun, my brain still foggy from my Red-Eye flight, savoring our bagels, and surreptitiously sipping our beers, I was pretty certain I had reached peak-happiness.

So, imagine my despair upon realizing that while France has a veritable cornucopia of delicious breads to offer, the French ultimately fail when it comes to the bagel. There are no shortage of shops offering bagels and it is a common staple on brunch menus, but they just do not hit the spot. They are generally chewy to the point of jaw exhaustion or so dry that no condiments can help. They often taste like play-doh, and they crust is seriously lacking when it comes to the crispness that makes the bagel a comprehensive sensory experience.
I had accepted that my life would have to be lived without bagels for the duration of my time in Paris. I was content to fill this gap with the readily accessible pastries that the French have perfected. I could not, in good conscience, complain about my ability to pop into one of the many boulongeries that pepper my walk to school and purchase a perfect buttery croissant for breakfast with pocket change.

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Just kidding, I still really missed bagels.

Then, in late January, Serious Eats’s resident “Pastry Wizard,” Stella Parks, also known as The Brave Tart, posted a brilliant bagel recipe that utilized the Japanese method of yukone to keep bagels fresh for 48 hours. The extended freshness of these bagels makes the 36-hour preparation process worthwhile, and I realized that the answers to my prayers had been answered! As I had just started to cultivate my wild-yeast, I saw the perfect opportunity to put the yeasties to work by altering Parks’s recipe to create a sourdough version.

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So dense.

For my first attempt, I made Parks’s version and my own sourdough adaption at the same time, and while Parks’s bagels came out beautifully, the sourdough iteration came out tragically dense and I had to classify them as a failure. This was a result of a few things: my starter was not far too young, and I did not use enough of it. This was my first time converting a recipe with commercial yeast and there are no good guides online about how to do this, so I was basically flying blind.

Luckily, I was able to get the formula right the second time. I use a 100% hydration starter, so when replacing commercial yeast with the starter, I had to consider the fact that I was fundamentally altering the chemistry of the recipe by adding flour and water to the mix. Thus, I had to adjust the flour and water amounts in the regular recipe in order to make sure that I maintained close to the original hydration level of the dough. Park’s recipe has a total of 455g flour and 270g water (including the yukone), this works out to a dough with 59% hydration.  I don’t have a set formula for how much starter to replace within a recipe with commercial yeast, but upon looking at other sourdough bagel recipes, I decided that I probably didn’t want the starter to make up much more than 20-25% of the total combined flour-water weight of the recipe and chose to go with 180g of starter. I also decided to bring up the moisture level slightly, amounting to a 60% hydration dough as I felt that the starter would benefit from more liquid. This makes for a slightly sticky dough, but it is still very workable.

Another change I made to this recipe was that I hand-knead this dough. I chose to do this for a few reasons:

  1. I really like kneading by hand, it’s a really meditative process.
  2. I couldn’t bring all of my kitchen appliances with me to France, and I have not invested in a stand-mixer or food processor that I think would have the capability to handle this dough.

I don’t think that hand-kneading caused any significant changes to the dough, but I would recommend a sturdy stand-mixer over the food-processor method that Parks recommends for her recipe. I worry that the added hydration to this dough would make it hard for a food processor to handle.

In addition to hand-kneading, I actually had better luck with allowing my bagels to do a cold fermentation overnight (8-12 hours) and then finished proofing them in a warm oven (if you have a proofing drawer this would work perfectly) for 2-3 hours. For some reason the wild yeast responded better to this than a full cold fermentation.
I also found that the sourdough version of these bagels benefits greatly from a roll-and-loop forming technique. This is more difficult than the stretch-and-poke method, but watch a few YouTube videos to see how different people approach the method, and you should be able to get it after a few tries. The poke method works fine, but there is a difference between how the two bagels turn out.

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Left is stretch-and-poke method, right is roll-and-loop. The roll-and-loop method creates a more even, and slightly more open crumb.

If you don’t want to take the time to create a sourdough starter, Parks’ recipe is beautiful and she has a great write up on her methods. I first discovered her after I was discouraged by all the recipes on French macarons that basically said a perfect meringue could only be made if the baker was able to balance an egg on her head and the moon was within the first two days of waning. Her post on macarons gave me the courage to try again after so many failures and because of her attention to detail in explaining technique, they came out flawlessly! In the world of endless online recipes, Stella Parks is winning in the pastry department.

Oh, and she’s working on a book that you can pre-order here!