Sunday, 19 May 2013

Onion, Garlic and Fennel Sourdough Bagels

I love bagels. To me, they're the king of all bread.

Store bought ones are NEVER the same - they're one of these things that really are at their best made and eaten the same day. Chewy but soft and fluffy and with crispy bottoms right from the oven....mmmm.

I also really like sourdough. Not really sour sourdough.... that's enough to make me heave. Some sour doughs have a really over-acidic lactic (think vommit) taste. Yuk ! Instead, I work with a milder tasting version.....

What better combination than sourdough bagels ? These are not something you are likely to buy in a shop ! Only trouble is - bagels are made with quite a dense dough and sourdough is already quite dense. To make these stay that little bit lighter and less sour, I admit that I add a small amount of instant yeast for extra lift. I also don't leave my sourdough sponge to sit as long as many artisan bakers do .

I was dubious as to how well this would work, since I wasn't following a traditional bagel recipe. However, I can tell you that without any doubt, these turned out the BEST darn bagels I've ever eaten.

Ok - so I topped them off with extra onions that got a little over done - but I don't mind crispy onions ! :-)

My sourdough starter has been live since the mid 1800's. Not that I created it ! From the pot of rye starter I was initially given a couple of years ago, I modified it to 1/2 white, 1/2 rye. I generally have a couple of small vats in the fridge and feed 50:50 with rye and white. 

It's perfectly happy to sit in there dormant for months. Until this week. the last time I used it was around Christmas !

For the sourdough sponge, I used about 3 tablespoons of dormant starter and added approx 1/2 a cup of white bread flour and enough water to make it similar to a cake batter in dropping consistency. Cover with cling film and leave to stand for 24 hours. This basically wakes the starter up by feeding it. It should now be bubbly and active.

I then added about the same volume of flour to amount of starter in the bowl and more water to get same consistency as before. This then sat for 7 hours (as I mixed it up at 2am !) and was ready to bake for 9am. You could easily leave it another 2 > 3 hours - or up to another 24 for a more sour taste.

At this point, it was nice and bubbly right through (it had had a stir and deflated a bit). I guess it had risen by about 30%. If I wasn't using instant yeast as a boost, I'd definitely have left it until around 75%  increased - probably another 6 hours.


4 cups of strong white bread flour
1/4 cup onion salad crispy bits (if you can obtain them)
1 tsp salt
3 tsp sugar
1 tsp black treacle
1/4 > 1/2 tsp garlic granules
1 tsp instant yeast
325mls warm water
2 cups of sourdough sponge

2 tsp black treacle - add to the boiling water.

1 x onion
maldon sea salt
fennel seeds
white of an egg



Dissolve the sugar and black treacle in the warm water.
Put half the flour in the bowl, then the salt, the rest of the flour followed by onion crispy bits, garlic instant yeast, sour dough sponge and the warm water / sugars mix.

The reason we add in this order is to initially prevent the yeasts coming into direct contact with the salt. Direct contact at this stage will retard or even kill the yeast !

Mix all the ingredients to combine, and then either knead by hand on a bench for 10 minutes, or for around 5 in a stand mixer with dough hook and then a couple of minutes to finish by hand.

This is going to produce a firm and heavy dough, but you still must ensure it's sufficiently kneaded and gluten properly developed.

Put in a bowl, cover and set aside for around an hour to rise.

Divide into 12 equal balls. Stick two fingers through the middle of each ball and spin a little to widen the hole in the centre. Let these sit for around 30 mins on an oiled tray to rise a little more.

Turn oven on to 200deg C Fan.

Fill a deep pan with water and add 2tsp of black treacle and bring to the boil. You can also substitue with a little malt extract. This helps add flavour and colour.

Drop in the bagels. You need to allow them plenty space, but I could boil 4 at a time in my large pan.

Boil for one minute each side and then flip oven and repeat. This is what makes the biggest difference between a roll and a bagel !

Remove with a slotted spoon and place on the oiled baking sheet.

I sprinkled the tops with some Maldon sea salt, fennel seeds, some thinly sliced onion (pre-cooked until transparent).

Fake at 200deg C fan for 10 mins, then flip them over and bake another 10 mins.

As you can see - the onions on top got a bit well done. There would have been no way of avoiding that.... but I dont mind extra crispy onions !

Allow to cool and then eat or freeze same day.

These were served with some oak barrel smoked ham, cream cheese and watercress / and rocket salad.

Sarah-Jane Nash - - May 2013

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