To back up a bit, I decided to make the bagels when I went home last weekend. I brought my sourdough starter with me. I fed it its own weight in water and flour the night before traveling (a Wednesday), and left it out overnight. Then I kept it refrigerated (or in a cooler) until Friday night. Then I fed it again with equal weight water and flour.
I assume that everyone has a ridiculously stocked pantry, like I do. I discovered that my parents didn't have any yeast! I know the bagels use the sourdough starter, but the recipe I was using called for some yeast. I had found some recipes that didn't use yeast, so I decided to follow their rising methods. They also didn't have any dry milk. I just replaced some of the water with skim milk, and it seemed to work fine. Next time I'll use dry milk. But I think I'll stick with using only starter, no yeast. I still get such excitement from seeing things rise, when I haven't added any commercial leavening agents.
I know there are a lot of steps, but this is really so easy to make! They turned out so well! My mom actually said they tasted like New York style bagels. I think the double feeding gave them a nice sourdough flavor. I would love to make flavored bagels next time, maybe add some cheese or herbs in the actual dough. Some recipes call for using a stand mixer to make the dough, but I wouldn't recommend it. It takes a lot longer, and requires some muscle power, to mix it by hand, but that's better than running the risk of burning out your motor! It's a really stiff dough.
My only problem - my bagels had such a funny shape! I don't know if that had anything to do with using only sourdough. They looked fine after boiling, but then when I baked them, they just expanded upward instead of widthwise. They looked like really tall smushed bagels. And the holes completely closed up. I know that when you use a pizza stone, things really rise upwards. But I put them on cooled cookie sheets, so I don't know why it happened. Next time I'll make them really flat and wide before boiling, and see what happens. And if anyone has advice, I'd be happy to hear it!
Recipe: Sourdough Bagels (adapted from Wild Yeast)
675 g bread flour (I used King Arthur)
18 g vital wheat gluten (bought at Whole Foods)
304 g ripe 100% hydration (fed equal parts by weight of water and ap flour) sourdough starter
308 g ice water (I replaced 58 g with cold skim milk)
2.5 g instant yeast (I didn't use)
2 tsp salt (I started to measure by weight, and then realized that there must have been a mistake in the original recipe, since 13.5 g of salt is a lot!)
18 g sugar
15 g extra-light malt power (bought at a beer brewing supply store)
47 g milk powder (I used the milk above instead)
Cornmeal or semolina
4 tsp kosher salt
4 tsp poppy seeds
4 tsp sesame seeds
4 tsp garlic flakes
4 tsp onion flakes
1 tbsp baking soda
1 tbsp extra-light malt powder
Combine the flour, starter, water, yeast (if using), salt, sugar, malt, and milk powder (if using) in a medium bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon to combine.
When the dough is ready, form into a smooth ball.
Divide the dough into 12 pieces ~100 grams each. Form each piece into a tight ball, cover, and let rest for 10 minutes.
There are two methods of shaping the bagels. The "true" method is to roll each piece of dough into a cylinder about 8-10 inches long without tapering the ends. Wrap the cylinder around your hand, with the ends overlapping by about 2 inches in your palm. Roll your palm on an unfloured counter to smash the ends together. The easier way is to form the piece of dough into a smooth, tight ball. Carefully poke a hole in the center by bringing your thumb and middle finger together. Widen the hole to several inches - it will close up as it rests. I did about half the first way, and half the second. I didn't notice any major differences after cooking.
Place the bagels on the prepared cookie sheets and cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days.
Preheat the oven to 450 F. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the baking soda and malt powder to the water once it is boiling. Be prepared - it will foam up! But it will subside once you add the first bagel.
Meanwhile, place a cooling rack on the counter with a dishtowel underneath it. Mix together the topping ingredients and place on a small plate in a shallow layer.
Drop the bagels, up to three or four at a time (I did them one at a time), into the vigorously boiling water for 30 seconds - 1 minute. If they float right away so the tops are not submerged initially, flip them over about halfway through the boil.
Cool on a wire rack.
(Baked on left, Unbaked on right. See how tall they got!)
I enjoyed mine with cream cheese+lox or whitefish salad+tomatoes.