Sourdough Sesame Bagels

I feel like January is becoming my bread month – just like February seems to be dedicated to chocolate. There is just something about being stuck at home, while Winter is raging outside, that calls to my inner baker. It’s also a slight brake from all of the sugar we’ve been pilling on during the Holidays.

I went into this bake expecting a struggle. Bagels can be finicky when it comes to their proofing since you want them to be light and slightly open textured on the inside, but you also want them to hold their shape while boiling. There’s a specific window of opportunity between shaping them and boiling them that you want to hit just right, or they’ll either deflate on the baking sheets before they even hit the oven or they will turn into dense rocks when baked. Neither is pleasant, or what we’re aiming for. Add in the use of a wild yeast leaven to the mix, and I was sure that I was setting myself up for an uphill battle. Wild yeast can be a bit more unstable then it’s commercial counterpart. It requires some closer monitoring, the right conditions, and needs a much much longer rise time (especially, in my cold winter kitchen) – I’ve also never tried boiling the temperamental stuff. I chickened-out when I made my sourdough pretzel bites, and added some dry-active yeast to the mix to insure my success. It’s time to woman up, and boil that dough!

Surprisingly, everything went smoothly. The only slight hiccup was that the dough was slightly harder to shape, not surprising when using a wild yeast leaven, even with all the additional gluten I used in trying to address the issue. I just had to take a little more care when it came to shaping my bagels – the dough is fairly delicate. The texture of these bagels somehow, miraculously, turned out perfect – slightly chewy on the outside with a light, uniformly, open texture on the inside. Success!

This particular recipe also happens to be dairy and egg free, just flirting on the edge of being vegan. You can easily substitute agave for honey, for a more vegan-friendly alternative. If you’re a non-sourdough vegan, well, you should probably just steer clear of all yeast leaven bread since even commercial (non-sourdough) yeast use living bacteria cultures. It all just depends on where exactly you want to draw the hypothetical line. I’ve given up keeping track of it all. You do, what makes you happy… and I’ll just keep baking bread.

Recipe makes a bakers dozen (~90 gram bagels).


  • 1 cup Leaven
    • Mix and leave overnight (Day 1):
      • 1/2 cup Flour
      • 1/2 cup Water
      • 1 tbsp Sourdough Starter
  • 1/4 cup Honey (or agave syrup) + 2 tbsp for boiling
  • 1/4 cup Canola Oil
  • 1 cup Water + more for boiling
  • 1 tbsp Vital Wheat Gluten
  • 2 cups Bread Flour
  • 2-3 cups Flour
  • 1 tbsp Salt
  • 1/4 cup Sesame Seeds


  1. Mix Dough / First Rise (Day 2).
    1. Combine the leaven, honey, oil, water, vital wheat gluten, 2 cups of bread flour, and salt.
    2. Mix with dough hook, or knead vigorously, until the dough is stretchy and elastic, while gradually adding in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time. It should look soft and smooth.
    3. Place the dough in an air tight container with plenty of room for growth, leave the dough to rise in the refrigerator overnight.
  2. Shape, Second Rise, Boil and Bake (Day 3).
    1. Divide the dough into 13 equal pieces (~90 grams a piece).
    2. Roll each piece into a tight ball, and poke a hole through its middle with your finger.
    3. Carefully widen the hole until it is over an inch in diameter.  The dough will bounce back slightly so the bigger the hole the better.
    4. Gently cover the dough and allow it to rise for a couple of hours. It should still bounce back slightly when prodded, but it should have reproduced some of the air it had lost during the shaping.
    5. Place a large pot of water and 2 tbsp of honey on to boil. The honey will give the bagels a wonderful golden color when baked without having to egg-wash them.
    6. Preheat the oven to 425 F (~218 C).
    7. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper or grease.
    8. Gently boil each bagel for about a minute on each side.  You can probably fit 3-4 bagels in the pot at a time.  
    9. Use a large slotted spoon to transfer the bagels from the water to the baking sheets.
    10. Sprinkle the bagels with sesame seeds.
    11. Don’t let the bagels sit around and cool, or they’ll wrinkle and deflate, promptly transfer them into the oven.
    12. Bake for 20-24 minutes.

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