Yeast was “invented” – in that we could actually hold it in our hands – in the mid 1800s. Yet, we have been baking for about 10,000 years (give or take a few). So, before the mid 1800s and, really before the second world war, all bread was made with a sourdough culture.
Variously called the “mother”, the “culture”, the “starter” or named “Harriet” or “Douglas” by affectionate owners, sourdough cultures are frequently called “wild yeast” or the “fourth form of yeast”. In fact, they are yeast that is trapped in a paste of flour and water. So, when people say, “can I make sourdough bagels (or pizza or hot cross buns)?” the answer is – of course you can!
- bowls, scale, baking tray, non stick parchment, scraper, big pot of simmering water, slotted spoon
To refresh the sourdough
- 70 g White, wheat sourdough starter from the vat in the fridge
- 70 g Strong, white wheat flour
- 70 g Water
For the dough
- 500 g White, wheat flour
- 200 Milk
- 110 g Water
- 10 Salt
To top the bagels
- 1 Egg beaten with a tsp of water and a pinch each of salt and sugar
- Poppy seeds To decorate
- Measure the sourdough starter into a large bowl and return any remaining starter to the refrigerator.
- Add 70 g of wheat flour and 70 g of the water to refresh the sourdough. Stir and cover with plastic wrap, and leave on the counter for around 8 hours.
- Add the remaining ingredients for the dough and knead well for 10 minutes. Cover the bowl with a shower hat and leave on the counter for 4 hours. Scrape the dough out on to a floury surface and divide it into 10 pieces.
- Shape each piece into a tight ball. Flour them and cover them with plastic and let them rest for 30 minutes.
- Pick up each ball and pinch it with your thumb and first finger through the middle. Gently widen the hole with both hands and lay the dough down on a baking tray that is lined with a HEAVILLY floured tea towel. The baking tray helps you carry the bagels around – this becomes important…
- Flour the tops, cover them with plastic and let them rest for 2-3 hours or until they pass the probe test.
- Pre heat the oven to 220 degrees C.
- Bring a large pot of water to a simmer.
- Put the bagels in the water (as many as comfortably fit) and simmer them for 20 seconds or so.
- Remove them with a slotted spoon, drain them well, and place them on a baking tray that you have lined with non stick baking parchment.
- Brush on the beaten egg and sprinkle poppy seeds on top.
- Bake them for 20 minutes. Remove them from the oven and let them cool on a wire rack.