Rye Caraway Sourdough Bagels

I’ve attempted to make sourdough bagels so many times, I’ve lost count. But it seems like perseverance, detailed note-taking and feedback gathering has paid off!

I don’t claim that what I am about to share below is so much a recipe as it is a record of what I did so that I can reference it in the future. I’ve come to realize that written recipes are not that useful for making sourdough bread, when so much of it is based on experience. Here are some of my learnings.

Rye Sourdough Bagels

Makes 4 bagels, each weighing 125g

IngredientsGramsBaker’s percentage
Total flour (rye + all purpose flour + vital wheat gluten)255100%
Rye flour13051%
All purpose flour12047%
Vital wheat gluten52%
Diastatic malted barley flour104%
Caraway seeds52%
  1. Make sure the starter is really active, and that it has tripled in volume and is rather bubbly on its surface. It is better to delay baking until the starter is active after multiple feedings; it is almost impossible to come back from a sluggish starter.
  2. Scald rye flour with boiling water. This will create a fluffier loaf, as rye is prone to dense clagginess.
  3. Add all purpose flour to rye/water mixture. Do not be afraid to add more water if it looks and feels like it needs it. My initial recipe was a 55% hydration with 143g water.
  4. Add vital wheat gluten for better structure. It will probably be unnecessary if I had bread flour, but I didn’t, and I had vital wheat gluten anyway.
  5. Let flour mixture autolyze, or sit undisturbed, for 15-30 minutes. This allows gluten structures to form.
  6. Add leaven and barley flour. Knead dough for 5-10 minutes. A 100% rye loaf will not benefit from kneading since it doesn’t contain gluten, but the all purpose flour in this dough will benefit from kneading.
  7. Add salt and caraway, then continue to knead for 5-10 minutes. Salt and caraway are coarse nubbins that will interrupt the gluten formation, and kneading prior to its addition will encourage gluten formation.
  8. Put dough ball in a container with straight sides, flatten the dough ball and mark with tape where the dough height is. First rise should be 30%-50% of dough volume.
  9. Weigh and divide dough into four equal portions; it was 125 grams in this scenario. Shape each portion into a tight ball by pulling dough from the sides and sticking it down the middle. Flip dough ball so that it is seam side down, and cup against kitchen counter to seal the seam.
  10. Roll out each dough ball into a tube with your hand, roughly 6-7 inches long. Drape tube over the tops of your index, middle and ring finger, and pinch together both ends by rolling against the kitchen counter.
  11. Lay parchment paper on baking pan, and sprinkle parchment paper with coarse cornmeal. Lay bagels onto parchment paper.
  12. Lay cling wrap over bagels, and cover with a kitchen towel. Let shaped bagels rise overnight in the fridge; lower shelf for a slower, cooler rise.
  13. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 450F.
  14. Boil pot of water with a tablespoon or so of molasses and a dash of baking soda; the water should be foamy and bubbly and look like dark tea.
  15. Drop bagels in gently with a slotted spatula; boil for one minute. Do not fret if bagels do not float at this point! They will likely rise in the oven.
  16. Now that bagels are damp, it’s a good time to apply toppings if you so desire.
  17. Put bagels into oven, and bake for 20-25 minutes until crusty.
  18. For rye bagels, it is especially important to let the bread rest for at least 3-4 hours so that the insides aren’t gummy.

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