Sourdough Bagels or How I Almost Killed My Mixer

Feeding sourdough is a never-ending task.  Every week, if you do not want your starter to die, you have to feed it.  This means that you take about half of your starter or less and feed it with fresh water and flour.  Freshly fed, the starter can wait for another week.  I’ve begun to think of my starters as monsters or blobs (like that old horror movie) and I am considering giving them names.

Anyway, the rest of the starter you have to either use to make bread, give to a friend so they can have a starter too, or throw away.  In the past, I have just tried to bake as much bread as I could stand in one day so that I did not have to throw away as much starter.  This starts to take a toll after awhile as our waistline expands and the freezer explodes with bread.  Plus, as much as I love to bake, there are some weeks when I just don’t have the time to bake.  There are only so many friends that I have that are interested in sourdough baking (really only one that lives nearby) and so I usually end up throwing a lot of starter away.

Until this week.

I’ve been doing a little experimenting to see what can be done with the leftover starter.  So far I have tried two things.

Sourdough waffles.

These turned out really light and crispy and would have been really delicious had I not forgotten to add salt to the batter.  This recipe still needs some work, so I will let you know what happens with that later.

Also, this weekend, I made sourdough bagels.

I was using a recipe from a book that I have long wanted but only just got around to getting: Breads from the La Brea Bakery.  This is an old book, but was one of the first to give a method for how to make one’s own sourdough starter from scratch and bake with it.  We have been to the original bakery in Los Angeles (that was a fun adventure that involves a celebrity sighting that I will have to tell you about later) and everything we got there was delicious and perfect.

Anyway, there is a brilliant chapter at the end of the book that gives recipes that use up leftover sourdough starter.  Included are recipes for waffles, pancakes, english muffins, chocolate cake (intriguing?), and bagels.

Really good bagels are hard to find.  I have made bagels before and they are really wonderful–nothing like those marshmallowy things you get at the grocery store.  As a bonus, the recipe seemed pretty simple, so I happily measured out all the ingredients.  Then, I started mixing it in Junior, my 6 qt mixer.

Now, in case you don’t know, bagel dough is really stiff.  Every recipe I have used has produced a stiff dough and that is because bagels are supposed to be chewy and a little dense.  They are not supposed to be light and fluffy.  I was not surprised when the dough started getting stiff, but I was a little concerned when I noticed that Junior was beginning to pause occasionally in his mixing.  The mixer bowl began to rattle and shake a bit as the dough hook went around and I could tell that the motor was straining a bit.  Still, I pressed on because I was confident in Junior’s abilities.  He had never let me down before, even when there was so much bread dough in him that it bits were flying out of the bowl.  The recipe instructed me to mix the dough at medium speed for 8 minutes, but I decided I would keep Junior at his lowest speed so as not to over tax him.

About 4 minutes into the mixing, I noticed a funny smell.  I sniffed the dough and I sniffed the mixer, but I wasn’t sure what it was.  I felt the top of the mixer.  It wasn’t warm, so i thought he was ok.  I decided to go on.  At this point, I thought it safe to run down to the basement to switch out some laundry.  I would just be gone for a minute.

Just steps from the washer, I heard Junior stop and there was silence.  Oh no!  I ran up the stairs to the kitchen and quickly shut him off.  The smell was stronger and then I noticed something that struck fear in my heart.

Wisps of grey smoke were coming out of the cracks in Junior’s head.  “I’ve killed him,” I thought.  For the next few moments, I watched as more smoke curled out of Junior’s head and that smell I noticed earlier became almost overpowering.  There was nothing I could do at that moment, but sadly get the dough out and finish up the recipe.  When I went to pat Junior’s head a few minutes later, I noticed it was really hot.  That is not a good sign.

Later that morning, as I was recounting the incident to the husband, he reminded me that the bigger mixers have a safety mechanism that will shut off the motor when it is getting too hot.  Sure enough, once Junior had cooled down a bit, I tried turning him on and Yay!  He turned on.  Now the question is, will I make this recipe again?


These were the best bagels I have ever had.  They are not overly sour.  They did not take forever.  They had a great texture, with a combination of chewiness and springiness that I have never tasted in a bagel.  They had great flavor when eaten alone and with toppings.  As a bonus, the dough used up all the sourdough starter that I would have thrown away.

Yes, I would make these again.  I’ll just turn Junior off earlier next time.  We had a little talk and he’s forgiven me.


Posted on January 23, 2012, in Baking, Sourdough and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I gotta make me some bagels 🙂

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