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Peter Reinhart’s New York Style Bagels with Wild Sourdough

Peter Reinhart’s New York Style Bagels with Wild Sourdough

Made with wild sourdough, these bagels are chewy and full of flavor. With malty flavor and a good crust, there is no reason to buy bagels once you get in the rhythm.

New York style bagels were completely novel idea to me after jumping over the pond. Growing up, we had bagels that were slightly sweet, dense and dry, not chewy, and not crunchy, more pretzel-like. They also were thinner and had larger holes. I loved our bagels (called boublick, BTW), fully convinced that they were the best and the greatest thing, that is, until I tried the New York style bagels in America. Mmm… I was instantly hooked. You can’t confuse NY style bagels with anything else, and those chilled bagels from the dairy aisle of your trusted supermarket don’t count as bagels, so please don’t even start, I am talking the REAL ones — the crunchy on the outside and distinctively chewy on the inside, plump and beautiful numbers, sprinkled with… well… anything in the world, from kosher salt to crunchy onion bits.

For a long while, my Sunday lunch of choice was a toasted sesame bagel with plain cream cheese, topped with smoked white fish (chunk, not salad) from Goldberg’s Bagel & Deli. It had a slice of tomato on it, a few green olives and a half sour pickle on the side… I am drooling just thinking about it. Second favorite, of course, was a classic lox-n-bagel combo, with red onions, tomatoes and capers.


Then I read a bit more and found that yeast sponge could be substituted happily with wild sourdough for added flavor, and I decided that this may be the way to go, since I keep sourdough starter in my kitchen at all times. I did purchase a batch of white barley malt and a bag of bread flour, because I wanted to stay as true to the recipe as possible. The rest was history. It all came together very well and paid off tenfold. The bagels turned out perfect! They had it all — the satisfying crunch, the just right amount of chewiness without pulling your dentures out, the distinctive malty flavor, and oh the looks, the gorgeous glossy looks! They also keep quite well, can be frozen raw or baked, and the recipe is so simple that it will scale like a charm, if necessary.

The recipe may seem lengthy, the process spawning two days. However, if you look closely, it’s quite plain to see that it will flow very well with your busy schedule. Say, if you scale the bread starter on a Friday morning, you can go to work and forget all about it, then make the dough batch in the evening, refrigerate overnight, which is the proper way to deal with it, and boil and bake bagels on Saturday morning, which won’t take long at all. The actual hands-on time is very minimal. By the time your oven is fully heated, the boiling part will be done. And after that, it only takes 20-25 minutes to bagel bliss… It will all be worth it in the end, when you and yours will sit down in front of still warm heap of bagels, inhale the aroma, slice those bagels open, toast (or not, if you are a purist), slather with cream cheese and sink your teeth into the crunchy and chewy flesh. Ahhhhh….

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Peter Reinhart’s New York Style Bagels with Wild Sourdough

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4.5 from 11 reviews

  • Author: Peter Reinhart
  • Yield: 12 1x


With wild sourdough, these bagels are chewy and flavorful. With malty flavor and a good crust, there is no reason to buy bagels once you get in the rhythm.



Wild Sourdough Sponge:

  • 500 g (4 cups) bread flour
  • 500 ml (2 cups) non-chlorinated water
  • your ripe 100% hydration wheat sourdough starter

Final Dough:

  • 1000 g (5 cups) of sourdough sponge (above)
  • 4 cups bread flour, divided
  • 2 tsp barley malt or 1 tbsp malt barley syrup
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dry yeast


  1. Make the sponge: This is a great way to refresh your starter and make a sponge for bagels at the same time. Mix whatever quantity of wheat starter you have with the water. Whisk until foamy. Add flour. Mix thoroughly until all lumps are gone. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Cover loosely with plastic or lid and leave for at least 6-8 hours. Sponge is ready when very foamy and stretchy, and when 1 tsp of starter dunked in a glass of cold water doesn’t sink. If you are working office hours, this portion of the process is best done in the morning, one day before you want bagels. Go to work, by the time you are back the starter should be ready.
  2. Make the dough: Measure out 5 cups (or weight 35 oz) of the starter sponge. Reserve the remainder of the sponge for other projects.
  3. Combine starter, salt, malt, yeast and 3 cups of flour in a bowl and mix together until they form a ball.
  4. Adding the remaining flour in batches, 1/4 cup at a time, continue kneading the dough until all added flour is fully absorbed. Keep adding flour until the dough is tough and non-sticky, but still smooth and elastic. Sometimes it takes a bit less flour, sometimes more. If you notice tears or “stretch marks” in the dough, add a few drops of water to remedy that and stop the addition of the flour.
  5. Continue kneading the dough by hook or by hand until it’s fully smooth and elastic. It will still be quite tough. It will take about 10 minutes by hook or 15 minutes by hand to get to that stage.
  6. Immediately divide the dough into 12 (or 24) equal parts. Standard size bagel will be about 4-1/2 oz (130 g) when raw.
  7. Shape each portion of the dough into a ball, and then shape it into a roll, much like a bratwurst sausage.
  8. Cover all rolls with a damp towel and let them rest and relax for 20 minutes.
  9. Line a baking sheet or a board with parchment.
  10. Shape the bagels: Wrap each roll around your fingers, overlapping the ends right under your index finger.
  11. Press the ends together with your thumb and index finger, place your open palm with dough on it onto the table and roll back and forth a few times, allowing the ends to fuse together.
  12. Place the bagels as you shape them on the lined baking sheet or board. Cover with plastic and let rise 20 minutes.
  13. After 20 minutes, perform the float test. Fill a medium bowl with cold water. Put one of the bagels in the bowl. If the bagel floats within a few seconds, it’s ready. If not, dry the sacrificial bagel off with a towel and return it under the plastic for another 15-20 minutes. Repeat the test.
  14. Once bagels are ready, place them, still covered with plastic, in the refrigerator and leave overnight or up to 36 hours. Do not skip the refrigeration step: it is necessary for flavor and texture development.
  15. Boiling and baking: once you are ready to bake your bagels, preheat the oven to 500F. Prepare a board or a tray lined with a clean and dry dish towel for wet bagels to rest on. Line up your bagel toppings at this time. Get your slotted spoon or skimmer ready.
  16. Place a wide pot filled with water on a stove and bring to a boil. A regular soup pot will fit 4 bagels at a time, which is great. Once the water is boiling rapidly, add 1 tbsp of baking soda to the pot, to increase the boiling. Leave the heat on high to ensure rapid boil at all times.
  17. Remove bagels from the fridge and carefully lower them 3-4 at a time into the boiling pot. Boil bagels for 1 minute on each side, turning them once with the slotted spoon.
  18. Remove bagels from the pot and line them up on the towel. Sprinkle bagels with toppings now, as they are the stickiest at this point. Proceed with the remaining bagels, until all of them are done and sprinkled.
  19. Transfer bagels onto the parchment lined baking sheet.
  20. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until they are evenly browned on all sides. Some ovens are not baking evenly, so you will have to watch for that, and rotate the baking sheet mid-baking.
  21. Cool bagels on rack until manageable and enjoy. Allow bagels to cool fully before storing them in plastic.
  22. Bagels can be frozen after step 14 (overnight ripening in the fridge) or after they are fully baked and cooled. If you are baking bagels after freezing them, thaw bagels for 1 hour prior to boiling them.
  • Category: Baking


View Comments (28)
  • I’m new to bread and bagel making. This recipe is a little confusing- how much sour dough starter do I use- by weight ?

  • This recipe is fantastic!

    The only change I made was substituting molasses for barley malt (as I had none).

    I baked 6 of my bagels right away, and froze the other 6 after the overnight rise; I boiled and baked those just this morning after thawing them for an hour or so. Both way, the bagels turned out great.

    I baked the second batch on a hot pizza stone, and found they cooked more evenly than on a baking sheet (bottoms got a bit to crispy on the baking sheet.

    Soooo delicious. Thanks for the recipe!!!

  • We just ate bagels from the first batch using this recipe – they are phenomenal. Thank you! I started them yesterday using my own very active starter. I added 2 teaspoons of non-diastatic malt powder to the dough, and 2T to the boiling water.
    Next batch: I won’t use as much semolina on the towel to keep them from sticking; I will bake them until browned nicely at 17 minutes, and then use an egg white glaze to adhere the topping of dried onions, and then bake for two or three minutes only so the onions don’t burn.
    Also, the shape of the bagels is odd: they are almost round, the hole has disappeared and been replaced by a raised point. They look a bit like very rotund volcanoes. I’m thinking it may be because I baked them using convection at 425 F. Next time I’ll skip the convection and see if they keep their shape. Can you think of another reason for the odd shape? Still delicious, though – great recipe.

  • Diastatic malt in the dough will leave your bagels more springy. More sugar for the yeast to go on. As for the baking soda in the water, it doesn’t do much for boiling – what it does do is break down proteins on the surface leaving you with a pretzel-like crust (in fact, when making pretzels boiling in baking soda can be a substitute for using lye). You can add non-diastatic powder to the water you boil in (cut back on the malt syrup if doing so) – that will give it a little extra flavor and boost the color.


  • Hello Yuliya,
    Thank you for the recipe! I’m planning to make this recipe and have two questions:
    1. When you say ripe sourdough starter, do you mean fed? In the first step you mention the sponge is a way to “refresh the starter”, should my sourdough be fed or unfed when I add the flour and water for the sponge?
    2. What is the purpose of adding more dry yeast to the final dough? Is there a way to convert this to a 100% naturally leavened recipe?
    Thank you!

    • Did you ever get an answer to question number 2? I also would like to make this recipe but am unsure if I can simply omit the baker’s yeast or not. I make plenty of sourdough the rises just fine on it’s own, but maybe the timing changes without the baker’s yeast?

  • I just made these and they’re fantastic! I’ve been meaning to try sourdough bagels and this looked like a fairly easy recipe. I also was impatient so I only let them sit in the fridge for 12 hrs but next time I will let them sit longer and add in some flavors (blueberry and some onion). If anyone is curious, a donut pan works great to hold the shape when you do mini bagels, which is what I did with this batch. Great recipe, wonderfully chewy and crusty!

    Subs and notes I made:
    -maple syrup for the malt
    -used unfed, refrigerated sourdough starter 140g of it, let it sit overnight to ensure it was bubbly
    -baked at 425 for 20 min for mini bagels
    -used an egg wash to help browning
    -makes 24 mini bagels, used 60g measurement for each one and it was a perfect size for little hands

  • Thank you for such a detailed recipe! So far the bagels looks fine but I do wonder why does my bagels hv a crispy slightly blistered exterior while most bagels including the picture in your post are smooth! Can’t wait to eat them ! ??

  • Two questions: I have high-protein flour I use for pretzels. Could I use that here? Would you recommend it? I love a chewy bagel. I also have food-grade lye. Could a achieve a more traditional result with a lye bath, and if so, what would be the lye to water ratio? I’m excited to make this and relive the bagel of my college days!!! Much love!

  • Why use metric for half of the recipe and imperial for the rest of the recipe? I don’t get it. I am a metric all the way person.

  • I made these Bagels as instructed. I followed the recipe to a T. I had an excellent sourdough starter sponge made with hi gluten flour. I found the end product did not taste like a bagel. It had a delicate crisp on the outside which was excellent but the inside which had a large crumb did not have the chewiness associated with Bagels. This was my first attempt, I boiled the bagels 1 minute on each side, I was told if I boil it longer they will get chewier, although it is a nice bread nothing bad about it it was disappointing because it was not a chewy bagel. I would not make this again I would try a different recipe first. I used malt I used hi gluten flour from King Arthur I really followed it carefully and the bagels were not chewy at all. They were crispy light flavorful but if it is not chewy it is not a bagel in my book so I just cannot support this recipe.

  • I am sorry to hear you didn’t get good results with this formula. I’ve been baking these bagels with various flours for several years now. I bake them almost weekly for my customers, and I never had an issue with them being not chewy. I am not sure what may have caused them to have open crumb and fluffy texture. May I suggest you try again? What kind of yeast are you using?

  • Good recipe! For those who want pure sourdough without using extra yeast here is what I tried which worked wonderfully: 4tbsp of active sourdough starter in the sponge (aka leaven). This would eliminates the need for a sugar source (barley malt syrup) although I didn’t realize this and added a little less than a tbsp of molasses.

    As far as forming: I find it easier and more uniform to roll each piece into a ball and poke my thumb in the middle to make the whole.

    Definitely easier than other sourdough recipes that call for folding the dough every 30 mins for 3 hours. I just kneaded my dough by hand for about 25 mins (turn on a podcast, music, or something to keep you occupied).

    Thanks for the great recipe!

  • Wild Sourdough Sponge:
    500 g (4 cups) bread flour
    500 ml (2 cups) non-chlorinated water
    your ripe 100% hydration wheat sourdough starter

    How much starter?

  • Hello, I just put a batch together today without access to a dried yeast powder (in India during COVID-19).

    My starter was very active and my spunge had all the right signs of being a great start. The issue I faced was that my bagels did not float after forming them and they did not rise after 2 hours of setting out on the counter ?.

    So, I have to start over. How can I change the process/recipe to work without the added powdered yeast? I’ve read that salt kills yeast, so I’m thinking of removing the salt and using it as a topping.

    Also, I didn’t use my sponge until about 12 hours after starting it.

    Any suggestions would be great.

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