Sesame Sourdough Bagels


If you think these don’t look like the sesame bagels you’re used to seeing, you’re right. We love sesame bagels, but seed loss was putting us at risk for sprouting a sesame plantation right on the dining room rug.

Sesame Field 20020400 2 Although it is a unique and lovely look, we decided this wasn’t quite the decorating direction we wanted to be taking. The solution turned out to be simple: sesame seeds in the dough rather than on top of it. If you want to make a generic dough for several different toppings, this isn’t the way to go (try these bagels instead). But if you’re willing to commit to your sesame seeds, it works well.


For maximally chewy bagels, remember to use high-gluten flour (or add extra gluten to your regular bread flour) and mix the dough until it’s very strong! Add the toasted, cooled sesame seeds to the dough once it’s fully mixed.

Sesame Sourdough Bagels

Yield: 12 bagels


  • Toast and cool sesame seeds: 30 minutes
  • Mix: 10 minutes
  • Rest, divide and shape: 35 minutes
  • Proof: 1 – 3 hours at room temperature plus 4 – 8 hours in the refrigerator
  • Boil: 5 minutes
  • Bake: about 20 minutes

Desired dough temperature: 80F


  • 469 grams high-gluten flour, or 455 g flour plus 14 g vital wheat gluten
  • 169 grams cold water
  • 38 grams nonfat milk powder
  • 22 grams non-diastatic malt powder
  • 10.5 grams (1 3/4 teaspoons) salt
  • 403 grams active 100%-hydration sourdough starter
  • 86 grams sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda for boiling


  1. In a dry skillet over medium-high heat, toast the sesame seeds, stirring constantly, until they pop. Immediately spread them on a cold baking sheet and refrigerate until cooled.
  2. Combine the starter, water, flour, gluten, malt, milk powder, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low speed to combine.
  3. Mix on medium-low speed for another two or three minutes, until the dough is very smooth and strong, almost rubbery. Add the sesame seeds and mix until they are evenly distributed in the dough.
  4. Turn the dough out onto an unfloured counter and work a few turns by hand. Form the dough into a smooth ball; the surface should feel satiny and tight.
  5. Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap or a towel and let it rest for 10 minutes.
  6. Divide the dough into 12 pieces of about 100 grams each. Flatten each piece and roll it up into a tight cylinder. Let the cylinders rest, covered, for 10 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and dust it generously with semolina (or use reusable parchment with no semolina).
  8. To shape each bagel, roll each dough cylinder into a rope about 8 inches long without tapering the ends. Wrap the cylinder around your hand, with the ends overlapping by about two inches in your palm. Roll your palm on the (still unfloured) counter to smash the ends together. (Note: if the dough is a little dry, give it a quick spritz of water with a fine spray bottle before shaping. This helps it roll more easily, and the ends stick to each other.)
  9. Place the bagels on the prepared baking sheets, and slip into a large food-grade plastic bag or cover with plastic wrap. Proof for 1 – 3 hours at room temperature, until the bagels look and feel a bit puffy. Then refrigerate them for 4 – 8 hours.
  10. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425F and put a large pot of water on to boil.
  11. When the water is almost boiling, place a cooling rack on the counter with a dishtowel underneath it. Remove the bagels from the refrigerator, brush the semolina off their bottoms, and place them on the cooling rack.
  12. When the water has reached a rolling boil, add the baking soda. Drop the bagels, three or four at a time, into the vigorously boiling water for 20 seconds. They may or may not float right away, but they should float by the time the 20 seconds are up. If they float right away so the tops are not submerged initially, flip them over about halfway through the boil.
  13. Remove the bagels from the water to the cooling rack with a slotted spatula. Let them drain for about 30 seconds before replacing them back onto the semolina-dusted, parchment-lined cookie sheet.
  14. Turn the oven down to 400F once the bagels are in. Bake until golden brown, about 20 – 24 minutes. About halfway through baking, open the oven door briefly to vent any steam.
  15. Cool on a wire rack.

CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Wendy says

    Earlier this week I made your sourdough bagel recipe and put toasted sesames in them. I also added about 30% whole wheat flour. Thanks for such yummy bagels!

  2. bergamot says

    Bagels look good. Just perfect. I have many failed attempts at bagel making. This reminds me, I need to try them once again.

  3. says

    Susan, these are on my list to try real soon. We have some excellent bagel shops where I live so I usually don’t bother making my own, but I have been meaning to try some sourdough ones so thanks for the recipe.

  4. says

    Fantastically looking bagels. I’m so happy to try these, as the sourdough bagel is a dream come true for me. Thank you, Susan, you inspire to no end!


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