I had to refresh my sourdough starter yesterday, a process which involves taking a small amount of the existing starter and adding fresh flour and water to it. The excess (old) starter gets discarded. Obviously, I hate the idea of this. So I spent my afternoon combing books and the Internet for ideas on what else I could do with my extra sourdough starter. I decided to make the bagels from Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice. He suggests using sourdough starter (the “barm”) as an alternative to the sponge starter the recipe starts off with. I had to adjust the amounts since I had less starter than was called for. The one thing that stymied me though was that apparently Peter’s barm is wetter than the firm starter I have. I had to add water and kind of decide by feel how much was enough. In the end, I think my dough ended up entirely too dry, but any more water and it would’ve been too sticky. I counted on it working itself out while it retarded in the refrigerator overnight.
For the onion topping, I read all sorts of suggestions online — some said to use reconstituted dehydrated onion flakes, some said to make your own by caramelizing the onions on the stovetop, some even said to just put them on raw! In the end, I slowly sauteed some chopped yellow onion in olive oil for about 40 minutes until all the moisture had evaporated, and that’s what I used. I also sprinkled on some poppy and sesame seeds.
The finished bagels had that pleasing tanginess that sourdough brings and weren’t heavy or dry like I had feared they would be. If only I could get the onions to stay on while I cut the bagels in half!