Recipe: White Cheddar Za'atar Sourdough Bagels

Updated: 16 hours ago

These straightforward sourdough bagels are lovely. Chewy yet fluffy, with a delicate flavor from the cheddar kneaded throughout the dough that perfectly complements the bite from the additional white cheddar and za'atar topping. Try them with a drizzle of honey and cream cheese, or use them to make egg sandwiches!

New to sourdough baking? Start here.

White Cheddar Za'atar Sourdough Bagels

Makes 7-8 bagels

You'll need a baking sheet, parchment paper or nonstick baking mat, mixing bowl, and kitchen scale for this recipe


150 grams sourdough starter, fed a few hours before so it is very bubbly and active (I feed my starter so it's at 100% hydration. For a simple explainer on hydration levels click here)

235 grams water

20 grams honey

500 grams bread flour or high protein flour

9 grams sea salt

1 and 1/2 cups white cheddar cheese, shredded (additional 1/4 cup optional)

1/2 cup za'atar, typically available at Middle Eastern markets or you can make your own

Making the Dough:

1. In a mixing bowl whisk together 150 g sourdough starter, 235 g water, and 20 g honey.

2. Add 500 g bread flour, 9 g sea salt, and 1 cup of the shredded white cheddar cheese to the mixture.

3. Mix the dough until the gluten is well developed. This will take about five to ten minutes of kneading by hand. Knead until it passes the windowpane test. When you stretch a piece of dough with your hands, it should stretch and become thin so you can see light pass through it, without tearing.

4. Form the dough into a ball, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let rest on the counter at room temperature for eight to ten hours.

Forming & Making the Bagels:

5. After resting (I usually do that overnight so we can have bagels in the morning), turn out the dough onto a clean counter top.

6. Split the dough into 7-8 equal pieces (it's easy to cut the dough with a knife if you don't have a dough scraper or you can just rip with your hands).

7. Roll each piece into a tight ball, using the counter top to create surface tension.

8. Place the dough balls onto a baking sheet lined with lightly oiled parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.

9. Cover with a damp towel and let the dough rest for 15 minutes.

10. Time to form the bagels! I find the poke method is simplest. Using your pointer finger, poke a hole into the center of each ball. Then pick up the dough and curve your fingers around the hole, stretching it evenly. Stretch until the hole is almost two inches wide, then place back down on the baking sheet. The hole will contract as the bagels rest. *Pro-tip: If the dough sticks to the parchment paper or baking mat, wet your fingertips to more easily lift it off.

11. Cover formed bagels with a damp towel and let rest for an hour. After thirty minutes, test a bagel to see if it floats in a bowl of cold water. If it does, it's ready! If not, continue to let the bagels rest for 25-minute intervals covered in a damn towel until one passes the float test. I've found that with bagels with mix-ins, like these cheddar bagels, it may take a bit longer than normal for bagels to pass the float test. Be patient and don't skip this step. Once a bagel floats, you're ready to move on.

12. Preheat the oven to 425 F. While the oven is preheating bring a medium pot of water to a boil.

13. In a small bowl, mix 1/2 cup za'atar and 1/2 cup shredded cheese. Set aside.

14. Once the water is at a rolling boil, use a large slotted spoon to gently add bagels to the pot of boiling water. I usually do this one or two at a time to prevent crowding in the pot. Simmer for 30 seconds, flip with the spoon, then simmer the other side for 30 seconds.

15. Once simmered, flip back over and remove the bagel from the water. Place the boiled bagel on the baking sheet.

16. While the boiled bagel is still fresh from the pot, sprinkle the top liberally with the za'atar and cheddar cheese mixture.

17. Repeat the process of boiling and adding toppings with all bagels.

18. Place the baking tray in the oven on the middle rack.

19. Bake for ten minutes, then flip the tray around in the oven to ensure even browning. Bake for another ten minutes. *Optional: For extra cheesy bagels, after the bagels have cooked for ten minutes, remove from oven and sprinkle with another 1/4 cup of grated white cheddar. Replace tray in the oven and bake for another ten minutes. Remember to flip the tray around for even browning.

20. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. These bagels are best served warm or can be sliced and frozen in a resealable bag to be toasted up later.

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