Bialys are a long forgotten treat from the Jewish quarter of Bialystok, Poland, where they were constant staple.
Food writer Mimi Sheraton wrote about her exploration of the history of these wonderful rolls in her book The Bialy Eaters: The Story of a Bread and a Lost World. "Rich Jews ate kuchen (bialystoker kuchen) with meals, and for poor Jews kuchen were the meal.... we ate them in the morning and in the night, and in between."
Bialys all but disappeared from Poland during the holocaust, but were kept alive by Bialystok Jews who made their way to America prior to 1941 (Ginsberg & Berg).
Bialys survived for awhile in New York City, but they really didn't make any further significant inroads in America. This is partly attributed to their living in the shadow of the more dominant Jewish roll, the bagel, which can be more easily mass produced.
While these might be lumped in with the bagel because they are a Jewish roll, they are a completely distinct bread. They are not boiled, and the bread is not nearly as dense and chewy as a bagel (see all of those lovely holes? You won't typically find them in bagels).
Traditional bialys are made with flour, water, salt, and yeast, and "schmeared" with chopped onion and poppy seeds prior to baking. While not entirely traditional, this recipe also includes a small amount of barley malt as well as sautéed onion in the dough. They still include the schmear!
The original bialys look like little wading pools with a puffy rim and a flat middle (I encourage you to do a Google image search). As hard as I tried to get the rimmed look, these puffed up so that the centers looked more like "innie" belly buttons.
Bottom line? These are a delicious and savory treat. They are amazing split and toasted in a toaster oven, and then slathered in butter. They are also wonderful spread with Boursin, smoked salmon, and red onions after toasting. They are pretty tasty as buns for for hot roast beef or steak sandwiches.
After the first day, I split our leftover bialys, wrapped them individually with plastic wrap, and placed them in freezer bags. Breakfast toast for days!
Try these. They are so tasty! I will definitely be making these again and again.
*Note: I added a bit of vital wheat gluten to the flour. If you decide to use it, spoon it into your measuring cup or bowl (if you are measuring by weight) prior to adding the flour. It's not necessary to add it to this recipe, but I like the extra elasticity it gives the dough.
**Another note: I left my dough very sticky, adding flour by the tablespoon at the end until the dough is still sticky, but somewhat manageable. I think the wet dough helps achieve all of those "nooks and crannies." If you are not comfortable working with really sticky dough, add enough flour until the dough clears the sides of the mixing bowl.
For traditional New York bagels, check out this recipe.
You can read more about the history of the bialy from Serious Eats and Tablet.
After the recipe, enjoy the links to Jewish breads from the rest of the #TwelveLoaves bakers.
Onion Bialys Recipe
Makes 12. Recipe adapted from Baking with Julia: Savor the Joys of Baking with America's Best Bakers.
2 1/4 cups warm water (about 105 to 110 degrees F)
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
2 tsp barley malt
2 Tbsp shortening
1/3 C minced yellow onion
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) bread flour (*including 2 Tbsp vital wheat gluten, optional)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup minced yellow onions
2 tsp poppy seeds
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
All of the sponge
1 Tbsp salt
3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) bread flour (*including 3 Tbsp vital wheat gluten, optional)
Cornmeal for sprinkling
Cornmeal for sprinkling
- Mix 1/4 cup of the water, the yeast and the malt in a small bowl. Set aside until cream, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- Melt the shortening in a skillet over medium heat, add the 1/3 C onions, and sauté about 3 minutes (do not let the onions brown). Add the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Add the rest of the water and black pepper.
- Add the yeast mixture and begin mixing on low with the paddle attachment. Slowly add the flour, mixing until it is fully incorporated. Raise the mixer speed to medium, and mix for 3 minutes.
- Cover the bowl and let rise for 75 minutes at room temperature.
- While the sponge is rising, make the topping. Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat and sauté the onions and poppy seeds for 3 to 5 minutes. Do not let the onions brown, as they will brown in the oven. Add pepper to taste and let cool.
- Lightly oil a large bowl or dough rising bucket and set aside.
- Once the sponge has fully risen, fit the bowl back onto the mixer, and using the dough hook, mix in the salt and enough flour to create a tacky (**see note above) dough. When the flour is fully mixed in, knead on medium for 3 to 5 minutes.
- Transfer the dough to the oiled bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled, about 90 minutes.
- Preheat your oven, fitted with a pizza stone if you have one, to 500 degrees F and set a pan on the lowest rack for steam.
- Line two baking sheets with parchment and sprinkle with corn meal. You will be baking 6 bialys per baking sheet.
- Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and cover with oiled plastic wrap. Working with one piece of dough at a time, shape it into a ball, and then press the center down to create a flat well with a 1/2 inch rim. Prick the well with a fork several times, and cut the center with a pair of scissors. Spoon some of the onion poppy seed mixture into the center, and prick with a fork again. Cover with a towel while you work with the rest of the dough.
- Prepare a cup with 4 ice cubes and 1/4 cup water (for the steam). Place one sheet of bialys onto the baking stone, and toss the ice and water into the pan on the lowest rack. Shut the oven door. Bake for 10 minutes, and then lower the oven temperature to 450 degrees F. Bake for 5 minutes more.
- While the first batch bakes, prepare the second batch in the same way.
- Bring the oven back to 500 degrees, and bake the second batch.
#TwelveLoaves is a monthly bread baking party created by Lora from Cake Duchess and runs smoothly with the help of Heather of girlichef, and the rest of our fabulous bakers. Our host this month is Karen from Karen's Kitchen Stories, and our theme is Jewish Breads. For more bread recipes, visit the #TwelveLoaves Pinterest board, or check out last month's mouthwatering selection of #TwelveLoaves enter last month's "A Little Something Sweet" Breads!
- Bialys from Karen's Kitchen Stories
- Boulou from girlichef
- Challah Braid from The Redhead Baker
- Land of Milk and Honey Muffins from NinjaBaker.com
- Marble Rye Bread from The Bread She Bakes
- Montreal Bagels from Cheap Ethnic Eatz
- Passover Popovers from Hostess At Heart
- Pletlz - Jewish Onion Bread from A Shaggy Dough Story