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Jul 16, 2016

Traditional Onion and Poppy Seed Bialys

These traditional onion and poppyseed bialys are crispy and airy, and loaded with sweet caramelized onion flavor. 

Traditional Onion and Poppyseed Bialys

 Sometimes the onions on the fringe burn a little bit, which just makes your house smell amazing.

I've heard these referred to as "the bagel's distant cousin," but in my mind they are very different, other than they are round and of Jewish descent. While a bagel is dense and chewy, these are airy and soft with a thin crispy crust, and the dough has a much higher hydration percentage (flour to water). While a bagel is boiled before baking, these are shaped, allowed to rise, filled, and baked. And the middle is filled with tasty onions and poppy seeds!

Traditional Onion and Poppyseed Bialys

Bialys even inspired their own book, written by respected food critic Mimi Sheraton, called The Bialys Eaters: The story of a Bread and a Lost World.

I love bialys, as evidenced by the fact that this is my third Bialys recipe on this blog. For a recipe that that also contains onions in the dough, along with some history, visit my first post about bialys.

I also made mini Bialys with cheddar cheese. Along with the cheddar, their filling also includes breadcrumbs, which absorb some of the moisture in the onions, preventing the middles from popping up. All three recipes are delicious and worth trying.

For an even easier version with the flavor profile, be sure to try another long forgotten Jewish bread, Pletzel

Traditional Onion and Poppyseed Bialys

This month, the Bread Baking Babes are baking Bialys, chosen by our Kitchen of the Month, Judy of Judy's Gross Eats. If you'd like to bake along and have your post or photo featured in a round up (you don't have to have a blog), check out Judy's post for information on how. Thanks Judy for choosing one of my favorite breads!

How did the rest of the Babes fare with this recipe? Check out these posts and do check back as we are often fashionably late to the party:

Speaking of late.... I'm a little tardy to the party. You see, I fell asleep during the first rise of the final dough, and five hours later woke up to dough that had quadrupled in size and was crawling down the side of the dough rising bucket. If you've ever seen the movie Caltiki, the Immortal Monster (I was scarred for life), about "a monstrous mass of man eating protoplasm," you'll understand....

At 2:00 am I deflated Caltiki and put him in the fridge. The next day, after dealing with caked on dough on the outside of the original container, I weighed some of him for the Pâte Fermentée, and used the rest for pizza. This ability to save your dough for another day is another reason why I love baking bread.

Bialys Recipe

To make the Pâte Fermentée


120 grams lukewarm water
2/3 teaspoon instant yeast
180 grams bread flour
1 tsp Kosher salt, preferably Diamond Crystal


  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the water and yeast.
  2. Add the flour and yeast, and mix on low for about 2 minutes, until just combined. 
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let rest for 30 minutes. 
  4. Place the dough into an oiled container (with room to grow), cover, and place in the refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours.
This recipe makes more pâte fermentée than needed. Add the rest to your favorite bread or pizza dough recipe for added flavor. 

To Made the Bialys

Dough Ingredients

320 grams lukewarm water
465 grams bread flour
150 grams of the pâte fermentée, cut into walnut sized pieces
3/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon Kosher salt, preferably Diamond Crystal

Filling Ingredients

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
1 1/2 teaspoons poppy seeds
1/8 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black or white pepper

  1. Add the flour and water to the bowl of a stand mixer and mix with the dough hook until just combined, about 2 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes. 
  2. Add the pâte fermentée pieces, yeast, and salt, and mix on low until combined, about 2 minutes. 
  3. Increase the speed to medium to medium high, and mix with the dough hook for 5 to 7 minutes, until you have a smooth shiny dough that clears the sides of the bowl. 
  4. Place the dough into an oiled dough rising bucket or bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled, about 60 to 90 minutes. 
  5. While the dough is rising, prepare the filling. Saute the onion in the olive oil over medium low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until slightly golden and tender. Add the poppy seeds, salt, and pepper. Stir and allow to cool. 
  6. Place a baking stone on the center rack of your oven and preheat it to 500 degrees F. Line unrimmed cookie sheets or the backs of two upside down baking sheets with parchment paper. 
  7. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces, about 80 grams each. Form each piece into a ball and let them rest for five minutes. Working in the same order as you did when creating the balls, flatten them into a 4 inch wide disks. Place the disks on the parchment paper, about 1 inch apart. You should be able to fit 6 disks on each piece of parchment. Cover each baking sheet loosely with oiled plastic wrap.
  8. Let the dough rise until puffy, about 60 to 90 minutes. 
  9. With your fingers, lightly press the center of the dough to make a well, sort of like a wading pool. Place a loose tablespoon of the filling into the well, and spread it evenly with your fingers. 
  10. When you are done preparing the first baking sheet of bialys, carefully slide the bialys filled parchment onto the hot baking stone. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden. 
  11. Cool the baked bialys on a wire rack, removing the parchment paper. 
  12. While the first group of bialys is baking, prepare the second group. Bake while the first set of rolls is cooling. 
  13. Serve warm. Keep leftovers in an airtight container, or individually wrap them and freeze for up to 30 days. 
Recipe adapted from The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook. It's an amazing book.

Traditional Onion and Poppyseed Bialys

Would you like to comment?

  1. You're a bialys expert! I want to try the mini-cheddar.... Being small you should be able to send me a dozen or so - right? Much appreciated ;-)

  2. Your bialys are wonderful!! I love the idea of them with cheddar cheese too. Except I wonder if I could manage to make them that way. The caramelized onions are so so good.

    1. Thanks Elizabeth! That's why I keep making them, so I can try every version! =)

  3. Ah ... This ability to save your dough for another day is another reason why I love baking bread. Yes, well, I think I just love bread for a new reason or two with each recipe I bake. It seems bread always has something new even when I'm baking a recipe for the umpteenth time! Although, I don't recall falling asleep like that. Sounds like a much needed nap. Still, there you are wonderful and perfect Bialys!

    1. Thanks so much! I think I was pushing it and trying to stay up late and finish the bialys. It was a Friday night, probably not the best time to stay up late and bake after a long work week =)

  4. I love they way your bialys look, the middle is so nice and moist and it didn't grew back as much during the last rise. You're a real bialys expert by now! I sneaked in a little cheese in half of mine, but not really enough to taste is next to the onions.

  5. Gorgeous bialys Karen and I love your description of the runaway dough!

  6. You ... you... you DEFLATED CALTIKI????

    well, this gotta receive some type of literally prize! A deflated monster in the same paragraph as the making of perfect bialys! You ran away with this one... easy... ;-)

    and of course, I have a huge smile in my face because believe it or not, my next post (which shall go live on Wed) includes the words runaway feet.

    I hope that made you curious.. yes? no? maybe?


    1. It was scary!!! Runaway feet.... hmmmmm... really huge macarons? Can't wait to see!!

  7. Ah, the caked on dough dilemma. That happens more often than I would like when my sourdough gets too happy and overflows the jar in the fridge. Your bialys are sheer perfection. Love the filling, the color, the shaping, everything!

  8. These look PERFECT! So beautiful, Karen... and I love a good bialy! YUM!!

    1. Thanks Ashley! Not too many folks know about bialys!

  9. Your bialys look wonderful! Lovely color. Great idea to save the dough and use as the pate fermentee.

  10. Love the shape and look of your bialys. I wonder the trick is to overproof the dough since mine kinda explode when the bialys hit the oven.

    1. Here's my theory... Be sure the dough is fully proofed, and don't use too much filling, because the moisture will work like a stem oven and poof up the middle. I also think that adding breadcrumbs helps with the filling. I didn't do that here, because I used less filling.


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