Bialys were once the life-bread of Bialystok, Poland. They resemble a bagel, although the hole does not go all the way through—the depression is usually filled with minced onions and poppy seeds. Also, bialys, unlike bagels, are not boiled prior to baking. A terrific read about the history of this special bread is The Bialy Eaters: The Story of a Bread and a Lost World, where the author, Mimi Sheraton, sets out to find an authentic bialy in Bialystok, only to find that nearly all of the original bakers are gone.
This also makes an exceptionally good pizza dough. After the first 2-hour rise, punch down, let rest for 10 minutes, then shape into pizza doughs.
Bialys (makes 16)
Proof the yeast, by mixing together the following, and letting sit about 5 minutes until foamy:
- 2 c. warm water
- 2 tsp. sugar
- 2-1/4 tsp. yeast (1 package)
Add and knead for 10 minutes:
- 1 Tbs. salt
- 5 c. bread flour (I use King Arthur’s in the blue bag)
Cover and let rise for 2 hours.
Punch down the dough, divide in half and roll into two 8″ long cylinders. Cut each into 8 pieces. Let them rest for a few minutes on a lightly floured board, while you prepare the filling.
Mix together the following:
- 1 small onion, minced
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 Tbs. poppy seeds
- 1/2 tsp. salt (preferably course kosher salt)
Shape, fill and bake the bialys:
Grease two cookie sheets and sprinkle with cornmeal. Pat the pieces of dough into flattened rounds about 3-4″ in diameter, shaping slightly higher in the middle. Place them back on the cookie sheet, cover with a towel and let rise for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Using a small glass or jar that is 2″ in diameter, press a deep indentation into each bialy. The glass will probably stick to your dough, so you can grease it (just dip in lightly into your filling mixture) and flour it before pressing into the dough. Spoon 1/2 tsp. of filling into the indentation. Bake for 15-20 minutes until just lightly browned. Do not let them get dark brown, since bialys are meant to be sliced and toasted before eating.