The first time I saw Bialys was in a picture of a New york bakery shop (I believe it is Kossar's) neatly arranged inside a rack. They looked like mini Pizzas to me only to learn that they were not when I read the recipe for this month’s we knead to bake group. A Bialy is a round shaped bread with a depressed middle but not a hole like in doughnuts, and typically filled with cooked onions and sometimes poppy seeds. Bialys is considered to be a close cousin of the Bagels. The difference is while a Bialy is baked, a Bagel is boiled and then baked. The pronunciation of bialys goes like bee-AH-lee.
The name Bialy comes from Bialystocker Kuchen which translates as “bread from Bialystok” which is in Poland. In the days when there used to be Bialys in Bialystock, it seems the rich Jews ate Bialys with their meals, while the Bialys were the whole meal for the poorer Jews.
In the early 1900s, many Eastern Eurpoeans, including the Polish, immigrated to the US and settled down in New York. Naturally, they also brought their Bialy making skills with them and that is how the New York Bialy became famous.
What lends Bialys their signature chewiness is the use of flour that is high in gluten. So to make Bialys, use bread flour if you can find it. Otherwise use all-purpose flour and add 1 tbsp vital wheat gluten (for the 3 cups). If like me, you can find neither bread flour nor vital wheat gluten, go ahead and make it with plain flour and use whole wheat for dusting and rolling to get that wonderful chewy crust. This recipe is adapted from King Arthur Flour
Homemade Bialys Recipe
Prep time: 10 mins | Rest time: 3 hours | Bake time: 20 mins | Makes: 8
Recipe Cuisine: Continental | Recipe Category: Breakfast
For the Dough:
For the Onion Filling:
- All Purpose flour – 3 cups
- Active Dry yeast – 1 tsp
- Sugar – 1 tbsp
- Salt – 1 tsp
- Water - 1+1/4 cups
- Milk / oil – for brushing
- Oil – 1/2 tsp (for greasing)
- Whole wheat flour – 4 tbsp (for dusting)
- Onions, medium – 3
- Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
- Red chili powder – 1/2 tsp
- Chaat Masala powder – 1/2 tsp
- Salt – to taste
- In a mixing bowl, place the dry ingredients and mix well. Heat water to lukewarm temperature (110 F) and add it to the flour and knead to make a soft and elastic dough. You can also use your food processor to do this.
- Shape into a ball and place it in a bowl greased with oil and turning it around so that the dough ball gets completed coated with oil. Cover and let it double for 2 hours. At this stage you can refrigerate the dough and bake it later. When you want to bake, make sure to keep the dough at room temperature for about half an hour and before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.
- Meanwhile, let’s make the filling. Heat oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds. When it crackles, add onions and sauté over medium heat. Sprinkle little salt and continue sautéing until they become soft and turn golden brown in color. Add the red chili powder, chaat masala powder and stir well. Take off fire and let it cool.
- Sprinkle your work surface lightly with whole wheat flour and place the dough on it. Divide it into 8 equal pieces and shape each one into a roll by flattening it and then pinching the ends together to form a smooth ball. Place the rolls on a lightly greased baking sheet and cover them with a towel. Let them rise for about one hour (about 1 1/2 to 2 hours for refrigerated dough) till pressing with a finger on the top leaves a dent.
- Work on one piece at a time, while you keep the others covered so they don’t dry out. When the rolls are ready, pick them up one at a time and place it upside down on the work surface. Grease a small bowl on the outer with oil. Place the bowl on the roll press gently using rotating motion so that it makes an indent in the middle. Now use finger tips to perfect the indent. Make sure you do not poke a hole in the middle. Remember not to press on the edges, or they will flatten out. Once shaped, you should have a depression of about 3” in diameter with 1” of puffy dough around the edge, so your Bialy should be about 4” in diameter. Prick the center of the Bialy with a fork so the center doesn’t rise when baking.
- Place the shaped dough on a parchment lined (or greased) baking tray leaving about 2 inches space between them. Place the caramelized onion filling in the depressions of each Bialy. Brush the outer dough circle with milk.
- Preheat the oven at 230C (450F) and bake for about 20 minutes or till they’re golden brown in color. Cool them on a rack. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
- Using whole wheat flour for dusting and gave the rolls a wonderful crust for me despite not using bread flour.
- You can use poppy seeds along with onions and also crumbled cottage cheese for the filling.
- You can store in an air tight bin for up to 2 days.
- If the Bialys get cold just microwave it for a few seconds and serve it warm.
- Oven timings will change accordingly.