Found: Cook’s Country Magazine, February/March 2015 (must be a member to access)
Donated: Laramie County Library System, Book Sale Room, March 2017
Librarian Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars – This is Darn Delicious!
Skill Level: 3 out of 5 – Need to know the basics of yeast doughs and have a few under your belt before attempting these.
Let’s talk bialys. When I lived in Evanston, IL, my ex-husband and I used to shop at an Aldi that was incredibly close to a Polish bakery. While we kept to mostly plain boules or bread loaves, sometimes the pastries would catch our eye.
I’ve never had a bialy before. But I’ve seen them, and I absolutely remember their smell. Sort of a cross between an onion bagel and fresh na’an flatbread. Soft. Doughy. Tangy.
There’s no rhyme or rhythm as to why I chose this recipe first. I spent an entire evening pouring through a stack of 25 magazines that were donated to our library (these are free; and a volunteer knew I’d be interested so she set them aside for me). Cook’s Country doesn’t use many real photos–especially in their older publications. This, however, had full color images. And I have to admit I clipped a few recipes just because the food was major eye-candy.
Some Back Story from Cook’s Country:
When food writer Mimi Sheraton set out in 1992 to discover the origins of the bialy, she went straight to the widely acknowledged source: Bialystok, Poland. But the trail was cold; no bakeries in Bialystok sold bialys.
After interviewing far-flung farmer Bialystokers from New York to Argentina, Sheraton learned that while the bialy (bialystoker kuchen) was known in Bialystok in the early 1900s, the story of its origin had been lost.
In her 2000 book The Bialy Eaters, Sheraton wrote: “It is doubtful that anyone will ever know unequivocally who first formed a bialystoker kuchen and when. My guess is that it originated by accident as a variation on the more ubiquitous pletzl… given the random fickleness of fate, I conjecture that one day an unbaked pletzl fell onto a bakery floor and was stepped on with the heel of a shoe. Not wanting to waste anything, the frugal baker topped it with onions and poppy seeds, baked it, tasted it, and proclaimed it a eureka moment in bread history.”
The Recipe: With My Edits
2 cups warm water (110 Degrees)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
4-3/4 cups all-purpose flour (3/4 cup reserved)
2 tablespoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 small onions, chopped fine or 2 medium onions, chopped fine
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1. For the Dough: In bowl of stand mixer, combine warm water, sugar, and yeast, and let sit until foamy, about 3 minutes. Add 4 cups flour and salt to yeast mixture. Fit stand mixer with dough hook until dough comes together, about 3 minutes.
2. Turn out dough onto floured counter with remaining 3/4 cup flour and knead by hand until smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer dough to greased bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let dough rise at room temperature until almost doubled in size, about 1 hour.
3. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper (lightly floured) or unfloured silpat. Gently press center of dough to deflate. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and divide into 16 equal pieces. Form each piece into a round ball by pinching bottom and placing seam down on baking sheet. Arrange 8 balls on each prepared sheet, cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel. Let dough rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.
4. For the Filling: Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions and salt, and cook until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Off heat, stir in poppy seeds.
5. Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 475 degrees. Gently press each dough ball into a 5-inch round with palm of hand. Let dough rise at room temperature until slightly puffy, 15 to 20 minutes.
6. Grease and flour bottom of round object roughly 2-3 inches in diameter (1/4 cup measuring cup worked well!). Press cup firmly into center of each dough round until cup touches sheet to make indentation for filling. (Reflour the cup as needed to prevent sticking)
7. Divide filling evenly among bialys (about 1 heaping tablespoon each) and smooth with back of smooth or finger. Bake until spotty golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. It is best to bake one sheet at a time on the heighest rack. If you’re low on time, you can stick both sheets in, and rotate halfway, but know that the sheet on the bottom rack might produce more round bialys rather than flat and bagel-like. Let cool 10 minutes. Serve.