With the return of the morning fog to the Oakland Hills, so too has my oven returned. While Gordon slaves away at his bagels, I chose a slightly less labor intensive, but no less rewarding, challenge. The bialy. Bialys, as any good Jewish cookbook, or Wikipedia, will tell you, are a Yiddish specialty that originated in the Polish village of Bialystok (cue Nathan Lane). The onion and poppy seed filling brings you all the goodness of a bagel without all of the annoying boiling. They are very common in New York and San Francisco, but many people in other parts of the country have never heard of them. I can recall encountering them at a very young age. Back when I was still young enough to believe that getting up early on a Sunday was fun, I would head with my Dad to the Bagel King before my older siblings had risen from what my father described as “teenage crib death”. Every once in a while they would have bialys and my Dad would always get a couple and the warm scent of the onions would fill the car on the way home. When my taste buds matured beyond the blueberry bagel with strawberry cream cheese, I discovered the wonder of the caramelized onions on the chewy roll, preferably with a little cream cheese on top, but even plain they are still fantastic.
recipe after the jump
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Yield: Six bialys
2 c high-gluten bread flour, or 2 c all purpose flour plus 2 Tbs Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Flour
1/2 tsp (heaping) dry active yeast
2 tsp salt
3/4 c plus 2 tablespoons warm water
Onion-Poppy Seed Filling
2 Tbs vegetable oil
2/3 C onion, chopped
1 tsp poppy seeds
1/4 tsp salt
Black pepper to taste
1. Activate yeast. Combine yeast and warm water with a pinch of sugar until yeast is bubbly.
2. Mix the dough. In the bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. With the dough hook, on low speed, gradually add the water/yeast mixture, mixing for about 1 minute or until the flour mixture is moistened. Add additional water if the dough is too dry. Raise the speed to medium and continue mixing for 7 minutes. The dough should clean the bowl but be soft and elastic.
3.Let the dough rise. Place the dough in lightly greased bowl. Press down the dough and lightly spray or oil the top. Cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise, ideally at 75 to 80°F, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until it has doubled. (A great trick for a cold day is to set the bowl on a heating pad on low setting, mine even has an auto shut off feature)
4. Shape the dough and let it rise. Deflate the dough by firmly pushing it down, and transfer it to a floured surface. Cut the dough into 6 equal pieces. . Maintaining as much air as possible in the dough, round each piece by pulling the dough together to form a pouch, stretching to make a smooth skin, and pinching it together where the edges meet. Set it on a floured baking sheet or tray, pinched side down. Flour the tops and cover with plastic wrap.
Allow the bialys to rise for about 2 hours at 75 to 80°F or until almost doubled; when pressed lightly in the center, they should keep the impression. If the dough is underrisen, it will puff up in the center instead of maintaining the characteristic hollow crater. The trick for underrisen dough is to make a small hole in the center before adding the filling. Since the dough bakes so quickly, it’s easy to test bake one to see if the dough is ready. If you want to be on the safe side, make the hole anyway.
5. Preheat the oven. Preheat the oven to 475°F 30 minutes before baking. have an oven shelf at the lowest level and place a baking stone or baking sheet on it, and a sheet pan on the floor of the oven, before preheating.
6. Make the onion-poppy seed filling. In a small saute pan, heat the oil. Add the onion and saute over medium heat, stirring often, for about 5 minutes or until translucent. Remove from the heat and add the poppy seeds, salt, and pepper to taste. Cool.
7. Make the craters for the filling. Holding each piece of dough with both hands, with your thumbs in the middle and almost touching, pinch the center of the dough tightly between your thumbs and first two fingers and stretch the dough to 4 1/2 to 5 inches in diameter, forming a crater in the center. Place it on the lined baking sheet and spoon 2 Tbs of onion-poppy seed filling into the center.
8. Bake the bialys. Place the baking sheet with the bialys directly on the hot oven stone or hot baking sheet. Toss a handful of ice cubes into the sheet pan on the oven floor (this helps make your oven closer to a professional bread oven; the steam helps form a crust), and immediately shut the door. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes or until pale golden and mottled with brown spots (an instand-read thermometer inserted into the center will read about 211°F.)
9. Cool the bialys. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the bialys to wire racks to cool until just warm.
Storage: The bialys keep well for one day at room temperature in a paper bag. For longer storage, wrap each in airtight plastic wrap and place freezer bags in the freezer for up to one month. Thaw, still wrapped, at room temperature.
Variation: To make crisper flat bialys (a favorite in New York, I did not do this but might next time), brush the tops with a mixture of 1 large egg white beaten with 1/2 teaspoon water and sprinkle with poppy seeds . Cover with plastic wrap and press down on the bialys with a sheet pan or cookie sheet to make 5 1/2- to 6-inch rounds. Remove the plastic wrap and use the wide end of a chopstick to make about 12 holes in each bialy. Bake as above, but add a few minutes to that bialys turn golden brown.
* a note on the Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Flour: This stuff is amazing. It is basically a super high gluten additive for flour. It about $6 for a bag and 1 Tbs per cup turns your cheap generic all-purpose flour into amazing bagels, bialys and pizza dough. It give you more flexibility on the gluten levels and ends up being more cost effective than the specialty high gluten bread flours and I found it at my local grocery store.