What Is a Bialy?
The bialy is not a sub-type of bagel; it’s completely different. A bialy is round with a depressed middle that is filled with cooked onion and sometimes poppy seeds. Unlike bagels, which are boiled and then baked, a bialy is simply baked. This gives it a matte, rather than shiny, outside, and it doesn’t have a pull-away crust. The inside has large, puffy bubbles.
Bialys can be covered with butter, cream cheese, or cured or smoked fish, but many people prefer to eat them without any toppings.
The bialy originated in Bialystock, Poland. A few places sell them in New York; Palm Beach County, Florida; and San Francisco, but they are difficult to find most anywhere else.
Here is a recipe for bialys that you can make at home.
Rice flour for dusting
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
½ teaspoon kosher salt
17 ounces bread flour
9 ½ ounces all purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
4 ounces starter or poolish
½ teaspoon active dry yeast
2 ounces warm water
14 ½ ounces cold water
Make the starter or poolish the night before by combining ½ cup flour, 1/3 cup water, and ¼ teaspoon active dry yeast. Leave at room temperature overnight.
Add 2 ounces warm water to yeast to dissolve. Combine all dough ingredients except salt. Knead the dough for 6 minutes.
Add salt and knead for another 2 minutes. Set aside and let the dough rise for 2 hours.
Roll the dough into a log on a surface dusted with flour. Make balls of about 3 ounces. This should make about 16 bialys. Press the dough out to shape without overworking. Leave a 1-inch lip around the edge.
Allow the dough to rise again in a warm area covered with a clean dish towel for an hour or until they are soft and airy.
Saute the onions in 1 tablespoon olive oil until they are light caramel in color. Make a depression in the center of each bialy and fill with onions. Sprinkle lightly with poppy seeds and salt.
Bake at 450 degrees, preferably on a pizza stone, for 12 to 15 minutes.