Bialy | Traditional Brooklyn Style RecipeAlan Crane
Bialy? What is a Bialy? Well, if you asked that question you are not the first. It is a ‘cousin’ to the bagel. I first came in association with this gem when I was still getting Gourmet Magazine. Now, to introduce you to Bialys!
They look like a bagel. They are similar in how you make them, except they don’t have a hole. Instead it is generally filled with onions. The other way bialys are also different than the bagel is it isn’t boiled and doesn’t have a shiny crust or that traditional dense chew.
Traditionally, before baking, you can add poppy seeds or sesame seeds. There are also recipes out there for the Bialy that give it the ‘Everything Bagel Seasoning Mix’ or a crushed black pepper. This version has none of the above, so we could highlight the baseline of a basic Bialy! After you get the hang of it, experiment with all your favorite bagel flavors.
For the pre-ferment
- 1 ¾ cup plus 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour 236g
- 1 cup lukewarm water 236g
- 1 tsp instant yeast 3g
- ½ tsp honey
- ½ tsp brown sugar
For the dough
- Pre-ferment from above
- ¾ cup lukewarm water 175g
- 3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour 400g, plus more as kneaded
- 2 ¼ tsp sea salt 14g
For the caramelized onions
- 1 ½ large onions or 2 medium sized, diced to produce 2 ½ cups
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- ¼ tsp salt
- In a large bowl (3 quarts), combine pre-ferment ingredients: flour (1 ¾ cups), water (1 cup), instant yeast (1 tsp), honey (½ tsp) and brown sugar (½ tsp). Mix until all ingredients are smoothly incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 1 ½ hours.
- While the pre-ferment is in process, heat vegetable oil (¼ cup) in a large skillet over high heat. When hot, add diced onions (2 ½ cups), salt (¼ tsp) and poppy seeds (optional) (2 tsp). Turn down to low heat and sauté until the onions are golden brown, about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from skillet and let cool in a bowl.
- After the pre-ferment has sat for an hour and a half, add the remaining dough ingredients: flour (3 ¼ cups), water (¾ cup) and sea salt (2 ¼ tsp). Mix with a large wooden spoon in the bowl until the dough hangs together, then turn out onto a flourless surface, with extra flour nearby. Knead for about 10 minutes. If the dough begins to stick to your hands, bring in some of the additional flour a little at a time until the dough is “tacky” but no longer sticky. Clean out bowl and lightly grease with vegetable oil. Form a ball with your kneaded dough, roll around in the bowl and then cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for an hour.
- After the dough has risen for an hour, take off wrap and then, with the dough still in the bowl, do a series of four “stretch and folds”. This involves grabbing one side of the dough and lifting it up, stretching it and then folding it back over the remaining dough. Rotate the bowl a quarter turn and do the same again. Follow this approach two more times until each “corner” of the dough has been lifted, stretched and folded back over the dough. Then turn the dough over in the bowl, re-cover and let sit for another 30 minutes.
- Take risen dough out and divide into 12 pieces of approximately equal size. I weigh these as I go - should be about 89g per piece. Cover these with a dish towel and then one by one on a clean surface (no flour for this step!) form into a ball. I do this by folding each piece upon itself and rotating, almost like mini stretch-and-folds and then once a tension has formed use the cup of my hand to roll around on the surface into a ball. Pinch the bottom if needed. Set these aside as they are formed on a floured surface, leaving at least 2” between them so they don’t morph together. Then sprinkle them all with flour and cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 45 minutes.
- Line a large rimless baking sheet or transfer board with parchment paper. Lightly flour a work surface. Then take one risen dough ball, roll it around gently to coat with flour, and form it into about a 4” disk by stretching the middle into a thin membrane, leaving the rim thicker. I do this almost as if these are mini pizzas, rotating and stretching as I go. It’s important that the middle is stretched thin rather than being pushed down, which will result in an unwanted rise of that section of the bialy upon baking. Place disc on parchment-lined sheet. Repeat with remain dough balls.
- Spoon 2-3 teaspoons of caramelized onions into the center of each disk. Note - this is more than you will see on a typical store-bought bialy. We will get to that later. Let rise for 30 minutes. Pre-heat oven to 500 degrees with large bread stone or two baking sheets inside.
- To get the bialys into the preheated oven, tilt the transfer board or rimless baking sheet so the parchment, with the bialys on top, slides onto the preheated bread stone or baking sheets (cut the parchment paper in two with bialys on it if you are using two baking sheets). Bake for 10 minutes. They should be golden brown. Remove and transfer to a cooling rack. Allow 15-20 minutes before eating.
To save for future breakfasts, slice bialys in half, ensuring one side has a hole in it and the other has all the onions. I do this by cutting them with a bread knife until I get to the center and then rotating and cutting again as I go around vs slicing all the way through, which can be more difficult to keep the onions intact. Once sliced, keep each pair together and freeze. They won’t stay fresh long otherwise.
My strong recommendation on how to eat a bialy is to toast it, spread it with butter (see the blog post for my grandfather Poppy’s approach to butter spreading), and then spread the onion filling around before eating. Most bialys don’t have enough onions to do this, but these bialys do!! Enjoy.
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