Bialys originated in Bialystok, Poland, and were brought to the United States by Jewish immigrants in the early 1900s. Cousin to the bagel, bialys are fun, small round breads with an indent rather than a hole—all the better for cradling the traditional seasonings like onion, salt and poppy seeds. They freeze well and provide a great base for creativity—such as bialy pizza or bialy shakshuka (see recipe variations).
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 envelopes (¼ ounce each) active dry yeast
- 2 cups very warm water (105 to 110 degrees)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 6–7 cups bread flour, plus extra for the work surface
- 1½ tablespoons kosher salt, plus additional for onion topping and sprinkling
- 3 tablespoons dried minced onion
- 1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds (optional)
- Coat a large bowl with olive oil and set aside.
- Dissolve the yeast in the warm water in a separate bowl, about 5 minutes. Add the sugar. Stir in about 5½ cups of the flour and 1½ tablespoons kosher salt. Continue adding flour until the dough holds together. Transfer to a floured board, and knead for about 10 minutes, until smooth (the dough will be very dense). Form into a ball.
- Place the dough in the oiled bowl, then remove it, turn it over and place it (oiled side up) back in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 2 hours.
- Uncover dough and press down the middle to deflate. Divide the dough into 16 equal pieces and roll into balls. Place on a lightly floured or parchment-lined surface, cover with oiled plastic wrap, and let rise until nearly doubled (about 1½ to 2 hours).
- Prepare the onion topping by placing the dried onion in a small dish and covering with ½ cup very warm water. Let stand for at least 15 minutes. Drain any excess water, and toss with ½ tablespoon olive oil and ½ teaspoon kosher salt.
- Adjust the oven rack to the second-to-top position, and place a baking stone or a cookie sheet on the rack. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Cut a piece of parchment paper roughly the size of the stone or pan and set aside on the counter.
- Take one ball of dough (keeping the rest covered), and flatten on a lightly floured surface. Stretch with fingers to between 4 and 5 inches in diameter. Gently pull the center and then press very firmly with thumbs until the dough holds a thin, 2-inch-wide indent (the thinner the indent, the more likely it will keep its shape during baking). The bialy will look somewhat flat, but the edges will puff up during baking.
- Place on the parchment, and brush with egg yolk mixture, sprinkle lightly with kosher salt, fill indent with about ½ to 1 teaspoon of the onion mixture and sprinkle all over with poppy seeds, if using. Repeat with remaining balls.
- When the parchment is full, slide it with the bialys onto the hot stone or baking sheet and bake until bialys are lightly browned, 9 to 12 minutes. Remove to a wire rack. Repeat with remaining batches.
- Serve warm or at room temperature with butter or cream cheese, or any bread spread.
- Bialy Pizzas Take a baked bialy and fill the center with a layer of warmed pizza sauce and sprinkling of shredded mozzarella. Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 3 to 6 minutes, until the topping is hot and melted. Also nice with a slice of fresh mozzarella or burrata.
- Shakshuka Bialys Take a baked bialy and fill the center with a layer of warm roasted tomato sauce. Crack a medium egg (or the smallest size you can find) into the sauce. Sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bake in a preheated 450-degree oven for 6 to 10 minutes, until the egg is desired degree of doneness.
- Recipe reprinted with permission from Meatballs and Matzah Balls: Recipes and Reflections from a Jewish and Italian Life.