onion bialys; a tuesdays with dorie post

bialys are one of those things that you either have fond memories of or you have never heard of them.  they aren’t very common once you get out of the areas lacking large jewish communities.  having grown up just outside of manhattan in northern new jersey, i knew what they were, i saw them in places that sold bagels but i never ate them.  looking back, i cannot explain why i had never eaten one.  perhaps it was that my mother never ate them or purchased them.  still, that is a little strange since onion bagels and onion rolls made their way into our kitchen on occasion.  
it wasn’t until i met my husband that i became more familiar with them.  his fondness for a freshly baked onion bialy made an impression on me; not enough to make me a fellow devotee, but i would at least eat one on occasion.  living in nashville, tennessee has made finding a proper, freshly baked bialy nearly impossible.  on the rare occasion that he encounters one, he quickly proclaims it “okay, but not a real bialy” and knowing how picky he is, i generally avoid bringing them home.  
recently, he had to travel for work and was gone from home for 10 days.  while he loves what he does, he did not particularly like being away for that long.  no matter what hotel/motel you stay in, it just isn’t the same and he missed being home.  baking up a bunch of onion bialys for him seemed like it might make the perfect welcome home gift.  it was also a great excuse to turn on the oven on yet another cold and dreary winter day.  luckily for me, this recipe was the latest challenge chosen by my fellow tuesdays with dorie bakers as we work our way through the book, baking with julia.  

first step was to create a sponge.  my husband likes to give me little gifts to use while baking.  he gave me this jar of malt syrup and when i saw that the recipe called for malt syrup or sugar, i went with malt.  in commercial bakeries, malt syrup is used frequently since it offers flavor as well as the needed sugar to feed the yeast.

they wouldn’t be onion bialys without freshly sauteed onions.  
now that we have a gas stove in our kitchen, i look for reasons to cook!

the sponge is mixed up and allowed to sit for an hour.  it isn’t a very long amount of time but it does contribute to the flavor of the finished product by allowing the onion flavor to steep into the dough.

after an hour, it is very bubbly and ready to be added to the dough.

the dough is mixed up and kneaded with the mixer-at least mine was.  then it sits for a while as it is allowed to double in size.

having made many dinner and sandwich rolls in my time, i could not shape the bialys without first giving them a little twist.  after cutting up the dough, i placed a ball of dough in my hand and gently rotated it in a clockwise motion-you can see that my fingers are closed around the dough and touch the table.  this gentle twist makes a perfect ball of dough that will give the final bialy a nicer, round shape.
keep in mind that you do not need to go crazy, just a few quick swirls around the table; the longer you do it, the tighter the ball gets and the harder it is to make the final flattened round of dough needed for an authentically shaped bialy.

prick the center multiple times to prevent it from puffing up-a fork works well

placed on a cornmeal dusted peel and topped with onions and poppy seeds, these tasty treats are ready to hit the heated stone in the oven.

fresh from the oven

as the afternoon wore on, the light shifted in the kitchen, these bialys would have to wait patiently for my husband to arrive.

they look like funky bagels but honestly, they taste completely different.  

the recipe called for cutting the dough into 12 pieces, i went a little smaller and cut the dough into 16 pieces.  the result was that i was able to share a few as well as eat a few without my husband missing out on any.  to preserve them, i wrapped them individually in plastic wrap, bagged them up and froze them.  he now has a snack when he wants one!

true fans know that slitting and toasting them is optional and not necessarily correct.  old time bialy eaters heat them whole and put a bit of butter in the center with the onions.  however you like them, this recipe worked out well and my husband gave them a firm “pretty good, but…” and i will take that as a check in the success column.  to learn more about bialys, look for a copy of the book, “the bialy eaters:  the story of a bread and a lost world” by mimi sheraton and if you want to try a true bialy but do not want to make them, order some from kossar’s, they ship!

to slice or not to slice…that is the question

9 thoughts on “onion bialys; a tuesdays with dorie post

  1. Wow! Those are absolutely beautiful!! Just how I imagined they were to turn out. Love the first (and last) picture. I pricked the heck out of mine, and still they puffed.


  2. Beautiful pictures & good shaping tip. I've never heard of doing that before with rolls, but I am going to have to keep that in mind.

    Sliced and toasted or eaten whole – it just doesn't matter, bialys are good (usually) no matter how slice them (or not).


  3. Yours look beautiful! We ate them straight out of the oven with a little butter…they were so delicious. I liked seeing how you did your centers…I think I didn't make my centers as wide as yours, maybe that is why they still puffed.


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