Full disclosure: We love bialys, but we’re are not bialy people. We’re bagel people. Why? Well, we’re from Boston. Find us a bialy in Boston and we’ll eat our hat. The point is, if you’re not from New York, you’re probably like us and don’t know from bialys. Or you know from bialys, but it isn’t quite your native tongue. Follow?
Bialys, or Bialystoker Kuchen, are named for a delightful corner of the Podlaskie Voivodeship. Bialystock is still there but the onion-y namesake breads aren’t. Someone told us it’s because all the bialys moved to Brooklyn. They sounded pretty sarcastic, so we think we were supposed to read between the lines on that one. While bagels spread across the world, the only bialys left stayed close to home, home being New York and its environs. Of the Jewish bread world, you can look at them as the failed millenial who’ll never move off the couch. Unlike the failed millenial on the couch, bialys will never disappoint you.
The recipe we use comes from the best baking book in the entire world, Inside the Jewish Baker by Stanley Ginsberg and Norman Berg. We cannot recommend it enough, both for the recipes that do exactly what they’re supposed to and the anecdotal histories of classic Yiddish baking. We’ve paraphrased their recipe below. If you would like a slightly less time consuming recipe, the one published here on Smitten Kitchen doesn’t disappoint. As with most instant yeast breads, this is fairly simple so long as you wait out the proofing.
680 grams bread flour
370mL ice water
4 grams instant yeast
14 grams salt
1 tbsp poppyseed
Filling directions: Saute on medium heat until it looks nice.
Whisk together dry ingredients. Slowly add water and mix until the dough forms a shaggy mass (about 1 minute). If kneeding by machine, let kneed with dough hook for 10-12 minutes. If you’re doing it by hand, have fun. Do you have a friend? We hope so. You’re in for 12-15 minutes of misery. Either way, when you’re done with it, the dough should be “smooth an elastic and stretches when pinched and pulled.” Throw it in a bowl, cover it, and walk away for 2-3 hours. We found the timing to be more on the 3 hour end. After the dough has doubled in size, gently punch it down and divide into 12 balls. Space these out on parchment paper and cover. Let these proof for about an hour to an hour and a half, until they’ve doubled in size again and are very soft. Once proofed, stretch the balls into what the recipe describes as a “rubber wading pool shape.” So a very thin middle, about 4 inches or 10 cm in diameter with a thick rim. Lay these on a papered baking tray and put a spoonful of onion filling in the middle. Bake at 260c on the top rack of your oven for about 8-10 minutes. Eat immediately.