Bialys are small Polish rolls that have a chewy yeast crumb, similar to that of a bagel. Unlike bagels that are boiled after baking, bialys are slightly steamed during baking. Bagels have holes in the center, and bialys have a depression that is filled with a combination of caramelized onions, poppy seeds, salt and pepper.
I had a Bialy at a local Dean & Deluca several years ago and loved it. These little rolls seem like a delicacy in the Midwest but are actually as common as the bagel on the East coast.
I had sort of forgotten about them until a few days ago when I was paging through a new summer cookbook I ordered. The author talked about her addiction to bialy pizzas!
Because bialys aren’t easily found around Minnesota, I decided to bake a batch. They were actually pretty easy to make, but required 2 long proofing times…so, if you attempt this recipe just remember you’ll have to hang around the house to babysit them. Freeze whatever you aren’t going to eat within two days.
4 cups bread flour
1 packet active, dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 and 3/4 cup warm water
Combine above ingredients until incorporated. Turn out onto floured surface and knead for 7 minutes. The dough should be soft and elastic. Place in a buttered glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free place for 2 hours (until doubled in size.)
Deflate dough by punching down. Transfer to floured surface and cut into 10 equal pieces. Gently pull each piece into a circle and then form a pouch by folding edges into the center of the circle. Pinch to close where edges meet. Set bialys on a large, lightly floured baking sheet (pinched sides down.) Lightly flour tops and cover with buttered plastic wrap. Set in a warm place and allow to rise for another 2 hours.
While the dough is rising for the second time, make the filling and preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.
~onion poppyseed bialy filling~
heat 6 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil in a skillet
add 1/2 cup finely chopped onion to oil
saute until lightly browned and caramelized
(about 5 minutes)
Remove from heat and add:
2-3 teaspoons poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground, black pepper
When the 2 hours is up, gently press depressions in the tops of each of the bialys. Put a little filling in the center of each. Place a jelly roll pan on the floor of the oven. Put a few handfuls of ice cubes on the pan. Place the baking sheet with the bialys on it on the middle rack of oven. Immediately shut door.
Bake for 10 minutes, until pale-golden and mottled.
Cool on wire racks.
(recipe adapted from Miriam Ungerer’s book Summertime Food)
Cut bialy in half. Brush olive oil and minced garlic clove over the tops. Spread a little pizza sauce over this (if you wish.) Add your favorite pizza toppings… (Miriam suggests fresh buffalo mozzarella and Kalamata olives) pictured above: mozzarella, pepperoni, fresh mushrooms and green olives. Place on a foil-covered jelly roll pan in the upper part of a 350 degree oven. Bake until cheese melts (about 10 minutes.)