Bialy Recipe

I confess the idea of using a starter for these was tempting. I found a few notes here and there on some recipe boards to the effect that a starter would be “traditional” for bialys. I’m inclined to dispute that. Bialys were invented in Bialystok, Poland around the year 1880. Which means they are by any definition a “modern”, “city” bread, made with the packaged brewer’s yeast that would have been commonly available at the time. Considering how much the Poles have always loved light, fluffy, fast-rising breads I think the odds of bialys being sponge-raised are remote. Still I’m not stickler for authenticity. Some of dough or starter would work well here. Substitute either for up to 1/3 of the dough, making sure the 50% hydration ratio is retained, and making sure you use high gluten or bread flour for either preferment.

2 cups (10 ounces) high-gluten or bread flour
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
5 ounces (2/3 cup minus a teaspoon) water at room temperature
1/2 recipe caramelized onions, chopped

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle, stir together the flour, instant yeast and salt. Add the water in a steady stream, stirring until the flour is moistened. Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough about 7 minutes. Remove the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and let it rise about 1 1/2 hours until doubled.

At that point remove the dough to a floured board and deflate it. Divide it into 5 pieces and shape the pieces into balls by gathering the cut edges edges together and pinching them closed. Place them smooth-side-up on a tray lined with a floured cloth. Sprinkle them amply with flour and cover with another towel or plastic wrap for another 2 hours.

About an hour into the proofing, preheat your oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, making it as brick-oven like as you can beforehand.

To shape, pick up a piece of dough and, with both hands, start rotating the dough ball, pinching it in the center to flatten it the middle, leaving a cornice around the lip. Put the circles on a sheet of parchment paper. Using scissors or a knife, cut a small slit in the bottom to defeat any large bubbles that might want to rise while the bialys are baking. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of caramelized onions into the centers and let the bialys rest for 10-15 minutes to relax the gluten.

Slide the parchment sheet with the bialys onto the back of a sheet pan or cookie sheet. Open the oven door and, holding the sheet pan (but not the parchment) by the wide side, reach into the hot oven and plant the far edge of the pan on the far edge of the baking stone, then in one quick motion slip the pan out, leaving the parchment sheet with the bialys resting directly on the stone as shown here. Carefully pour about a up of water onto the empty sheet pan and spritz the sides of the oven, then close the oven door.

Bake the bialys about 8 minutes until they’re golden with some darker brown spots. Remove them from the oven with tongs and place them on a rack to cool. Eat them warm!

8 thoughts on “Bialy Recipe”

  1. Hi Joe!

    I think for once this is a thing I can weigh in on! I make bialys using a similar recipe, but for me the hydration has to at least approximate that of a bagel and thus 65% seems way high, I’d go with something in the range of 55-58%, unless your (American, which admittedly I haven’t ever tried) is super strong. Just looked up Hamelman’s “Bread” and he seems to agree with me 🙂

    I’ve experimented with different onion based toppings and found that the best aroma comes not from caramelized onions (!), but just plain freshly chopped ones put on the rolls just before baking and lightly brushed with butter. I’ve seen toppings like rehydrated dried onions mixed with poppy seeds (think it was in “Inside the Jewish Bakery”, but can’t be sure), but haven’t tried that yet.

    I do use a starter, but add some yeast as well, the starter is mainly there for flavor that you CAN detect 😉

    1. Hey Tadas!

      And very welcome you are too! Where do you make bagels? Not in the States I gather.

      I admit I was conflicted about the hydration. Our high gluten flour is quite strong, but a tighter crumb is probably a better idea. Maybe I’ll take the water down an ounce to 5.5 ounces. On the onion front I used to make them with raw onions back when I made them in a bakery. I’m using caramelized onions because no one in my house will eat them (or kiss me) if the onions are at all sharp. My ideal would be some quick sautéed onions, but there you go. I’m constrained by the people I live with.

      I may try a starter version of these as well, just to see.

      Cheers and many thanks!

      – Joe

    1. No problem at all, Dave. A lot of readers (including my mother) are wondering the same thing. It’s bee-alee. The “a” is the short sound, as in “hat”, though some people pronounce it “ah”.

      Cheers and thanks for that!

      – Joe

  2. This recipe looks so much like a heavier version of a French bread recipe…including the treatment while baking. Hmmmm..

    Can’t you just allow the dough to develop overnight in the fridge if you want the fermented or some of the “old dough” flavor? I almost always make a poolish using part of the flour, water and yeast for whatever dough recipe I will be using for bread the next day to add that little something extra in flavor to my bread. I usually make it before I go to bed as it just doesn’t take but a couple of minutes to do.

    1. You anticipated my next move, Susan. And here I thought I was being so clever. I think it’s a great way to split the difference — still using the straight dough method but allowing it to age longer. It’s what I’m going to do.


      – Joe

    1. Good question, Carol. Since they’re pretty basic breads I’d think they’d follow the rules of other common gluten-free breads, like pizza. I’m not an expert in this area at all. Have you tried Gluten Free Girl? She may have a recipe for bialys or bagels that you can adapt.

      Thanks for the question!

      – Joe

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