Good question, reader Molly. High gluten flour will definitely give you a better overall bialy-eating experience. Like a bagel, a bialy should be dense and firm and/or chewy. The extra protein in the flour provides that texture boost. Think of the protein (gluten) molecules as little springs. During the kneading process they attach to one another creating a stretchy network throughout the dough. That network stays more or less intact even through the baking process, so when we bite down the result is “chew”.
Here I should point out that not all gluten is created equal. The gluten in European flour differs from the gluten in American flour in that when it’s developed it’s more firm than it is chewy. The result is that European bread dough is not as elastic as our own, and that offers distinct advantages when it comes to shaping and baking breads and crusts. Their doughs don’t “spring back” or need to be rested like ours do. Which reminds me that I’ll need to include a resting step in the recipe if I want a broader depression in the center of my bialys when I bake.
Polish-Jewish bakers in Bialystok never had to worry about their bialys bunching up in the oven — but I do! Thanks for reminding me, Molly!