What is a Bialy?

Bialys are small ring-like rolls, though instead of a hole in the middle there’s a flat crater that’s usually filled with chopped onions. They’re reminiscent of bagels but ultimately quite different. Sure they’re round, traditionally Jewish and made with high-gluten flour, but that’s where the similarity ends. Unlike bagels they aren’t boiled before they’re baked. Also unlike bagels the dough isn’t sweetened with malt syrup or sugar. So on the one hand they’re a rather basic bread: flour, yeast, salt, water. They aren’t even glazed, so they’re pale and floury on the outside and fluffy on the inside.

But that’s not to say they aren’t special. When they’re done well they’re crunchy on the outside and fluffy/chewy on the inside. If you get them fresh from the oven the thin centers are crispy and crunchy, and of course the whole thing has that trademark savory onion flavor. If the onions have been quick fried, they’re charred and sharp tasting. If they’ve been long-cooked and caramelized (my favorite) they’re sweet and creamy. Long-cooked garlic is another solid way to go with bialys, and poppyseed are acceptable as well. So there’s quite a bit of potential variation in this simple thing. I’m looking forward to getting back to them after a lot of years!

One thought on “What is a Bialy?”

  1. True, bialys are nothing like bagels, I’ve always been puzzled when people say they are. I guess because they’re both options for the same type of meal, i.e., Sunday morning breakfast, which was a staple when I was a kid. Bagels, bialys, onion rolls, whitefish, lox, the works. The breads were bought fresh that morning, of course. I remember trying to decide what I felt like having, bagel or bialy, they were so different. I think bialys, even more so than bagels, have to be as fresh as possible. They get stale quickly because of that bare minimum of ingredients. But when fresh and still a bit warm, they’re wonderful. I’m looking forward to this.

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