This week's Tuesdays with Dorie challenge was a recipe for Onion Bialys. After baking these, I am still uncertain what a bialy should taste like. I'm positive my onion bialys do not resemble traditional bialys at all since they are supposed to feature a depression in the center and mine seemed to only rise higher despite my attempts to keep it from doing so by stabbing it viciously multiple times with a fork. However, I do know that in all their imperfection, these little onion-and-poppyseed-studded-bread-things were so incredibly delicious.
Now to answer my own question as to what defines a bialy versus a bagel versus your average bread roll, I did a little research before writing this post. Alas, my attempts to learn more about the bialys came up short. More sources cited the same, basic information: bialys are of Polish in origin and are chewy, yeast rolls that are normally flavored with a variety of savory ingredients before being baked. They normally feature a depression in the middle (unlike mine) that is filled with a mixture of cooked onion, poppy seeds, and/or garlic. Unlike bagels, they are not boiled prior to baking.They are also traditionally eaten within 5 hours of baking. Pretty much all the same information in my cookbook. I'm glad I wasted some precious naptime researching the origin of bialys.
The dough for the bialy begins with a simple starter that hangs out for a bit and allows the yeast to develop a little flavor before proceeding with the remainder of the recipe. The dough comes together easily and quickly. When it came time for shaping, I found the dough fun to work with - I loved the feel of it. However, as mentioned above, I tried my best to get the depression in the center of my bialys to stay put and they looked lovely when I put them into the oven. However, after about 10 minutes of baking, I noticed that the centers had risen to an extraordinary height as if to mock me for my vain attempts to keep them subdued.
We ate these for dinner and lunch the next day. For dinner, cut them in half, slathered each half with a generous portion of vegetable cream cheese and then layered on thinly sliced tomato, red onion, and smoked salmon. Amazing. Paul is a smoked salmon lover and he was in heaven during the entire meal. For lunch the next day, we made some awesome veggie sandwiches with more veggie cream cheese, a sprinkling of roasted sunflower seeds, shredded carrots, onion, tomato, and cucumber. Also fantastic.
This recipe is definitely a keeper! If you're looking for an easier alternative to the traditional bagel, this recipe will fill that need. And I highly recommend serving it with the smoked salmon. Paul has already asked when we are going to make these again.
adapted ever-so-slightly from Baking with Julia
For the sponge:
2 1/4 cups warm water
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup minced yellow onion
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 cups flour
For the Topping and the Dough:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup minced onion
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
The sponge (from above)
1 tablespoon salt
3 cups (approximately) flour
Pour 1/4 cup of the water into a small bowl and add the yeast along with a pinch of the sugar. Whisk to combine. Allow the mixture to rest until the yeast dissolves and turns creamy, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until softened. Scrape the onions and melted butter into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the remaining 2 cups of water, the sugar, and the black pepper. Check to make sure that the ingredients in the mixing bowl are no warmer than 110 degrees Fahrenheit before adding the creamy yeast to the mixing bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour in a steady stream, mixing until the flour is incorporated. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and paddle with a rubber spatula and remove the bowl from the mixer. Cover with plastic wrap and let the sponge rise at room temperature for 1 1/4 hours.
Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat and sauté the onions and poppy seeds until the onions are soft. Season with pepper and let cool.
When the sponge is fully risen, return the bowl to the mixer. On low speed, beat in the salt and as much flour as needed to make a dough that cleans the sides of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium and knead for 3-5 minutes. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead briskly until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a lightly oiled mixing bowl, turning once to coat. Cover tightly with plastic and allow to rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment and dust lightly with cornmeal. Set aside.
Divide the risen dough in half and keep one half covered while working with the other. Cut the dough into 6 equal pieces. Working with one piece of dough at a time and keeping the others covered, shape the dough into a round and flatten the center to create a thick 1/2-inch-wide rim. Prick the center of the bialy with the tines of a fork and transfer to the cornmeal-dusted baking sheet. Cover with a towel while you shape the other 5 bialys.
Prick the center of each bialy again. Spoon a little of the onion-poppy seed filling into the center of each bialy and prick again to flatten.
Put 4 ice cubes in a 1-pint measuring cup and add 1/4 cup cold water. Put the bialys into the oven and immediately toss the ice cubes and water onto the oven floor. Immediately close the oven door to trap the steam. Bake the bialys for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 450 degrees and bake for 5 minutes more. Transfer to a rack to cool. Return the oven to 500 degrees.
While the first batch of bialys are baking, cut and shape the remaining bialys. Shape, prick, fill, and bake as directed above. Let the bialys cool completely before eating and enjoying!