I took on this week’s bread simply because it’s Polish and we’re just past the little-celebrated holiday for Polish Revolutionary War hero Casimir Pulaski. (Casimir Pulaski Day was Monday.)
But when I started doing research on bialys — just to find a good recipe, actually — I found out the not-bagels have a long and sad history. Many people consider the bialy to be a dying food because the Bialystok, Poland’s Jewish people who are responsible for creating the bread, were either killed in the Holocaust or dispersed from the region during World War II.
Thankfully, some of them survived and the bread lives on. While recipes do not abound for the savory roll, I was able to piece together a couple of different recipes to make something delicious.
A quick note on the “not-bagel” concept: Most recipes online say people compare it to the bagel, but other than being round and small, the two have little in common. This is not a bread that’s boiled and it doesn’t even have a hole in the center, just an indentation for the filling. It is often served with cream cheese, though.
- For the starter or polish:
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
- For the bialy dough:
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast (or one package)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
- 1 starter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 3 cups bread flour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- For bialy filling:
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
- Salt, to taste
The night before you plan to make the bread, make the starter before going to bed. Stir together the flour and yeast. Mix in the water until a sticky dough forms. Cover and let rest overnight.
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When ready to make the dough, mix together the yeast, warm water and honey. Let the yeast activate for about 15 minutes. Then, add the starter, olive oil, salt, all-purpose flour and about 2 cups of the bread flour.
Turn out on a floured surface and knead, adding in the remainder of the bread flour as necessary. Knead for about 5 to 10 minutes.
Place dough in a large bowl that has been coated with oil. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rise in a cool place for about 2 hours.
Once dough has about doubled in size, punch it down in the bowl and then divide it into about 20 even pieces. Roll each dough piece into a ball and then stretch out to about a 3-inch round. Place round on a lightly floured baking sheet and indent around the middle, leaving about a 1-inch lip around the edge. Repeat with remaining dough pieces, leaving enough space in between dough rounds so the bialy can rise a second time.
Cover with oiled plastic wrap or a tea towel and let rise for about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 450 F.
During second rise, mince garlic and chop onion. Pour oil into large cast-iron skillet and let warm over medium heat. Once hot, add in onions and garlic and cook for a few minutes before turning heat to medium low. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until caramelized. Once browned, remove from heat and add in the salt and poppy seeds.
Once second rise is complete, add 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of the filling into each of the bialy indentations until it’s all used up. Place baking sheet (or sheets) into oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Enjoy warm and with cream cheese!