When she mentioned we are baking a bread of which the name starts with B,none of us as much as guessed it would be Bialys.Now come on,I haven't even heard of it before,leave alone guessing it.Bialy,is a round bread with a depression in the middle typically filled with cooked onions and sometimes poppy seeds.A good Bialy should have a springy soft crumb and a chewy,floury crust.
The name Bialy comes from Bialystocker Kuchen which translates as “bread from Bialystok” which is in Poland. Apparently, Bialys are rarely seen or made in Bialystock these days.In the days when there used to be Bialys in Bialystock, it seems the rich Jews ate Bialys with their meals, while the Bialys were the whole meal for the poorer Jews.
Bialys gets its signature chewiness from flour which is high in gluten.If you have access to bread flour,use it or use all purpose flour with wheat gluten mixed in.Aparna says it is ok to go ahead with plain all purpose flour if you find neither which will yield a slightly softer Bialy.I used wheat gluten and I must say I was pleasantly surprised when I took a bite of the Bialy,it was chewy and the flavor of the caramelized onions was fabulous.
Recipe source Aparna;Original recipe from King Arthur Flour
Yields- 8 largish bialys (or 12 medium ones)
For the dough
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/4 cup water
3 cups all-purpose flour (use bread flour if you can find it or all-purpose flour + 1 tbsp vital wheat gluten)
Milk for brushing the dough
For the Onion Filling
1 tbsp oil
3 medium onions, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds3/4 tsp garam masala
Salt to taste
100gm paneer, crumbled (optional) I used around 35 gms of Mozzarella cheese for topping
Make the dough first. If you are using bread flour or vital wheat gluten, then your dough will be tougher to knead so if you have a machine you can use go ahead and use it.
Put the flour+gluten,salt sugar and yeast in the food processor bowl. Pulse a couple of times to mix and then add the warm water in a steady stream. Knead until the dough comes together as a mass and then let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
I added everything to a mixing bowl and mixed with a fork first and then added water and started kneading.
This will help the dough absorb water. Knead again, adding a little more water or flour (not too much) if you need it, until your dough is smooth and elastic but not sticky.I did not add excess water or flour.
Shape it into a ball and put it in a well-oiled bowl, turning the dough till it is well coated. Cover and let it rise till about double. This should take about 2 hours.In Chennai heat,it only took me an hour!
If you’re not making the Bialys right away, you can refrigerate the dough overnight at this point. When ready to make them, keep the dough at room temperature for about half an hour and then proceed with the rest of the recipe.
Sprinkle your work surface lightly with flour and place the dough on it. Divide it into 8 equal pieces and shape each one into a roll by flattening it and then pinching the ends together to form a smooth ball.
Place the rolls on a lightly greased baking sheet and cover them with a towel. Let them rise for about one hour (about 1 1/2 to 2 hours for refrigerated dough)till pressing with a finger on the top leaves a dent.
While the dough rises, make the filling.
Heat the oil in a pan, and add the cumin seeds. When the crackle, add the onions, and sauté over low to medium heat. Sprinkle a little salt and continue sautéing until they become soft and turn golden brown in colour.
Add the garam masala and stir well. Keep the caramelised onions aside to cool.
Work on one piece at a time, while you keep the others covered so they don’t dry out. When the rolls are ready, pick them up one at a time and using your fingers, form the depression in the middle.
Hold the roll like a steering wheel with your thumbs in the middle and your fingers around the edges. Pinch the dough between your thumb and fingers, rotating as you go and gradually making the depression wider without actually poking a hole through.
Remember not to press on the edges, or they will flatten out. Once shaped, you should have a depression about 3” in diameter with 1” of puffy dough around the edge, so your Bialy should be about 4” in diameter. Prick the centre of the Bialy with a fork so the centre doesn’t rise when baking.
Place the shaped dough on a parchment lined (or greased) baking tray leaving about 2 inches space between them. Place the caramelised onion filling in the depressions of each Bialy. Brush the outer dough circle with milk. If you’re using crumbled paneer, add it to the Bialys in the last 5 minutes of baking or it will get burnt.I added the cheese after 10 minutes of baking.
Bake the Bialys at 230C (450F) for about 15 minutes till they’re golden brown in colour. Cool them on a rack. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. I found that the Bialys keep well in an airtight container for a day or two and just need to be warmed up slightly before serving.
- I halved the recipe and made 4 largish rolls.You can make 6 medium sized ones too from this amount.
- Keep a close eye on the oven as the rolls as baking since they are baked at a higher temperature than usual(230C).When the rolls are slightly brown and sound hollow when tapped,they are ready.
- Here's a video on how to shape Bialys and here's one which shows you how to eat it!