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How to Make Classic Bialys

Why this recipe works Kissing cousin to the bagel, the bialy was first brought to the United States by Jewish immigrants from Poland who settled in lower Manhattan in the early 20th century. Downtown bakeries producing the golden, chewy, onion-and poppy seed–filled rolls eventually became so prevalent that the Lower East Side was once referred to as Bialytown. These saltysavory yeasted rolls boast puffed edges that are at once soft and chewy, and they feature a generous dimple in the middle to hold filling. We wanted to bring Bialytown to our town, but the “authentic” recipes we tried produced bland bialys that were heavy and dense. To really highlight the requisite salty flavor, we used a generous 2 tablespoons of kosher salt in our dough. And to address the texture problems, we tried using all-purpose flour rather than the bread flour that most recipes call for, thinking that its lower gluten content would help tenderize the dough. This brought us closer to our goal, but the rolls were still too tough, so we incorporated two resting periods, one after portioning the dough and forming it into balls, and another after shaping the balls into disks. Resting the dough gave the gluten a chance to relax and the yeast an opportunity to create bigger air pockets within the dough, ultimately producing more tender bialys. Bialys can be stored in a zipper-lock bag at room temperature for up to 2 days. Wrapped in aluminum foil before being placed in the bag, bialys can be frozen in for up to 1 month. To reheat, wrap the bialys (thawed if frozen) in aluminum foil, place them on a baking sheet, and bake in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes.

  • makes 12 bialys
  • resting time 30 minutes
  • rising time 3 to 3½ hours
  • baking time 15 minutes
  • total time 2½ to 3 hours, plus 15 minutes cooling time
  • key equipment 12-inch skillet, 2 rimmed baking sheets

how-to-make-classic-bialys

dough

  • 4¾ cups (23¾ ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 2 cups (16 ounces) water, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

filling

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 onions, chopped fine
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds

1). For the dough Whisk flour, salt, and yeast together in bowl of stand mixer. Whisk water and sugar in 4-cup liquid measuring cup until sugar has dissolved. Using dough hook on low speed, slowly add water mixture to flour mixture and mix until cohesive dough starts to form and no dry flour remains, about 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Increase speed to medium-low and knead until dough is smooth and elastic and clears sides of bowl but sticks to bottom, about 8 minutes.

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2). Transfer dough to well-floured counter. Using your well-floured hands, knead dough to form smooth, round ball, about 30 seconds. Place dough seam side down in lightly greased large bowl or container, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size, 1 to 1½ hours. (Unrisen dough can be refrigerated for at least 8 hours or up to 16 hours; let dough sit at room temperature for 1 hour before shaping.)

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3). Press down on dough to deflate. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and stretch into even 12-inch log. Cut log into 12 equal pieces (about 3 ounces each) and cover loosely with greased plastic.

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4). Working with 1 piece of dough at a time (keep remaining pieces covered), form into rough ball by stretching dough around your thumbs and pinching edges together so that top is smooth. Place ball seam side down on clean counter and, using your cupped hand, drag in small circles until dough feels taut and round. Cover balls loosely with greased plastic and let rest for 30 minutes.

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5). For the filling Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions and salt and cook until softened and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Off heat, stir in poppy seeds.

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6). Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly flour parchment. Press each dough ball into 5-inch round of even thickness and arrange on prepared sheets, spaced about 1 inch apart. Cover loosely with greased plastic and let rise until puffy, 15 to 20 minutes.

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7). Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 475 degrees. Grease and flour bottom of round 1-cup dry measuring cup (or 3-inch-diameter drinking glass). Press cup firmly into center of each dough round until cup touches sheet to make indentation for filling. (Reflour cup as needed to prevent sticking.)

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8). Divide filling evenly among bialys (about 1 heaping tablespoon each) and smooth with back of spoon. Bake until light golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Transfer bialys to wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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