Bialys (Chewy Rolls Topped With Caramelised Onions)

The challenge for this month in the 'We Knead To Bake' Baking group was Bialys. Until I read Aparna's recipe I never knew such a think existed, let alone pronounce it!Then I learnt that it is pronouncd - be-AHH-lee and it is a cousin to a Bagel!

Here is what Aparna says about this recipe....

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 (I wouldn’t know if this was a fact and I’m going by heresay). 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.

In the early 1900s, many Eastern Eurpoeans, including the Polish, immigrated to the US and settled down in New York. Naturally, they also brought their Bialy making skills with them and that is how the New York Bialy became famous.

What lends Bialys their signature chewiness is the use of flour that is high in gluten. So to make Bialys, use bread flour if you can find it. Otherwise use all-purpose flour and add 1 tbsp vital wheat gluten (for the 3 cups). If like me, you can find neither bread flour nor vital wheat gluten, go ahead and make it with plain flour. You’ll still have very nice Bialys that are slightly softer, that’s all.

One way to make them slightly chewier is to refrigerate the dough overnight after the first rise. The next day, take the dough out and keep it at room temperature for about half an hour. Then shape the rolls and proceed with the recipe. These Bialys are on the softer side so do not over bake them or they will dry out and become tough.

Bialys usually have a thin layer of caramelised onions and poppy seeds. I decided to use only onions, and then lots of it. I also made one batch with some crumbled paneer too. Being Indian and having been brought up on spices in my food, I also added some garam masala to spice up my filling. You can use whatever filling you would like. Remember the filling needs to be savoury.

I used:

For the dough:

Instant yeast - 1 teaspoon 
Sugar - 1 tablespoon
Water - 1 1/4 cup
Salt - 1 teaspoon

Milk for brushing the dough

For the Onion Filling:

Onion-2- finely chopped
Cumin seeds- 1 teaspoon
Sambar powder- 1 1/2 teaspoon
Salt to taste
Oil- 1 tablespoon

First let's make the onion filling....

1.Heat oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds.

2. When it crackles, add the onions and saute till it turns translucent.

3.Add salt and sambar powder and saute till the onions turn a little brown.

Once done, transfer to a bowl and keep aside

Now to the next part...

1. Take the all purpose flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a bowl and mix well.

2.Add water in a steady stream and process the dough [ I used a food processor] till comes together and let it rest for 10 minutes.then let the dough rest for 10 minutes. 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.

3.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. 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.

4.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.

5.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.

6.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 center of the Bialy with a fork so the center doesn't rise when baking.

7.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.

8. Brush the outer dough circle with milk.

9.Bake the Bialys at 230C (450F) for about 15 minutes till they’re golden brown in color. Cool them on a rack. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Note :

I made this in the evening and kept a couple of them in a closed container and we had it the next morning. It was good but I loved the taste of the freshly baked ones.

The original recipe uses garam masala. I used sambar powder instead and found it to be very tasty.

Bon Appetit...

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