Last week out of the blue, I got the urge to make bialys. For the uninitiated, a bialy is essentially a flattened bagel with a central filling of onions and (usually) poppy seeds. The more I thought about it, though, the more hesitant I became. It’s rare that my schedule affords me to avoid all contact with others. And when I eat onion-y things I become a living breathing onion. Not good.
It made me wonder, actually, why are bialys always filled with onions?OK, or sometimes garlic, but that’s not really putting this item on a different track, is it… Bagels are adorned with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, onions, cheese, even <shudder> chocolate chips; why have bialys not similarly evolved?
Since I have nothing to prove, except that I am a considerate eater of bread products, I took my bialy batch off road. And I am so glad I did. I filled some with tomatoes, capers and cream cheese and others with ham and cheddar. Choosing between them would be like selecting a favorite child. But together they definitely go in the pantheon of favorites and I’ll certainly make them again. Soon. Maybe next week.
BialysAdapted from Bread: A baker’s book of techniques and recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman
1 lb 6 oz bread flour
13 oz water
.4 oz (2 tsp) salt
.1 oz (1 tsp) active dry yeast
2 tomatoes, sliced thinly
3 oz cream cheese
1 Tbsp capers, rinsed
2 oz prosciutto or ham slices
2 oz grated cheddar cheese
This is what I used anyway, feel free to experiment further and report back!
Place all the ingredients in a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment. Mix on low speed for 3 min. then mix another 5 minutes on second speed. The dough should be fairly stiff and the gluten well developed.
Lightly oil a bowl and place the dough in it. Cover and let rise for 2 hours, with a fold at 60 minutes.
Divide the dough into 12 3-oz pieces. Shape each piece lightly into a ball. Place the dough balls on 2 baking sheets that have been dusted with flour. (If you use a non-stick baking sheet, you can skip the flour part of this step.. ). Leave enough room between the balls that they can comfortably grow during proofing.
Proof the dough balls for 1 1/2 hours.
Preheat your over, with a stone if you have one, to 480 degrees. Pick up one ball of dough and press your thumbs into the center to make a well. Keeping your thumbs in the well, rotate and gently stretch the ball, widening the well and creating a small wall on the outside. When you’re done, the bialy should be about 4” in diameter. In form factor, it will look like a fruit danish except that there’s no filling. Yet. Continue shaping the other dough balls until you have made enough to fit on the stone. If you’re baking on baking trays, then go ahead and shape them all or as many as you have room for in one batch.
Add your toppings, placing them in the well that you’ve formed. The ingredients I listed made 6 tomato, cream cheese & caper bialys and 6 ham and cheese bialys. For the tomato bialys, I smooshed the cream cheese a bit with my fingers to spread it approximately evenly on the dough, then added the capers (so they wouldn’t fall off when cooking or eating) and placed the tomatoes on top. The ham and cheese was simply a matter of piling a mound of shredded cheese in the well, then topping with ham.
Bake for 8 minutes, then cool on a rack before you dig in. But they are best served warm.
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