I have never been a fan of the bagel. Ever since my grandfather told me the joke about the Brooklyn bakeries of the old days…one hot summer day a man goes in to place an order. He sees a guy in the back of the bakery, shirtless and covered with sweat, slapping dough balls against his chest before he sprinkles on onion and bread crumbs and then tosses them into a 700F degree oven. The customer says to the man at the register “That’s disgusting! So that is how you make the shape of a bialy?” The man at the register says “Yeah, that’s nothing. You should see how he makes the bagels!”
Seriously though, even the best Brooklyn bagel never left me as satisfied as the Bialy. The more I have read about the history of the Bialys, and their origins in Bialystok, Poland, the more convinced they are a great start to the day. They are unlike the bagel in that they are not boiled, they have no sugar and they use high protein flour.
The amount of protein in a flour influences the gluten produced, as explained by the Oregonian. High protein means better structural support as the bread rises, which allows the bialy to be light and airy on the inside while crispy on the outside.
Bialys also differ from bagels because they tend not to come in a million flavors. However I suspect the crazy flavor phenomenon of bagels was a late byproduct of their wide popularity. Blueberry bagels? Come on, that never ever would have happened in Brooklyn. Sesame yes, chocolate chip, no.
Here is the best recipe I have found so far for the Bialy; as soon as I find a brick oven that can go to 700F I will be taking my shirt off and making these.
Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method -------- ------- -------------------------------- 6 cups high protein flour 3 cups very cold water 2 tbsp non-iodized kosher coarse or sea salt 1/2 oz fresh bakers yeast -- I used dry instant Topping 1 med sweet white onion. -- 1 c when finely chop 2 tbsp coarse bread crumbs (from bialys) 3 tbsp poppy seeds & a little garlic salt Another Topping 1 Tbsp oil 1 1/2 tsp poppy seeds 1/3 C onion & a little garlic powder or garlic salt -- minced 1/2 Tsp salt -- kosher Prepare toppings 3-5 hours before needed. Peel and chop onion very fine. Mix 1 tbsp crumbs into onions and set aside, loosely covered. Reserve extra crumbs. After about 3 hours make sure mix has thickened to texture of loose wet sand. Can add more crumbs - waiting 10 minutes between each addition. Mash yeast into 1/2 cup cold water. When dissolved, stir into remaining cold water. Add 5 c high protein flour and salt into bowl. Mix and slowly add flour only if mix is too sticky, or more water if needed. Gather dough and place in large, unoiled glass or ceramic bowl. (Do not knead yet) Cover loosely with towel and set in warm, draft free corner. Let rise for 3 to 3 1/2 hours, or until double, or until an indentation made with finger springs back into place. Knead 10-20 minutes. Shape into ball and place back into bowl, covering loosely with towel. Let rise in warm, draft free corner for 1 1/2 hours until depression made with finger springs back into place. Punch down dough, divide into 4 postions, roll each between palms into ropes that are about 2 inches in diameter. From each rope, pinch off 3-4 pieces. Roll each gently into ball between lightly floured hands. Cover shaped rolls to prevent them from dying out as you work with remainder. When all are formed, cover with kitchen towel and let them rest 45 minutes. Slide baking stone onto shelves in lower third of oven and preheat 450. To form center indentations, work with well floured hands and left each round of dough slightly off work surface and slip index and midddle fingers of both hands underneath, with both thumbs working on top. Press and lightly stretch center bottom dough, forming a well, not a hole, and leave aboaut 1 1/2" rim of unpressed dough. When all are formed, add onion topping. If you are going to use poppy seeds, brush top of bialys with tiny bit of water so seeds will stick. Smear about a scant teaspoonful of mix over each bialy with fingers, being sure to get thin coating in well and around its top edge, spreading the well slightly again. Then sprinkle 1/2 tsp poppyseeds over each bialy.. Put on stone, leaving 1 inch between. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until bialys are golden brown