Bialys and Protein Flour

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

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