Mini Bialys, or, as we like to call them, Babialys, are a traditional Polish or Jewish bread product normally made with onions and poppy seeds. Well, maybe the mini part isn’t traditional, but making them smaller means you can eat more, so let’s do it. Now, you might never have had, or perhaps even heard of Bialys before, but don’t let that scare you. They’re similar to a bagel, but without a hole — just a depression filed with caramelized onions. And, they’re tasty! So, let’s scratch up a bunch of Babialys!
We’ve wanted to make bialys for a long time now. In the past, we’ve made Pletzels, which are sort of a cross between foccacia and a bialy, but these will be the real deal; well, as real as we know how to make them, at least according to The Hot Bread Kitchen, by Jessamyn Waldman Rodrigues, who title this recipe Traditional Onion Bialys.
Before you move on because you don’t have starter, we’ll tell you what to do. In place of the starter-flour mixture, simply mix together 90 g (1/2 cup + 2 tsp) bread flour, 60 g (1/4 cup) lukewarm water, and about 1/8 teaspoon yeast. Do this 2-4 hours before starting. This is known as a poolish. Make sure to mix these in a container that’s several times larger than the resulting dough, as this will rise and double or triple (or more) in size. For bread flour, we really recommend using King Arthur bread flour. Simply put, it’s the best bread flour that’s readily available. If you don’t have extra-virgin olive oil, feel free to substitute another oil (or even butter).
Procedure in detail:
For the dough:
Make soaker. It might not seem as if this is really needed, but it does give the flour time to start hydrating, which means gluten is developing so you’ll get a nice chewy bread product. So, combine the 465 g of bread flour and water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment and mix on low until the flour is completely incorporated, about 2 minutes. Turn off mixer and let stand 20 to 30 minutes.
Freshen starter. If you’re using a sour dough starter, mix together the 30 g of flour and starter in a small bowl. Cover and let stand for 20 to 30 minutes. If you’re not using a starter, read the Ingredients in Detail section above. If you forgot to make the poolish, no worries; make it now (if you wish, you can cover the flour mixture in the mixer bowl and let the poolish work for several hours, or just use the poolish after 30 minutes).
Mix and knead. Add the starter mixture to the dough in the mixer along with the yeast and salt. Turn the mixer to medium-low and knead for 5 to 7 minutes. This dough is pretty stiff and springy so your mixer might jump around a bit, making you think there’s too much flour in the dough. There isn’t.
Let rise. Pull the dough out and knead it several times by hand. This will help shape it into a nice ball. With your third hand, lightly dust the mixer bowl with flour. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled in size, about 90 minutes.
For the filling:
Fry onions. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, sprinkle with the salt, and fry, stirring occasionally, until onions begin to brown, about 20 to 30 minutes. Don’t brown them too much as they’ll brown a lot more when they’re baked on the bialys.
Add poppy seeds and bread crumbs. Remove the onions from the heat, stir in the poppy seeds and bread crumbs, and set aside until it’s time to bake.
Prepare parchment. Tear off about 4 pieces of parchment, each about 18×18 inches. You’ll be placing multiple bialys on the parchment so they’ll slide onto and off of a baking stone easily and in one go. If you don’t have parchment, you might try sliding the bialys directly onto the stone, several at a time. To make it easier, make about 12 larger bialys when you shape them.
Divide and shape. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and spread out a bit. Divide the dough into about thirty 30 gram (1 ounce) pieces and shape each into a ball. Place about 7 or 8 on each piece of parchment, flattening them into a disk and leaving several inches of space between. We placed a (cold) baking stone under the parchment so we knew we wouldn’t have a bialy fall off the edge while baking.
Let rise. Cover the bialys and let rise until very soft, 60 to 90 minutes.
Preheat oven to 450°F. Place a baking stone (or two if you have them) in the oven to preheat, too. Naturally, do this preheating before the bialys have finished rising; that way, they won’t be ready while the oven is still heating. You know your oven best, so we won’t recommend a specific time.
Add filling. Uncover the bialys, and, with your fingers, make a depression in the center, stretching the dough outwards, if needed. For mini-bialys, scoop about a tablespoon of onion filling into the depression and press it down so it’ll hold together. We found that the back of the spoon was perfect for pressing down the filling.
Bake. Use a pizza peel, or the back of a backing sheet, or a piece of stiff cardboard, to lift a bialy-covered parchment sheet and slide it onto your baking stone. Bake until the onions are caramelized and the dough is browned, about 15 minutes. Once baked, transfer to a baking rack to cool completely.
Well, we’ve not had bialys before, so we can’t really say if these meet the traditional standards. We can say that we brought them down to our weekly walk and they were well-received by all. One person there did grow up eating bialys in the Chicago area, and she said these were really good. We agree, so, five stars.