The name Bialy (pronounced bee-AH-lee) comes from 'Bialystocker Kuchen' which translates as “bread from Bialystok” which is in Poland. Apparently, Bialys are rarely seen or made in Bialystok these days.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.
The Bialy maybe thought of as a cousin to a Bagel but is quite different from it. For one thing, a Bialy is baked whereas a Bagel is boiled and then baked. A Bialy is round with a depressed middle, not a hole, and typically filled with cooked onions and sometimes poppy seeds.So it is not shiny on the outside with largish puffy bubbles on the inside.A good Bialy should have a springy soft crumb and a chewy and floury crust. Bialys are best when eaten as they are and also within 5 to 6 hours of making them.
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. 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. Anyways the filling needs to be savoury.
[Introductory content adapted verbatim from Aparna's recipe document]
And let me tell you now that there can't be a better choice than Bialys for We Knead to Bake for the month.