they say you should start your year off with something sweet. so, first thing in the morning, i stuffed my face with belgian chocolate and then continued my breakfast with a good sugary dose of the coconut lime "fudge" i made earlier this week. i figured a good sugar rush along with my mornign espresso should shock my system into movement if not put me into shock. looking out the window, i decided to bake something as it was rainy and cold out and everything was closed today. the question was, what to make?
it popped into my head that it is also said that we should start the year by eating something round to signify life, to remind us that everything has a beginning and an end. besides what i am posting today in relation to a new beginning of the year, i also had the ironic news of the unexpected end of someone's life [someone i know of, no relation or friend]. bittersweet, i tell you. you don't expect things like that on january 1st, do you? it reminds one to live each day to the fullest when news like that is heard.
today's post will be about the cousin to the bagel — the bialy. i remember the first time i had one of these in the united states. i couldn't figure it out and really didn't know about it as it's not something we commonly see here — i was intrigued by its chewy texture and its wonderful onion filling which came on the outside in spite of the meaning of the word "filling".
making these does require a few things. it takes time (mostly rising time, 4 1/2 hrs), patience, a strong food processor or mixer, high gluten flour and a very hot oven. of course, the last two can be gotten around by way of using vital wheat gluten with AP flour and a flat baking stone or tiles.
first made in bialystock, these delicious mini breads transferred to north america with waves of jewish immigrants many years ago. they are quite unique in that they were originally more of a regional specialty; today they are found in several cities. nothing beats them as their "just enough" onion-y shmeared coating and chewy texture make you want to eat another, just as you finish the last bite of the first one. they are the basis for childhood memories of many a person in cities such as new york.
makes 6 bialys (double for one dozen)
300 g high gluten flour or,
300 g AP + 6 g vital wheat gluten
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp rapid rise yeast
200 ml water
1/2 small onion
making the onion paste is the first step —
take your onion and cut it in chunks.
process it until it is finely ground. you may need 2 tbsp or so of water but not too much. use your spatula to keep pushing the mixture down. you want a fine grind.
in a non stick frypan, add some oil and over medium low heat, fry the onion paste only until it is lightly golden. you may add 1/2 tsp sugar halfway through.
set this aside in a small dish but don't wash out the food processor. you will make the dough in it and this will lend flavour to the dough.
in a bowl of your food processor or mixer, place the high gluten flour or AP & vital wheat gluten mix, the salt and yeast.
blend the flour, salt and yeast together to mix well. measure out your water.
start adding the water with the machine running and let it go until it forms a ball. once it has formed this ball, let the machine run for 2 minutes. be careful as this is a strong flour and will make your machine work for every cent its worth.
remove the dough and knead this breifly for 30 seconds and let it cool down. repeat the process. you want to develop the gluten structure to its fullest. once again, repeat.
by the end of the third time, you will end up with a totally amazing texture. if it's true what they say in breadmaking instructions, then this must be what a baby's butt feels like! i prefer the earlobe analogy, thank you very much. i make a lot of bread and pastries and i can tell you that this is one of the softest bread doughs you will ever work with.
due to the higher gluten content, you will notice it is extremely sticky but forms a nice ball. in spite of this stickiness, you won't really need extra flour. place the ball of dough in a bowl and set it aside in a warm place to rise for about 2 hours or until completely doubled. i put mine in the oven with the pilot light on.
after 2 hours, the dough will have swelled up. deflate the dough and place it on a work surface.
separate the dough into 6 balls of 80 to 82 grams each. place them on a lightly floured surface with a lot of space between them. remember they are sticky and with the humidity of being covered they will seem stickier. let these rise for about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
45 minutes before you bake, heat your oven to 475 F and place the baking tile in the oven. let this get as hot as it can.
take one of the balls on a floured surface [do not deflate it] and with your fingers push it out from the center towards the edge. think of an inner tube shape however you want the dough in the center to remain intact. it should stretch very thinly to make a membrane about 1/16 of an inch thick. be careful not to rip it. if you do, start over with a new ball and put that one back to rest again. try to extend it as far as you can (about 5 inches).
separate the onion mixture into 6 portions. in a little bowl, put one portion of onion and 1/2 tsp of oil. add only a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar and mix it.
add this to the center of the bialy and with fingers or the back of a spoon, gently spreadly it evenly and thinly all over.
place the bialys on the baking tile and cook for 7 to 8 minutes only. remove and let cool.
eating these while still warm is the best!