America is a melting pot that was formed by the hard-working people who migrated here from lands as far east as China and Japan, as far north as Russia and Europe. They utilized American supplies and prepared them in ways that they had prepared them in their homeland. True American food is a collection of these culinary traditions passed down from generation to generation”.Each culture brought their cooking methods, food, and spices to America. They farmed the soil, hunted game, and incorporated their ways into the food of America.
If you once lived in the New York area you may remember some of the wonderful Eastern European foods you could purchase on the Lower Eastside. But if you live anywhere else in the country, or the world, it’s not likely that you’ would have had the pleasure of enjoying one of these chewy, baked onion-stuffed bialys.
The bialy is not a type of bagel; it’s a thing unto itself. Round with a depressed middle filled with cooked onions and poppy seeds, it is simply baked (bagels are boiled, then baked). This means the outside is crispy and the inside is soft and tender, They can be eaten with cream cheese or straight-up shortly out of the oven.
The bialy was brought to the United States by Polish Jewish refugees in the late 1800s and became a staple of the Jewish bakeries in the Northeastern United States. Thousands of Jewish immigrants arrived from Poland and settled on the Lower East Side of New York City. Like most ethnic groups, they brought with them their local traditions and foods from their homeland. The Jews from Bialystok, Poland brought their local bread, called a “bialy” that they ate with every meal. The word “bialy” is actually a shortened version of “Bialystoker Kuchen” which in Yiddish means “little bread from Bialystok.”
Bialys became a popular bread and also breakfast for people in New York City, and the outlying areas; especially by American Jews. Bialys are considered an iconic food representative of New York City and can be difficult to find outside that area. However, bialys are sold frozen by a number of brands such as Ray’s New York, and others, in supermarkets across the country. Or you can make them at home.
New York Bialys
3 cups High-Gluten Flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons lukewarm water
1 medium-large onion, peeled and finely diced
1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
Heaping 1/8 teaspoon salt
Coarse salt and poppy seeds
Place the dough ingredients in a mixer bowl, and mix and knead for about 7 minutes, until a smooth, fairly stiff dough forms.
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover it, and allow it to rise for about 90 minutes until doubled in bulk.
While the dough is rising, make the filling. Fry the diced onion in the oil over high heat; it’ll brown very quickly, so stir often. Sprinkle with the salt, stir to combine, and remove the pan from the heat. Transfer to a small bowl to cool.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper and sprinkle lightly with cornmeal.
On a floured board or counter, punch dough down and roll into a cylinder shape. With a sharp knife, cut the cylinder into 8 rounds. Gently pat each dough round into circles each about 4 inches in diameter. I placed English Muffin rings on the baking sheets and placed the dough in each so that they would hold their shape.
Place bialys on prepared baking sheets, cover with a kitchen towel and let rise 30 minutes or until increased by about half in bulk.
Make an indention in the center of each bialy with two fingers of each hand, pressing from the center outward, leaving a 1-inch rim. Place approximately 1 teaspoon of the onion mixture in the hole of each bialy. Dust lightly with flour, cover with a kitchen towel, and let rise 15 minutes.
Sprinkle with salt and poppy seeds. (Remove the muffin rings if used.)
Bake on upper and lower shelves of the oven for 10 minutes, then switch pans and reverse positions of pans and bake another 10 minutes until bialys are lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool on wire racks. Serve with cream cheese, if desired.