It’s unfortunate that the bialy has not achieved the same level of recognition as the bagel, as they are unquestionably as great. Originally from Bialystock, Poland, the soft rolls are made with a deep indent in the middle, rather than a hole, in which a small amount of filling (and sometimes a scattering of cheese) is added before baking – generally it’s caramelized onions and poppyseed. They’re regaining popularity at Jewish delis and bakeries in New York (particularly in the Lower East Side) and even Toronto, but I’ve never come across a bialy in Calgary. (Which isn’t to say they don’t exist… if you see some, let me know!) Fortunately, you can make your own – and if you have a veritable jungle of onions in your garden, this is a good way to attack them.
Fortunately, bialys are one step easier to make at home: unlike bagels, they don’t require boiling first, and are baked at a high temperature in a standard oven – no pressure to locate a wood-burning one. Sometimes, a second pan is placed on top to weigh them down as they bake, making them flatter, but I like them a bit pouffier… they will swell in the oven though, so make your indentations more dramatic than you’d ultimately like them to be. And if you’d like your bialys a bit more glossy, brush them with a little beaten egg before you fill them with caramelized onions and slide them into the oven.
This is a fun late-summer project, especially if you have kids home from school who are always hungry and bored and almost impossible to keep off electronics. Most kids I know love pounding and shaping dough – it’s an elaborate enough project to stretch through a day without requiring too much effort or attention – and they’ll likely get creative rummaging through the kitchen and baking bits of things into the middle of their bialys.