I still look up at the sky every day and sigh. No rain clouds, why no clouds at all! A perfect blue sky with a bright yellow sun. And no, I do not think I am in paradise. The heat and humidity is oppressive. I might as well be sitting in a steam injected oven baking away. I would look through my bookmarked recipes and imagine that I am baking them. I made a great many perfect loaves this way. Then one day I saw Karen’s Bialys. Perfect rounds with a little well in the center, filled with onions, poppy seeds and golden cheddar. I tilted my head ever so slightly and to my eyes it looked like the sun in the sky.
Lest you think that I did not bake anything all these days, let me set the record straight. I did, but nothing that made my heart sing. It was the mindless baking of an addict who needed to feel the dough between her fingers. Somehow this disc like bread kept coming back in my line of vision. As much as I told myself that I would wait for the heat to subside, I could see that summer rains were nowhere in sight. So one evening I threw caution to the winds and started on my preferment. Having started the process, things moved easily. Not a complicated recipe. Add the preferment to the flour and water, autolyse, add the rest of the ingredients, knead, and make the filling in the time between the rises.
And oh yes, like the bagels, these is Jewish in origin ( I managed to read all this after I put the preferment in the fridge) but have pretty much disappeared in Poland where they originated. Somehow they reappeared in the USA along with the immigrant population. Simpler to make than the holey counterpart, these Bialys need not be dunked in lye and boiled. Just straight forward baking will do.
The filling itself is quite delicious, a mixture onions, poppy seeds and cheese. I found myself ‘tasting’ quite a few spoonfuls. In fact at one point, I was pretty sure that I will have nothing left for my bialys. The dough was done in a jiffy and was rising. The filling was done and was hidden away from myself. I was already dreaming how delicious the combination was going to taste.
As they baked, it was the smell of caramelized onions and melting cheese the wafted around the kitchen and curled into my nose. When they were done, I just grabbed one and sat down in my favourite corner with my favourite book. The crunchy crust and the chewy crumb was perfect with the savoury filling. Right now, I am too busy trying to figure out how to hide the rest of the bialys from the rest of the people around.
INGREDIENTS FOR THE PREFERMENT
- Add the flour and water to the bowl of a stand mixer and mix with the dough hook until just combined, about 2 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes. This autolyse will help in the flour to absorb water and help in gluten formation.
- Add the pre ferment pieces, yeast, and salt, and mix on low until combined, about 2 minutes.
- Increase the speed to medium to medium high, and mix with the dough hook for 5 to 7 minutes, until you have a smooth shiny dough that clears the sides of the bowl.
- Place the dough into an oiled dough rising bucket or bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled, about 60 to 90 minutes.
- While the dough is rising, prepare the filling. Saute the onions in the olive oil over medium low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until slightly golden and tender, and reduced to about 1/3 its original size. Add the poppy seeds, bread crumbs, and salt. Stir and allow to cool.
- Place a baking stone on the center rack of your oven and preheat it to 250 C. Lightly grease a couple of cookie sheets.
- Divide the dough into 24 equal pieces, about 40 grams each. Form each piece into a ball, and then flatten it into a 2 inch wide disk. Place the disks on the cookie sheet about 1 inch apart. Cover each baking sheet loosely with oiled plastic wrap.
- Let the dough rise until puffy, about 60 to 90 minutes.
- With oiled fingers, press the center of the dough to make a well. Place a loose tablespoon of the filling into the depression, and top with some of the cheddar.
- Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden.
- Cool the baked bialys on a wire rack.
- Eat immediately or be left with none.