At the end of last year, I baked from and wrote about The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook and never posted the link or photo here. So, this afternoon, just a mere few days before Passover, I’m remedying that with author Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez’s bialys. Sorry folks, I know it’s cruel, but if you keep scrolling down, I’ll link to a few of the Passover sweets that I’ll be bringing to the seders.
But first, let’s talk about this cookbook and the bialys. The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook combines so much of what I love about the food industry in one place and is a reflection of the great work that Hot Bread Kitchen does. HBK is a commercial bakery that turns out a variety of breads reflecting the ethnic diversity of the largely immigrant staff who participate in and graduate from the Bakers in Training program, the social enterprise side of the business. HBK also houses an incubator that helps build out new food companies. HBK is all about great food driven by a mission and supportive of entrepreneurship.
As further proof of its special-ness, the cookbook won Food52‘s The Piglet tournament of cookbooks this year, edging out some of my other faves including those that have showed up on these very pages: Modern Jewish Cooking (Leah Koenig‘s hamantashen dough is the best I’ve ever worked with) and Zahav: A world of Israeli cooking (salads! laffa!).
As for the bialys, before I even attempted to bake a batch, I read Mimi Sheraton‘s The Bialy Eaters, the story of the author’s journey across the world to find a truly authentic version of these onion- and poppy seed-flecked rolls. Rodriguez and her team used Sheraton’s parameters to develop their signature bialy and, shortly after launching this product, the bialy aficionado called with praise.
Like many recipes in the book, the one for bialys had several sub-recipes, which can be (and was to me) daunting. Nonetheless, I overcame my intimidation, set aside a day when I could work on other things at home while the dough was undergoing multiple risings, and followed the detailed instructions. The result: a dozen airy bialys with a crisp crust and a deep well of golden onions and poppy seeds. I burnt my fingertips on the first couple, brought a few to a friend’s shabbat dinner (I was unabashedly stingy and greedy when it came to my bialys), and stashed away the rest in the freezer. My frozen supply has dwindled, and Friday morning I plan to pop the last one into a warm oven, slather it with salted butter, and enjoy my last bite of leavened bread for a week.
In the interim, I’ll be baking up a slew of Passover desserts: these macaroons with lime zest instead of orange, chocolate hazelnut cake-lets, and some version of Claudia Roden’s almond orange cake (more on that later once I get the recipe right). And don’t forget matzah brei.
And for a little bit of Passover reading, check out Dan Barber‘s piece in last weekend’s NY Times: “Why Is This Matzo Different From All Other Matzos?“.
Adapted from The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook by Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez.
This recipe requires some advance planning since the first step is to make a pâte fermentée – a pre-ferment dough and allow it a slow rise in the fridge overnight. The bialys really are best straight from the oven, but after a day or two, I just pop them in the oven for a few minutes to crisp up the outsides. They freeze nicely too.
When I spoke with HBK’s Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez, she recommended dipping the flattened dough disks (step six) into a bowl of cornmeal before placing them on the baking sheets. This will result in extra crunch along the bottom and sides of the bialys, achieving an ideal texture.
Makes 12 (5-inch) bialys
1⅓ cups/320 g lukewarm water
3½ cups plus 2 tablespoons/465 g bread flour, plus more for shaping
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons/150 g (risen and deflated)
Pâte fermentée (see below), cut into walnut-size pieces
¾ teaspoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 medium yellow onions, finely diced (6 cups/900 g)
½ cup/60 g fine dried bread crumbs
1½ tablespoons poppy seeds
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1) To make the bialy dough: Put the water and flour in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, and mix for 2 minutes. Let rest for 20 minutes.
2) Add the pâte fermentée, yeast, and salt and mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are completely combined. Add a little more water if this hasn’t happened in 3 minutes. Increase the speed to medium to medium-high and mix until the dough is smooth, pulls away from the sides of the bowl (and leaves the sides clean), has a bit of shine, and makes a slapping noise against the sides of the bowl, 5 to 7 minutes. Do the windowpane test* to check to see if the gluten is fully developed.
3) Dust a clean bowl lightly with flour and transfer the dough to it. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap (or put the whole bowl in a large plastic bag) and let stand at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 1 hour and 30 minutes.
4) Meanwhile, to prepare the filling: Heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring now and then, until they just begin to brown and have reduced to about a third of their original volume, about 20 minutes. Transfer the onions to a bowl and stir in the bread crumbs, poppy seeds and salt. Set aside to cool.
5) Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces (each weighing about 2¾ ounces/80 g). Form each piece into a small bun, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for 5 minutes. Proceeding in the same order in which you shaped the pieces into balls, flatten each ball with the heel of your hand into a disk about 4 inches/10 cm in diameter.
6) Line the backs of 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Put the disks on the baking sheets, evenly spaced and at least an inch apart. Loosely cover with plastic wrap. Let stand until the rolls are very soft and hold an indentation when you touch them lightly, 1 hour to 1 hour and 30 minutes.
7) Put a pizza stone on the middle rack of the oven and preheat to 500°F. Let the stone heat up for at least 30 minutes.
8) Uncover the bialys and, using the pads of both your index and middle fingertips, make a depression in the center of each disk of dough. Put about 2 tablespoons filling in the center of each bialy, spreading it out so it fills the center.
9) In one swift motion, slide the bialys and the parchment onto the pizza stone. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for a few minutes (discard the parchment).
10) Serve immediately. Leftovers can be kept in an airtight plastic bag at room temperature for 2 days.
* Windowpane test: Whether you mix your dough in a mixer or by hand, the final check to make sure the gluten in your dough is properly developed is called the windowpane test. Tear off a small piece of dough about the size of a golf ball. If it is sticky, dredge it through a little extra flour to make it easy to handle. Use your hands to gently stretch the dough from all sides until it forms a thin, nearly transparent layer that you can see the light through if you old it up to an actual window or light. If you can stretch the dough to that state, it means the gluten is developed and your bread is ready to rise. Simply press the small dough ball back into the large one and proceed. If, on the other hand, your dough tears before you can stretch it thin enough to see the light through it, keep kneading it until it passes the test.
Makes about 1¼ cups (risen and deflated)
Pâte fermentée is an ingredient in many recipes in the lean and enriched doughs chapters. You need to make it eight to twenty-four hours before you bake your bread. This extra step extends fermentation time and allows you to achieve a light, flavorful loaf with less yeast. Pâte fermentée contains the ingredients of simple French bread dough—flour, water, yeast, and salt—so, in a pinch, you could bake and eat it. Unlike other types of pre-ferments, such as levain, pâte fermentée does not impart a sour flavor to the bread. Instead it adds depth of flavor and extends the shelf life of your bread. If you make bread often, you can save the trimmings from lean doughs to use in your pâte fermentée. More likely, if you are making a rustic batard, traditional challah or any number of the breads in “The Hotbread Kitchen Cookbook,” you will mix a batch of the pâte fermentée the day before, then refrigerate it until you are ready to bake.
½ cup plus 1 teaspoon/120 g
⅔ teaspoon active dry yeast
1⅓ cups plus 1 tablespoon/180 g bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1) Put the water and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, then add the flour and salt. Mix on low speed for 2 minutes until combined into a shaggy dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
2) Refrigerate the mixture for a minimum of 8 hours and a maximum of 24. (There is no need to return it to room temperature before using.)
3) If you’re measuring the pâte fermentée rather than weighing it, be sure to deflate it with a wooden spoon or with floured fingertips before measuring.