Sourdough Bialys

The bialy is a small roll that, according to Wikipedia, is found in Polish and Ashkenazi Polish culture. It has many similarities to a bagel. Although it isn’t boiled after proofing, just baked, it still retains the dense chewiness and flavour found in that ubiquitous bread product.

I had planned on making the usual yeast based version but recently ran across a small jar of sourdough starter at the back of my fridge. I saw the layer of hooch on top, because I hadn’t fed it since the end of October, and decided to revive it. I should have taken a day or two to bring it back but, nine hours after feeding it with a mixture of whole wheat and  all purpose flour, it had doubled in volume, so I used the recipe found on the “Sourdough and Olives” website, and made a small batch of bialys.

For a topping I used some leftover sauteed onions mixed with a bit of olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper. A sprinkling of poppy seeds over the top, and I had a traditional bialy. When I ran out of topping for the last few bialys, I used a mixture of pizza sauce, grated mozzarella and julienned pepperoni sausage and made a tasty pizza bialy.

REVIEW: In spite of the less than optimal conditions for making these, including a starter that wasn’t as active as I would have liked, the results were delicious. The crust was thin and crunchy while the interior was chewy. The oven spring (baked at 480 deg F for 22 min) was amazing and I ended up with little volcanoes rather than the little frisbees I was expecting (hoping for). I would consider reducing the baking temperature on repeating the recipe or even use a fix that I found on another site … placing a sheet of parchment paper on top of the bialys and then covering with a second baking sheet to compress the rise for the first ten minutes of baking before continuing to bake them, uncovered for another ten to fifteen minutes.

Piping hot bialy ripped open to show the crumb

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13 thoughts on “Sourdough Bialys

  1. They look fantastic! I wish I had the time and patience to feed sourdough starters, but I spend enough time and effort rinsing and drying various beans three times a day while they are sprouting. What one wouldn’t do for one’s loved ones!

    1. Thank you.

      Once you’ve got an active starter, all it takes is five minutes once a week or once every 2 weeks, depending on how often you bake. I keep mine in the fridge. And, having dried some, when I want to take a break for 6 months or so, I can do it.

      I hope to do a yeast version of the bialys eventually. 🙂

      1. As you know, a sourdough starter is a mixture of acid loving yeast and bacteria similar to that used in beer or yogurt fermentation which is naturally found on wheat kernels in the field. It usually takes two weeks to develop and involves discarding part of the mixture and feeding with fresh flour and water.

        I like the method shown in this YouTube video because there’s minimal wastage involved by keeping quantities low and starting with a slightly acidic liquid (canned NOT fresh pineapple juice) which reduces the stinky starter stage as bacteria grow profusely and then dies and whole wheat flour, being less processed, starts out with more yeast from the wheat kernels and is more nutritious than all purpose or bread flour.

        I would use a small (half cup) glass jar with a lid rather than the small cups with saucer that she uses. Having 2 jars of the same size makes it easier to transfer to a fresh jar while washing the previous one. Once you have a strong active starter, you can keep it in the fridge and only feed once a week or once every two weeks.

  2. They look deliciously wonderful! I love the texture of bagels so I’m certain I would love these too! And they are soooo much easier in that you don’t have boil a giant pot of water!

    1. I’ve been told that the texture suffers from keeping (they get very hard) though so they should be eaten the same day they’re baked. Perhaps that’s why they haven’t caught on as much as bagels have. I froze a dozen of them since I had too much bread in the house already.

  3. Happy New Year A_Boleyn! I see you are extremely creative, as always! They look delicious and very mysterious. I’ve never heard about them (it’s probably a regional thing), not to mention eating them….

    1. I didn’t grow up in a Jewish neighbourhood and I know they weren’t served in the Jewish deli my mom worked in. I found them online when looking for Jewish/Polish cuisine. And can there ever be too many bread recipes? 🙂

  4. I’ve never heard of a bialy before, but your pictures make me want one or two or three. I’m such a sucker for a good bread, especially bagels, I know I would love this.

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