The bialy

October 24, 2010 • 10:58 am

From Kossar’s (full name: Kossar’s Bialystoker Kuchen Bakery) on New York’s Grand Street.  Bagels are fine, but give me a warm bialy any time.  With its crisp bits of onion nestled snugly into a golden pillow of toothsome chewiness, this is the ideal substrate for lox and a schmear—or can be eaten, as I usually do, walking out of the bakery.

By popular demand (mine), this is Jewish Food of the Lower East Side Week.

Reference:  The Bialy Eaters:  The Story of a Bread and a Lost World, by Mimi Sheraton

How to make them.

27 thoughts on “The bialy

    1. And like many examples of pareidolia, never would have occurred to me without prompting, and now I can’t not see it.

  1. I’ve never had the pleasure of having a bialy, so I’ll refrain from further comment on that part of the discussion.

    But I do want to encourage any of all y’all out there who bake bread to make your own bagels. It’s surprisingly easy, and it’s the only way to get decent bagels if you live in a cultural wasteland such as the Phoenix metro area.

    Short version: make dough with the following proportions:

    1 TABLESPOON yeast3 cups bread (high-gluten) flour4 teaspoons sugar2 teaspoons salt1 cup water1/4 cup dried chopped onions2 tablespoons poppy seeds

    When the dough is done rising, divide it into eight parts. Roll each part into a six-inch rope and make a loop around your fingers; seal the ends with water.

    When you’ve shaped the bagels, start a large pot (woks are great) of water to boil. Boil as many bagels as you can without overcrowding them, about three minutes per bagel, turning them once.

    Remove the bagels to a parchment-lined baking sheet and immediately bake in a (pre-heated) 425° oven until browned (15-25 minutes depending on the oven). For even better results, use a (parchment-lined) baking stone (you can get one for $15 at places like Trader Joe’s, probably marketed as a pizza stone). Use a lower temperature and a shorter baking time for the stone.

    For extra bonus points, use a bread machine with a timer delay, set to complete the dough cycle at the time you’ll be ready to face the kitchen. Then, you just have to shape, boil, and bake the bagels; in less than an hour you’ll have fresh-from-the-oven bagels plus you’ll have had plenty of time to catch up on the day’s headlines.



      1. Dominic, the hole is made of 100% pure Jesus.

        One might be tempted to make substitutions, but please trust me: don’t.

        Cheeses, the most obvious substitution, will make a horrid mess and completely ruin not only the bagel but your oven as well.

        If you really must substitute, you can get away with one of the other immortal deities, but only if you’re absolutely sure you’re all out of Jesus. Krishna can kinda work, as will Wotan…but even canned, frozen, or even freeze-fried Jesus is still the preferred option.

        But, for the love of all that’s unholy, do NOT use mortal deities, especially of the feline variety. They’re far too sacred for consumption. Not to mention, I can’t imagine them being at all palatable.

        No, trust me on this one. Insist on nothing but 100% pure Jesus to make your bagels holy. Not only is it authentic, not only does it taste like nothing, it’s the #1 recommended way to get your daily delivered dose of divinity.



        P.S. No deities were harmed in the making of this post. Quite the contrary, in fact: there’s a deity getting his belly rubbed even as I type. b&

    1. I don’t think there can be any doubt about the fact that bread is a miracle. If you’ve ever made bread (as I’m doing right this moment) then the evidence is incontrovertible.

      And beer is every bit as miraculous.

      Therefore, yeast is divine and Jesus is a fungus.

      Makes perfect sense, too: Christians routinely sacrifice Jesus by eating him in the form of bread and wine. How else can bread and wine be a living god unless the god is yeast?

      Our Father…who gives us this day our bread; Jesus turns water into wine; Jesus doesn’t reanimate the deceased but instead raises the dead…isn’t it obvious?



      1. St.Elizabeth is the patron saint of bakers – thank her not Cheeses of Nazareth –

        As to beer, Julian the Apostate (no less!) wrote a short poem mocking ale. It ends thus –
        “Were the Celts short of grapes, so turned to corn?
        If so, & they made you from wheat & oat,
        Your name’s not Bacchic – it’s Cereal.”

  2. I’d go for the multiple flour addition technique as well or else simply mix the dough by hand. The preparation of the dough reminds me a bit of the “ensaimada” from Majorca, but the Majorcan pastry has an awful lot of egg yolks and sugar. The technique for making the pastry soft and fluffy is the same though, and it takes a few hours. It’s still much quicker to prepare than croissants though.

  3. Henry VIII’s physician Dr Andrew Boorde, wrote (1542) –
    “Bread made of wheat maketh a man fat, especially when the bread is made of new wheat. Evil bakers will put wheat & barley together; bread made of these aforesaid corns may fill the gut , but shall never do good to man, no more than bread made of beans & pease will do. Hot bread is unwholesome to any man, for it doth lie in the stomach like a sponge, yet the smell of new bread is comfortable to the head & heart. Old or stale bread doth dry up the blood, or natural moisture in man, & doth engender ill humours, & is evil & tardy of digestion; wherefore is no surfeit so evil as the surfeit of eating naughty bread.”

  4. No question about it, a NY bialy over any bagel, even Brooklyn ones.

    But, now that I have gone to the Paleo diet, not more grains of any kind.

      1. No, they (Paleoliths) did not. That very poorly written article does not even closely reflect the underlying article which itself has incorrect premises.

        Parts of whole grains are toxic to some human stomachs, and various humans respond in various ways. Gluten is not healthy, but tolerated by some and other proteins are also produced by grains to discourage animals from eating their reproductive parts.

  5. As a (partly) Brit married to a New York Italian bagel lover, thank you for your kind words of support for the superior (more digestible,not so damn fricking huge) bialy.

    1. Bill, you can mostly blame American chain restaurants for the insane size of bagels. Originally, they were not much larger than napkin rings. Sadly, bagels got super-sized along with everything else.

      Don’t worry. I’m sure it won’t be long before Einstein’s starts selling bialys…and they’ll be the size of a dinner plate. At least.



      P.S. If you’re not afraid of baking, see my earlier post above. I’m sure your New York Italian bagel lover would absolutely love a fresh bagel breakfast next Sunday…. b&

      1. you can mostly blame American chain restaurants for the insane size of bagels. Originally, they were not much larger than napkin rings. Sadly, bagels got super-sized along with everything else.

        Ain’t THAT the truth! Now they’re just ring-shaped Wonder Breads. They’re supposed to be chewy!

        1. Ah, now you’re really punching my buttons.

          When Einstein’s first came to Tempe, their bagels fell decidedly into the “not bad” category. Nothing to get thrilled about, but worth eating and something you could reasonably call a “bagel.” They also made the bagels right there on the premises, from basic bread-type ingredients.

          A year or so later, their bagels turned to shit. They became ring-shaped Wonder Bread, and got bigger. My parents later learned that this (surprise!) coincided with them receiving ready-made dough from some corporate warehouse that they would then boil and bake on the premises.

          For a while, Brueggers had not-miserable bagels. Chompies I’ve never cared for.

          Any more, if I want bagels, I have to make ’em myself. Nobody sells bagels any more; they just sell oversized ring-shaped Wonder Bread. And, as often as not, with embedded cinnamon and raisins and served with honey-pumpkin lite creamy cheezey spred.

          I have no clue what the fuck those things are, but they sure-as-shit ain’t bagels.

          It’s like a bad horror movie: Invasion of the Bagel Snatchers.

          Pizza’s not quite as bad…but, still. The best pizza I’ve had in recent memory is the slice I’m just finishing now. I started by grinding the flour a couple hours ago….



  6. So, do they put dough on the filling in the middle? I’m used to the bialy at NY Bagel and Bialy in Skokie. There’s a depression in the middle with the filling. This one looks like it got filled in.

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