Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I'm a big fan of bialys so I was particularly interested to try Hamelman's recipe. I first encountered bialys over a decade ago in Baking with Julia which includes a recipe from Lauren Groveman. More recently, I've pretty much stuck to the recipe in Rose Levy Beranbaum Bread Bible athough I have tried a few other recipes including the recipe in Mimi Sheraton's unreadable The Bialy Eaters.

Excluding toppings, Hamelman takes an approach that pretty much matches everyone else. With exception of the malt he adds to bagels, Hamelman pretty much uses the same dough for bialys. (And malt is sometimes added to bialys.) In particular, both recipes call for 58% hydration. By comparison, Ciril Hitz treats bialys as a bagel variation (with 59.4% hydration) in Baking Artisan Breads. By contrast, Beranbaum has two different recipes with 68.6% hydration for bialys and 63.8% for bagels. Reinhart hasn't published a bialy recipe, but he uses 57.1% hydration for the bagels in The Bread Baker's Apprentice. The Child/Groveman recipe isn't specific enough to calculate hydration. But it does differ from the other recipes in that it incorporates onions directly into the dough as well as in the topping.

Although I didn't test the side-by-side, as far as the bread goes, the recipes all produce very similar products. Most bialys are flatter than those I made using Hamelman's recipe, but that didn't seem to affect the taste. Without a side-by-side comparison, I wouldn't recommend one recipe over another.

The big difference between Hamelman recipe and most other recipes is the treatment of the onions for the topping. Hamelman grinds raw onions, mixes them with bread crumbs, and then lets them rest in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. Since this is the same approach that Mimi Sheraton recommends in The Bialy Eaters, I'm guessing that this is an authentic approach. But when I made bialys this way, I found the results were awful. I ended up cutting the part with the onions off, discarding it, and just eating the rest. An Hamelman's variation with the addition of chopped garlic wasn't any better.

Every other recipe that I've seen calls for sauteing the onions first, something I've always done and highly recommend. I particularly like red onions sauteed in peanut oil. The addition of poppy seeds and sesame seeds is another plus.

All-in-all, I'll probably stick to Beranbaum because it's what I'm comfortable with, but I'd be happy with any of these recipes. However, for me, cooking the onions is a must. I don't plan to go back to the onions and breadcrumbs anytime soon.

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