Who Wants a Bialy?


Have you ever had a bialy? Flatter and slightly more tender than their bagel cousins, they have a depression filled with caramelized onions instead of a hole. Growing up in Ohio, one of my favorite treats was a buttered toasted bialy. I loved the crunch of the initial bite and the doughy inside. And don’t get me started on the combination of the butter and caramelized onions.

When we moved to Minnesota, bialys were nowhere to be found. I’m kind of surprised we could even find them in Ohio, come to think of it.

During my junior year of high school, while visiting Northwestern University in Illinois, my dad and I stumbled into a little bagel place that sold bialys. We left with a freezer bag full of them in the trunk of our car, and my mom and I savored those bialys, rationing them out so that they would last for weeks.


This past January, dad and I made the drive to Ithaca with Dan to help him move into our new apartment. (For those unaware of the story, Dan moved here in January to start his full-time job, but I had a semester of college in Wisconsin to finish up, and didn’t move here until after our wedding at the end of May).

Rather than attempt to find the kitchen boxes buried in the moving van to make lunch, we decided to walk a few blocks over to the bakery. Imagine my delight when I discovered that the Ithaca Bakery makes bialys. I was only here for a few days, but made sure to snag a few. And sure enough, my dad flew home with a baker’s dozen for my mom.

When my mom visited earlier this month, we made sure she got her bialy fix. Not only did she get some from the bakery, but we decided to make our own as well! It took a few attempts and was a long (repeat: LONG) process, but was totally worth it in the end.

The whole wheat flour, while adding a little more nutritional value, made the texture slightly less authentic and changed the taste a bit, but they were still delicious. In the future, though, I’ll be making these with at least some white flour!

These bialys are best when eaten within 24 hours (unless you want to freeze and then toast them), but I don’t think these even made it 12 before we ate them all.


Whole Wheat Bialys

Makes 6 bialys

3 c whole wheat bread flour

3/4 T active dry yeast

2 c warm water

Olive oil

For filling:

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 c diced onion

2 T olive oil

1/4 tsp sugar

For topping:

Salt and olive oil, to taste

In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix the flour, yeast and water together until a smooth and stiff dough forms. This should take about 7 minutes.

Savvy Tip: The water should be warm to the touch, but not hot. Too hot or too cold will kill the yeast!

Brush the top of the dough with some olive oil, then flip over in the bowl, and oil the other side. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise. Allow the dough to rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Savvy Tip: If your kitchen is cold like mine, the dough may not rise on its own. So do what I do: turn the oven on low while you are mixing the dough, then turn it off. When the oven is just cool enough that it won’t melt the plastic wrap, stick your dough bowl in the oven. That little bit of warmth will help your dough RISE like crazy!

Punch down the dough to deflate it, then move it to a floured surface. Divide the dough into 6 even pieces, and shape each into a flat circle, about 1/2″ thick. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise for another 1 1/2-2 hours.

While the dough rounds rise, make your filling. Heat the oil over medium-low in a small saucepan, then add the onion, garlic and sugar. Decrease the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, about 12-15 minutes. Set aside to cool until ready to use it.

Place a pizza stone in the bottom 1/3 of your oven. Preheat the oven (with the stone inside) to 450F. Line a pizza peel with parchment paper.

Using your fingers, create a depression in the center of one of the dough rounds. Press the dough out towards the edges of the bialy, twisting the dough round as you do so, until the edges are an even thickness. In the end, the depression should be about 1 1/2″ -2″ in diameter. Repeat with another dough round.

Savvy Tip: When you are shaping your bialys, leave the unshaped rounds covered so that they don’t dry out.

Place 2 of the shaped bialys on the pizza peel, and spoon 1-2 T of the filling into each depression. Brush the tops with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Transfer the parchment paper, bialys and all, to the pizza stone. Bake for 6-8 minutes, until the edges start to stiffen.

Savvy Tip: When removing baked bialys from the oven, leave the pizza stone there and only take out the parchment paper and bialys.

Allow to cool for 2-3 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely. Repeat the shaping and baking process with the rest of the bialys.

Serve with a little butter…that’s all the added flavor you need!



  1. says

    I’m scared of yeast-based baking, but maybe with all your extra tips, I could give these a try. They look delicious! I might need to play around with the fillings, though…for some reason, I feel like olives would be delicious. Or sundried tomatoes, basil, and pinenuts.

  2. says

    let’s talk about flour. as in- when a recipe (ahem. mama peas dough balls) calls for pastry flour, do i really need pastry flour? I’ve read before that to sub for 1 cup of pastry flour, use 7/8 cup all purpose flour + 2 tablespoons of corn starch. Any experience with this?

    How about bread flour?

  3. says

    I discovered bailys several months ago in a artisan bread cookbook I picked up at a garage sale. WOW is all I can say. They are easy to make (but need lots of resting/raising) time .. but so delicious ..


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