Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Bialy That Wanted To Be A Topknot Roll

Most of us wish at one time or another to be somebody else. Who would have thought that a bialy, normally known for its adorable, deliciously filled pocket, would attempt such desirous heights of the imagination by trying to pass itself off as a topknot roll.

Though it didn't fool me, it still gets A+ for effort

I, armed with a spoon, gently but firmly put an end to this ardent masquerade by levelling their exuberant expansion while whispering, you are softly chewy but also airy, blessed throughout your floury sublimity with the kiss of kosher salt, anointed with poppy seed, onion, olive oil, and bread crumbs, and possessing the thinnest, crackly crust of all crusts, I say, strut your stuff and let the world know you are a bialy, the best one this native New Yorker ever tasted.

My, what big pockets you have. Better to hold delicious filling, my dear

makes twelve 13 cm/5 inch bialys
taken from Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook

  • Water, lukewarm, 320 g (1 1/3 cups)
  • Bread flour, (I use French type 65), 465 g/3.5 cups, plus more for kneading/shaping
  • Pâte fermentée, 150 g (1/2 cup plus 2 T, deflating it first), cut into walnut size pieces (see below for ingredients and instructions)
  • Yeast, active dry, 3/4
  • Salt, kosher, 1 T*
  • Cornmeal for the parchment paper to prevent sticking
  • Olive oil, extra-virgin, 3 T
  • Onions, yellow, medium, finely diced
  • Bread crumbs, dried, fine, 8 T
  • Poppy seeds, 1.5 T
  • Salt, kosher, 1/2 tsp

I prefer to make bread by hand (how to knead vid), but if you like using a machine, just substitute that for manual labour. The night before, make the pâte fermentée:  put 8 T plus 1 tsp of lukewarm water and 2/3 tsp of active dry yeast in a bowl.  Add 180 g (1 1/3 cups + 1 T) of bread flour. Mix with a wooden spoon for several minutes to get a shaggy dough. Cover the bowl and let stand for 30 minutes. Refrigerate it at least overnight. When ready to start making bialys, put the water and flour in a bowl and mix with a wooden spoon for about five minutes. Let rest for 20 minutes. Add the pâte fermentée, yeast, and salt. Mix with a wooden spoon until the dry ingredients are completely combined. Turn out the dough onto a steady, floured surface like a glass/wooden board/silicone mat/smooth counter top (tuck a teacloth under the board to keep it from sliding around). Knead until smooth which took me about ten minutes. Add flour to keep your hands and dough from sticking. Scrape off any dried bits from the board and wash your hands of any dried dough as you knead. Getting it smooth is the goal here. To ensure that enough elasticity (development of gluten) has developed, do the windowpane test by breaking off a piece the size of a golf ball. Flour it if sticky. Using your hands, stretch it on all sides. Hold the thinned patch up to the light; it needs to show some transparency without tearing, like a windowpane. If not, knead some more. If so, then it is ready to be risen.

Dust a bowl lightly with flour. Place the dough in the bowl and cover.

I used a large ziplock plastic bag, but a moistened teacloth or a plate would work also

Let stand at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Meanwhile make the filling. Finely mince the onions and saute in the olive oil over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes or until moderately browned. Stir occasionally. Put them in a bowl. Add bread crumbs, poppy seeds, and salt. Cool.

Put the dough on a lightly floured surface. Divide it into 12 mostly equal pieces. To form into buns with excellent surface tension so as to effect a good oven rise, flatten the pieces into rough rectangles. Bring each of the four corners to the centre, pinching them.

Then bring the remaining four corners to the centre, pinching them also.

Place them with the pinched side down. Let rest for five minutes. Flatten out each ball with the heel of your hand to get 10 cm/4 inches diameter discs. Line the backs of rimmed baking sheets or in my case lay out two sheets of parchment to be later slid onto baking sheets preheating in the oven via a glass cutting board. Sprinkle cornmeal on the paper. Transfer the rolls. Loosely cover (I used moist, wrung-out dish towels). Let rise until the rolls are very soft and hold an indentation when touched lightly, about 1 hour to 1.5 hours. While the bialys are rising, preheat the oven to 260 degrees C/500 degrees F, a very hot oven indeed so be careful when handling the trays. If you have a baking stone, or in my case, baking sheets, make sure that it (them) is (are) in the oven. Uncover the bialys, and with the pads of your index and middle fingers, make a fairly wide and deep depression in each roll. 

Per Deb Perelman from Smitten Kitchen, insufficiently risen dough is the reason why I got the topknot response even though I did check its state by lightly indenting the dough with a finger. Since the indentation held then the dough should have been ready. She suggests to be on the safe side a hole can be made in the crater before placing the filling. You could also do a test bake for just one bialy since they bake quickly. Put about 2 T of filling in each crater, spreading it out to cover the depression. (Any surplus filling along with Parmesan can be mixed into pasta.) Pull out an oven shelf and hold the parchment paper with the bialys placed on a glass board or on the back of a rimmed sheet pan directly over the heated baking pan/stone. Gradually slide off the parchment paper along with the bialys by pulling the emptying board/sheet closer and closer to you while giving it a few shakes. Bake until golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack for a few minutes, sans the paper.

I love, love, love these. In fact, my love is so encompassing, my constant desire for Kaiser rolls (when living and working in  Manhattan decades ago, my go-to, take-out breakfast was a buttered Kaiser carefully wrapped in butcher paper and accompanied with a coffee in an Anthora cup) is gone. Though if a later edition of Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook has a recipe for the real McCoy, that is, a crust so thin, it shatters, with insides sufficiently fluffy it just has to be buttered to have substance, and encrusted with poppy seeds, I would make them. I just would have to.

If you want to savour a bialy in all its wonderful crustiness, they are best served after a few minutes of cooling.

That glorious crumb, that superb crust, that tremendous flavour!

Hot Bread Kitchen cookbook advises keeping leftovers in a sealed plastic bag at room temperature for two days which I did. They lost that fantastic crust, but they were still so good, nicely chewy all-over their scrumptious selves. They also freeze well.

À la prochaine!

* Kosher salt is not in itself kosher, but instead, is what is used to make meat kosher by leaching (koshering) out blood. Any coarse salt (excluding fleur de sel whose taste punch would be lost in baking) would substitute.


My book review for Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook

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