New York, New York. Broadway. The buzz. The subway. Duane Reade (pronounced Dwa-ney Red-day, for those of you in the know). The Beacon. Amsterdam Ave.
For three years I called New York, more specifically and proudly the Upper West Side, my home.
When I arrived, fresh out of Culinary School, suitcase in hand, wide-eyed and nervous, I was firmly a Virginia girl. In the beginning, New York was temporary. New York was a moment. I’m here for a reason but I’ll be home soon was my mantra.
But very quickly, New York did become my home and although I tried to resist it, I loved living there.
Running around the reservoir at dusk, going to a jam-packed Fairway on Sunday, people-watching at Verdi Square, having a cup of coffee at the diner – where everybody really did know my name, complete bliss.
I created a little life in a big city and though I did make good on my word to move back to my home-home after three years, it wasn’t easy.
As I settle into my new life, in my new-but-old-familiar city, as I become the DC daughter I always thought I wanted to be, I am reluctant to give up on the Upper West Side woman I’ve become.
In an effort to keep the New Yorker in me alive and my love of the city thriving, I’ve made a point to bring my can’t-live-without-’em NYC treats to Washington. One of my favorites is the Bialy.
The what? Exactly!
I never met a bialy until I moved to New York. It’s a bread, like the bagel’s odd sister. If the bagel family was asked about the bialy they’d say, “Oh, our little Bialy? Well she has always been the creative one. Her job? She works here and there, just moved back from New York, now she’s really focusing on her photography.” Sound familiar? Yea – I am the Bialy of my family.
Maybe that’s why I like it so much. It’s different. It’s a little rough around the edges. However, if you get to know it, I think you’ll love me, ahem, I mean… it… the bialy. Right.
So try this little onion and caraway packed bagel sister, grab a copy of the Times, yell, “eyyy, I’m walking heah!” and pretend you’re at the corner booth of Utopia diner with me.
Put all your dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on low with a hook attachment.
Add your warm water slowly with the engine running. Look at my little pj legs reflected in the bowl! The dough will come together in a ball.
Place the dough in a bowl that’s been lightly oiled and cover with plastic. Set aside and let rise, until doubled in size, about an hour to 90 minutes.
While the dough is rising make the filling. Preheat a grill pan over a high flame. Oil up some onion slices and season them with salt and pepper.
Place the onions on the hot grill pan.
Grill 3 – 5 minutes per side until they are lightly charred on both sides. Remove from pan and place in a bowl to cool.
Once the onions are cool, roughly chop them. Season with salt, poppy seed and caraway seed. Set aside.
When the dough has doubled in size, cut it into 10, 100 gram portions.
Roll the portions into nice tight balls.
Place the balls on a sheet tray about 3 inches apart. Cover loosely with plastic and let rise for another hour.
Preheat your oven to 475° F.
Using your fingers, make a well in the center of the dough ball. Take a fork and prick holes in the bottom of the well, this will prevent it from rising.
Stuff the well with about a tablespoon of filling.
Next, grease one side of a sheet of parchment paper with butter and place it on top of the filled bialys, butter side down. Top that parchment paper with another sheet tray and press down ever so lightly.
Before placing the bialys in the oven put a baking dish filled with ice on the bottom rack.
Place the bialys, sandwiched between the two sheet trays, in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. As the ice melts, it will create steam, giving the bialys that tender but chewy bagel-like texture. After 15 minutes remove the top sheet tray and parchment and let the bialys bake, uncovered, for another 10 minutes until golden brown.
Just look at ’em folks. One bite and I am back in the urban buzz, on the Upper West Side, dreaming of the city that never sleeps. I hope you’ll join me.
*I learned this recipe from Caroline Schiff, best pastry chef in the world and my former boss. I tweaked it to my taste but I wanted to give her credit because she kicks ass and the world should know her!
Big City Bialy
300 grams AP flour
300 grams bread flour
3.2 grams of yeast
15 grams of salt
412 grams of warm water
For the filling:
1 large onion
1 teaspoon of poppy seeds
1 teaspoon of caraway seeds
salt to taste
Butter for greasing
Combine all dry ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix on low speed. With mixer running, add the water in slowly and mix until the dough comes together into a ball.
Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and transfer to a bowl that has been lightly oiled. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to rise for an hour.
While the dough is rising, make the filling. Heat a grill pan on high. Slice the onions into 1/4 inch rounds, drizzle with oil and season with salt.
Place the onions on the hot grill pan and cook 3 to 4 minutes until lightly browned.
Let the onions cool slightly and then chop them roughly. Add the poppy seed, caraway seed and season with salt to taste. Set the filling aside.
Once the dough has doubled in size, cut it into 10, 100 gram portions and roll into balls. Place the balls on a sheet tray lined with parchment with about 3 inches of space between each.
Cover the dough balls loosely with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for another hour.
Preheat your oven to 475° F.
Once the dough has risen a second time, use your fingers to make wells in the center of each ball. Use a fork and prick holes in the bottom of each well and then fill with a tablespoon to a tablespoon and a half of the filling.
Grease a sheet of parchment paper with some butter and place it on top of the bialys. Then place another sheet tray on top and press down gently.
Place a brownie pan filled with ice on the bottom rack of the oven and then put the bialys in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes and then remove the top sheet tray and parchment. Bake for another 10 minutes until the bialys are golden brown.
Let cool slightly and serve! You can store bialys in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped, for up to a week. To reheat you can slice and put in a toaster or toss in a 350° F oven.