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Jun 15, 2009 10:57 AM

What is so good about a bialy? [split from Quebec]

Okay so, for fear of being lambasted I am wondering what is so good about a bialy? Now I admit, I might not have tried a "real" bialy but what I did try, from a bialy bakery in Orleans, Cape Cod (Mass) and those brought to me by a client returning from NYC-well, were just pieces of flattish, tough dough. The flavour was bland, the texture well, tough and no added touches like poppy seeds or sesame seeds or anything.

So my question is, what does a good bialy taste like?

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  1. «The flavour was bland, the texture well, tough and no added touches like poppy seeds or sesame seeds or anything.»

    If they didn't have onions in the centre, you got cheated.

    When good, they're like a cross between an onion roll and a bagel. What's not to like?

    7 Replies
    1. re: carswell

      Aha - not of the baked goods presented to me as bialys had anything resembling an onion or had even met one in their journey from dough to bialy.

      Now I get it. What's not to like if it has onions...

      1. re: maisonbistro

        The ones I tried in New York were more like less flavourful bagels as well. No onions to be found.

        1. re: cherylmtl

          Hmm... Never seen a bialy without onions and poppy seeds. Recommend "The Bialy Eaters: The Story of a Bread and a Lost World" by Mimi Sheraton for the history of this foodstuff. Bialy is short for Bialystoker Kuchen. They originated in Poland. I'm guessing not too many Polish Jews immigrated to Montreal.

          1. re: rcianci

            «Never seen a bialy without onions»

            I have. Always figured they were for people who don't like onions or can't wrap their head around eating onions for breakfast. For me, an onionless bialy isn't worth the dough it's made from.

            You're probably right about the lack of a Bialystock-Montreal connection. Still, in the States their popularity has seen them moving into non-traditional markets, so it's funny no one here has picked up on the trend.

            1. re: carswell

              That makes sense. And not only onionless versions, I'll bet. As they spread throughout the U.S., cinnamon-raisin, chocolate, and blueberry "bialys" are being churned out. Every abomination that can be visited on a bagel is probably also being done to bialys. A onion bialy for me, thanks, with cream cheese and salmon roe. Mmmmm.

            2. re: rcianci

              Somehow I don't think the polish jewish community in Orleans, Cape Cod Mass. is all that big -

              1. re: maisonbistro

                I don't think there are that many people from Kent, but the Sandwich succeeded where the Bialy didn't

      2. In my experience, there are many bakeries that sell something they call a bialy, but in nearly every case it bears almost NO resemblence to a real bialy. In my area they actually sell unboiled (only baked) bagel dough under the name "bialy." As if!

        Bialys freeze very well. In fact, if you aren't going to eat it within a day of baking, it should be frozen. Having said that, if you can't get to Kossar's Bialys on Grand Street in NYC and don't want to pay for overnighting a few dozen, try to find a store that sells H & H frozen bialys. Warm them up in the toaster - never microwave - and spread the bottom with maybe a little butter or cream cheese. Truly awesome.

        By all means read the Mimi Sheraton book. Fun read. Just as a side note, though, my grandmother and her family came from Bialystok. I never knew her but my father says that his mother claimed to have never seen anything resembling a bialy in Bialystok. And I believe she said that we had bakers in the family.

        1. I remembetr finding a bialy in Greensboro, North Carolina,but it was not exactly like a New York one, which has a thin floor of dough and onion bits where the hole is in a bagel.

          What's so good about it (except for the Proustian nostaliga involved)? Well, what's so great about a bagel? Especially a Montreal one - if I want a small, sweet roll, that's what I'll buy.

          1. To reiterate in the vernacular, you got rooked. Growing up in Rhode Island -- not too far from the Cape, not exactly the Lower East Side but enough MOTs to have good jewish bakeries -- I could not have imagined a bialy without onions and poppy seeds in the middle. While the rest of the bialy is great, the stuff in the middle, esp when covered with cream cheese, is the pot at the end of the rainbow.

            What you really need to find is an onion board, aka onion pletzel. It's basically the middle of a good bialy on steriods. Simply spectacular.

            1. With most bialys, nothing.

              The good bialys of my Brooklyn childhood were soft and crispy at the same time, and usually had air pockets within. They resembled pizza dough more than they resembled bagels.There was always a browned onion topping, which some bakers made soft and others made crisp. Poppy seeds were used by some places but not by others. The flavour was typically yeasty.

              I don't remember a bialy ever being edible more for than a few hours out of the oven. I can't say anything about freezing them because we bought them fresh and they never lasted long.

              I've never seen a real fresh bialy in either Montreal or Toronto. Though I have seen frozen bialys at kosher supermarkets in Toronto, I've never tried one.

              We do have a few sources of good onion pletzels in Toronto, but these do not resemble my recollection of a good, fresh bialy.

              2 Replies
              1. re: embee

                Just the middle of the bialy, and only if we're talking about an onion bialy. Otherwise, yes, no resemblance.

                1. re: Bob W

                  The ones I like have crisply brown, cracker-like, sections and some soft, somewhat bubbled, light sections, and are covered with onions ranging from slightly softened to very well browned. Most of those on sale are very bready.