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Photo © Molly Watson

If you're not from New York you may not be familiar with the wonder that is bialys. My husband, a native New Yorker, craves them and so I've figured out how to make them at home. Now I'm a fan too. Bialys, like bagels, are often served with cream cheese and cured salmon (although they are also delicious split, toasted, and liberally buttered). They are a lot easier to make, however, and always come topped with a dollop of sauteed onions and, often, poppyseeds. Serve them toasted for the full effect.

Note: Bialys freeze very well. Freeze whatever bialys you don't eat the first day in sealable plastic bags. Defrost simply by toasting them!

Prep Time: 3 hours

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours, 30 minutes

Yield: 2 dozen Bialys


  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 Tbsp. vegetable oil and/or melted butter, divided
  • 2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cups flour, plus more for kneading and shaping
  • 1 Tbsp. sea salt
  • 1-3 tsp. poppyseeds


  1. Peel and finely chop the onion. Heat 2 Tbsp. of the vegetable oil or butter in a large frying pan, add the onion, and cook over medium low heat, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent and very soft, about 5 minutes. Set aside to let cool.
  2. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in 2 1/4 cups warm water. Let sit until it gets foamy on top, about 5 minutes (if it doesn't get foamy, toss and start again with new yeast). Stir in about 1/3 of the cooked onions, the remaining 2 Tbsp. oil or melted butter, and the sugar, pepper, and 3 cups of the flour. Cover and set aside until the starter dough doubles in bulk, about 1 hour.
  3. Stir in the salt and remaining flour. If you have a standing mixer, this is best done with the dough hook, run until the dough forms a solid, elastic-feeling dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If kneading by hand, you will need to turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and knead until the dough feels elastic. In any case, try to avoid working in too much extra flour. Put dough in a clean, oiled bowl, cover, and set aside until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.
  4. Preheat oven to 500°F, make sure a rack is positioned in the lower third of the oven. Stir poppyseeds into the remaining sauteed onions and set aside. Prepare 1 or 2 large baking sheets – either line them with parchment paper or brush/spray them lightly with vegetable oil.
  5. When dough is risen, gently punch it down and turn it onto a well floured surface. Knead a few times and cut into 24 even pieces. You will need to shape and bake the bialys in batches: work each piece of dough into a disk about 5 inches wide, set on the prepared baking sheet(s), and top with a spoonful of the onion-poppyseed mixture. Repeat to fill a baking sheet and cover the remaining pieces of dough to work with later. Put shaped bialys in the hot oven, quickly throwing 1/4 cup cold water on the floor of the oven, and bake until golden and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer baked bialys to a cooling rack. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough.

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