SWEET GIRL BIALY, WHO CARRIES SOMETHING WITHIN HER HEART WHEREAS IN A BAGEL, IT’S JUST AN UTTERLY HOLLOW HOLE
What’s a bialy, if you don’t already know?
I’d like to think of bialy as the ugly sister of bagel, who comes without the shiny crust nor a robust PR campaign, but, in my opinion, ultimately wins hearts and minds through slow and quiet diplomacy. Or at least it should, if only in your kitchen. Think about it. Bialy and bagel practically shares the same dough, which isn’t a difficult one if I might add, but that’s about as much sameness as bagel’s gonna tolerate from her sibling. Not a fault of her own, but bagel, being held to her finicky New Yorker status and all, is somewhat of a… hm what’s that word… right, bitch.
You didn’t “retard” the dough in the fridge for 2 days, not a bagel. You didn’t boil it, not a bagel. Didn’t boil it long enough, not a bagel. Boiled in the wrong water, not a bagel. Can’t use her crust as a mirror, not a bagel. Too soft, not a bagel. Too hard, not a bagel. Lives in Montreal, definitely not a bagel.
But you see, bialy on the other hand, ah, sweet girl bialy… whether by virtue or as a necessary strategy for unpopularity, is very low maintenance. Without exuding much judgements, she doesn’t mind being taken on a speed date, from kneading to baking, all under as short as 4 hours of your time (well, a bit longer if you live somewhere dry and cold, I mean, a lady’s gotta keep warm). And surprising to whom care to look beyond the lack of a glamorous shine, her lightly browned exterior is thin but not without character, in fact, delicately crusty if you cherish it warm out of the oven as one should. Then you’ll notice that her soft but chewy crumbs remind you so much of a bagel that you wonder if it’s really worth pursuing the other. But perhaps the most heart-winning gesture from bialy is that she does, actually, carry something within her heart, a filled crater in the center whereas in a bagel, it’s an utterly hollow hole. —- OK.. usually some sort of onions with poppy seeds kind of stuff and let’s admit that none of it is very chic and if anybody needs a before/after it’s this poor girl —- In this case, I say why not, honey and butter coated sweet dates bedded within softly whipped cream cheese. Right, you may think that’s rather odd against that whiff of onion powder being mixed into the dough which gives the bread a hint of savoriness, but no, it’s not. That’s what’s surprising about this bialy, sweet and creamy but not without her savory core, soft to the touch but playfully chewy throughout, a bit of confliction but just the right amount.
Ultimately, the one you’ve been looking for.
- 2 cups (275 grams) bread flour
- 1/2 cup + 3 tbsp (165 grams) water
- 1 1/2 tsp (8 grams) sea salt
- 1 tsp light brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp instant dry yeast
- 1/4 tsp onion powder
- cornmeal o semolina flour for shaping
- 7~8 large dates
- 2 tsp honey
- 2 tsp unsalted butter, melted
- 5 tbsp cream cheese, lightly whipped
- white sesame seeds to sprinkle
- PREPARE THE DOUGH: In a stand-mixer with dough-hook, knead bread flour, water, sea salt, light brown sugar, instant dry yeast and onion powder on low speed until the dough comes together. Turn to high speed and knead for another 8 minutes until the dough is very elastic and smooth. The dough should feel soft, moist and slightly tacky, light a baby's bottom, but pulls away cleanly from the bowl when the machine is running. If the dough feels tough and rubbery, add a tbsp more water and knead until smooth.
- Cover the bowl and let the dough rise until fully doubled, about 2 ~ 4 hours (this largely depends on how warm and humid the environment is). Scrape the dough onto a lightly dusted working surface and divide into 5 equal portions, then keep tucking each dough under and into itself until the surface is smooth and round. Coat each dough with cornmeals or semolina flour, then place onto a baking-sheet with at least 4" of space in between each. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and let rise again until almost doubled, about 2 hours. Try dipping your finger gently into the dough, and if the indentation stays without springing back, the dough is ready.
- When the dough is almost ready, preheat the oven on 450 F/230 C, then place a cake pan filled halfway with hot water DIRECTLY on the bottom of the oven (this creates a moist environment that helps form a crust).
- SHAPE AND BAKE: Halve the dates and remove the pits, then mix the dates evenly with honey and melted butter, set aside. Dust the surface of each dough with more cornmeal or semolina. Slightly flatten each dough, then use the knuckles of your fingers to gently press and create a wide and deep crater in the center of each dough (kind of like making a fat mini pizza). To make sure that the crater doesn't spring back during baking, I highly recommend poking a few holes inside the crater with your fingers (as pictured).
- Now, smear 1 tbsp of cream cheese into each craters, then press about 1.5 dates into the cream cheese (avoid tips sticking out in the air to prevent burning), and sprinkle a little white sesame seeds over the top. If you have a spray bottle that forms fine mists, thoroughly mist the enter surface of the bialy until wet. This helps create a crust as well.
- Transfer the baking sheet into the oven, closing it as fast as you can to avoid losing steam, and bake for 10~15 min until the surface is lightly browned. Let them cool slightly on a cooling-rack but they are best when warm and crusty right out of the oven.