In 1984, I became a full-time stay-at-home mom, and we moved to New York State when the baby was ten weeks old. I decided this was a good time to start baking bread, and it was such a positive experience that I have baked virtually all our bread ever since. I've taken time off for such Important Events as childbirth and vacations, but other than that, we eat homemade bread.
Terry and I went to see Julie and Julia when it came out, and I knew I had to take a look at Julia Child's cookbooks. The one that appealed to me most is called Baking with Julia, and my very own copy is now lying on the desk next to my computer (Christmas gift!). I tried my first recipe yesterday, called Onion Bialys. I had never heard of a bialy till Melanie B. mentioned them to me some time in the last year, so the recipe rang a bell and I decided to make them.
Well. Talk about delicious! I think I like them better than bagels. So in case you are inspired by the photograph to try them too, here is Julia's delicious recipe:
2 1/4 c warm water
2 1/4 t active dry yeast
2 t sugar
2 T solid veg. shortening
1/3 c minced yellow onion
1 t black pepper (optional)
3 c flour
Combine water, yeast and sugar in a small bowl and let sit for five minutes. Melt shortening in a small skillet and saute onions till they are tender, about 3-5 min. Scrape into a mixing bowl, add the yeast mixture and pepper, and beat in the flour. Beat at medium about 3 minutes and let stand for 1 1/4 hours (this is called a sponge).
Meanwhile, do this:
2 T oil
1 c minced yellow onion (I think this is a lot, I used about 1/2)
2 t poppy seeds
pepper to taste
Heat oil in a skillet and saute onions with poppy seeds and pepper till tender. Let cool.
Preheat oven to 500. Put a metal pie plate or cake pan on the bottom shelf; place the baking shelf just above it (all this should be in the bottom 2/3 of the oven).
Back to the dough:
1 T salt
3 more cups flour
Add salt to the sponge and then gradually add flour, beating well. If you have a dough hook, knead with the mixer for about 3-5 minutes. If you are doing it by hand, add flour till the dough is too stiff to stir, turn out onto floured counter and knead 3-5 minutes, adding flour to keep it from sticking.
Let this dough rise for about 1 1/2 hours or till doubled.
Punch down and turn onto counter. Cut into 12 pieces. Shape each into a circle and flatten in the center to create a thick 1/2" wide rim. Prick the center with the tines of a fork and spoon some onion filling into the depression. Prick again to keep it flattened. Place bialys on a greased baking sheet, leaving plenty of space between them.
Put four ice cubes and 1/4 c cold water in a cup.
Place baking sheet with six bialys in the oven, and toss the cubes and water into the metal pan you put on the bottom shelf. Shut the oven door and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 450 and bake another five. The water/ice creates steam in the oven which makes a wonderful crust on the bialys.
Remove bialys to a rack to cool, set oven temp at 500 again and repeat with the remaining six pieces of dough.
We had leftover Christmas ham on these and it was delicious!
As you can see, I left a few of them plain, for the non-onion fans in the family.
I am a little baffled by the difference between my bialys and Julia's. Hers are flattened in the center even when baked, while mine, in spite of furious activity with a fork, are pretty rounded on top. However, as they taste fabulous and are not likely to be abandoned in the breadbox, I will not fret about this.
By the way, bialys originate from Bialystok, Poland. Julia told me so.
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