It seemed a bit insane that I had never posted about bialys, but when I put that little ditty up about buttermilk scones last week it came to my attention that for all the doughnuts that have appeared on this site, bialys were never even mentioned. Let’s fix that. Bialys are, many people say, like bagels. Except they aren’t. They aren’t boiled before they are baked, they don’t have holes in the centers, and they certainly aren’t hawked at chain coffee shops and airport deli counters across the nation. Most importantly, bialys don’t (at least as far as I know) come in dozens of flavors; they are flavored with the perfect duo of onions and poppyseeds.
Bialys – named, again, as far as I know, after their hometown of Bialystok, Poland – are mainly found in New York. There used to be a great bialy bakery in the Fairfax neighborhood of L.A., but that place closed despite the many bags of bialys we would buy whenever we stopped in. Biannual customers cannot, I’m afraid, keep such an operation afloat.
There are not, in my experience (correct me, please!) fabulous bialys to be found in San Francisco. One company makes them, but they also make pretzels and the similarity between the two makes me think they are using the same dough. Their bialys are too cooked already to really split and toast, which is how we tend to eat them at our house. What is a girl to do except learn to make bialys and make a batch every now and again?
As happens at our house when I cook things many times over, a certain amount of customization takes place. My dashing husband — a native of New York for whom I have, more than once, passed off a batch of bialys as a present – likes his bialys small, with just a bit of onion-poppyseed topping – too much of it, he claims, leaves the center portion slightly uncooked and thus difficult to toast. That is his theory. I like lots of the topping. The top cooks just fine, thank you very much, it just doesn’t get as perfectly crispy as the rest of the bialy, which is something any reasonable adult would put up with in exchange for all that extra onion-poppyseed delight. Ever the problem-solver, I started adding some of the topping to the actual dough so I get all that delicious onion-y flavor even when putting less on top so that he can get all his crazy crispy on.
All that to say that last time I made bialys I ended up with extra onion-poppyseed goodness. I couldn’t bear to throw it away, so it sat on the counter in our winter-in-San-Francisco freezing kitchen for a day. That day happened to end up being one during which I had tons to do and it was basically crappy outside so who wanted to go to the store. I followed the path of absolute least resistance. I boiled up some pasta, tossed it with butter, black pepper, and the onion-poppyseed yumminess, and topped it all with some seven-year-old Gouda that my son begs me to buy him for a treat:
We had some salad alongside. It may have been made from a leftover garnish I found on the counter, but that bialy pasta was damn good. Onions and poppyseeds can make anything taste good.