Bialys | Sponge Method

Oh, to have a freshly baked Bialy warm from the oven is one of life’s greatest joys. A mitzvah for your senses as you bite into this savory puffy disk that is delightfully crisp, soft, and chewy and gives way to the savory flavor of deeply caramelized onion and poppyseed filling that sits atop a thin crispy center layer.

The Bialy | The forgotten one. The unsung cousin to the popular bagel. Most of the world’s population has never even heard of this “Bissel” (little) round baked good. Well, it’s time to get the word out and sing the praises about this amazing crispy puffy disk of onion poppyseed filled nosh of goodness!

Bialy | is short for Bialystoker Kuchen which in Yiddish means “little bread from Bialystok” from the city of Białystok in Poland, a traditional baked good from the Polish and Polish Ashkenazi cuisine. Unlike a bagel, which is boiled before baking, a bialy is simply baked, and instead of a hole in the middle, the center of the dough gets stretched before baking to form a thin depression that supports the onion poppyseed filling with a ring of puffy dough on the outside. The Bialy is baked directly on a hot baking stone which in turn causes the ring of dough to puff up and brown and crisp quickly. This also creates a thin almost matzo like crisp center layer that supports the filling.

Kossar’s Bialys is the oldest continuous running Bialy shop since 1936 in the United States and is located in New York’s Lower Eastside at 367 Grand Street near Essex Street. A traditional Eastern European Jewish food originally sold from street carts in the old country and New York’s Lower Eastside. Kossar’s brick and mortar Bialy Shop has become a mecca for those seeking out this savory little bread.

68% Hydration = Sticky Dough | In order to create a light airy crumb with a crisp crunchy and chewy exterior, we need a dough formulation that has higher water content. Don’t be alarmed by how sticky the dough is throughout the kneading process.  “OY VEY, THIS IS A STICKY DOUGH!” Yes, it is. So don’t panic and add any extra flour. The dough will develop strength as you knead, stretch, and fold it. I promise you the end results are worth sticky fingers.

“The oven so hot I’m Schvitzing” | In order to create the best Bialys, we need to crank up the heat in our ovens. The oven and baking stone must be pre-heated to 550°F (288℃) for at least 1 hour prior to baking. The Baking Stone stores and transfers the heat to the fully proofed Bialys which creates the oven spring and quickly bakes the dough. The quick bake time keeps the moisture in the baked Bialys and produces that signature airy and chewy interior with a crisp crunchy exterior. I recommend purchasing an Old Stone Oven Rectangular Baking Stone or a Fibra-Ment-D® Baking Stone from I recently purchased a 15″ x 20″ (38 cm x 50 cm) Fibra-Ment-D® Baking Stone from which allows me to bake the entire batch of Bialys (12) or two 1.5-pound loaves of bread at the same time. They can customize their baking stones to fit the dimensions of your oven. If you do make a purchase from let them know I sent you.

What do I eat them with? | Eating a Bialy still warm from the oven is amazing, but there is nothing wrong with a healthy schmeer of butter or cream cheese with lox, red onions, capers, and tomatoes. Perfect for a breakfast sandwich or hefty slices of pastrami, corned beef, or rare roast beef. Toast or don’t toast. How you enjoy your Bialy is up to you.

As with all baking recipes I recommend you weigh the ingredients for the Bialys. Weighing ensures you have a consistent dough each and every time. As bakers, we are always striving to remove any variables from the process of baking.

The full instructional video for the Bialys is at the bottom of this blog post. Follow this link to “LIKE” and “SUBSCRIBE” to my YouTube Channel “Just One Bite, Please?”

Equipment: (Shop my Amazon Page for Ingredients & Equipment)

  • 4 Quart Mixing Bowl
  • Electric Scale, Measuring Cups and Spoons
  • Rubber Spatula
  • Plastic Bowl Scraper
  • Bench Knife
  • Plastic Wrap

Bialy Dough:                            Yields – 12

Sponge (Preferment)

  • Measured                         Grams             Ingredients
  • 1 cup                                      227 g.            Water (room temp.)
  • 1 tsp.                                           3 g.            Instant Yeast
  • 1 tsp.                                           8 g.            Barley Malt Syrup
  • 1-½ cups + 2 Tbsp.               227 g.            All-Purpose Flour (King Arthur)
  1. In a 4-quart mixing bowl combine the water, instant yeast, and barley malt syrup. stir together with a rubber spatula to dissolve the malt syrup.
  2. All-purpose flour, and instant yeast.
  3. Beat together using a rubber spatula until the batter is smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap and ferment for 1-½ hours at room temperature 70°F to 74°F (21℃ to 23℃) before continuing with the Final Dough.
  5. Make the Onion Poppyseed Filling while the Sponge ferments (The recipe is below)

Mixing the Final Dough:

  • Measured                           Grams             Ingredients
  • (All the preferment from above)
  • 7/8 cup                                    198 g.             Water (room temp.)
  • 3-¼ cups                                 397 g.             All-Purpose Flour (King Arthur)
  • 1-¾ tsp.                                     14 g.             Sea Salt (fine)
  1. To the preferment add the water, sea salt, and all-purpose flour and fold and stir together until the dough becomes a shaggy mass.
  2. Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto the work surface.
  3. Knead the dough using a plastic scraper to incorporate the dry ingredients. Pressing and folding until well combined.
  4. Continue to knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes or until the dough is strong and elastic. (The dough will be sticky throughout the kneading. Do not be tempted to add extra flour.)
  5. Round the well-kneaded dough using the plastic scraper and your hands.
  6. Lightly spray the bowl with oil and place the rounded dough into the bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap.
  7. Ferment the dough for 1 hour at room temperature 70°F to 74°F (21℃ to 23℃).
  8. After 1 hour, uncover the dough and lightly flour the work surface.
  9. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and stretch and fold the dough. Return the dough back to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
  10. Ferment the dough for 30 minutes.

Equipment: (Shop my Amazon Page for Ingredients & Equipment)

  • Electric Scale
  • Bench Knife
  • Plastic Wrap
  • Baking Stone
  • Large Wooden Cutting Board
  • Wooden Transfer Board
  • Parchment Paper
  • Bakers Peel

Preheat the oven to 550°F (288℃) 1 hour before baking the Bialys

Dividing, Preshaping, Final Shaping, Filling and Baking the Bialys

  1. After 30 minutes, uncover the dough and lightly flour the work surface.
  2. Turn the dough out onto the work surface and divide it into pieces weighing approximately 88 grams each.
  3. Clear the work surface of the flour and tightly round each piece of dough using the cup of your hand.
  4. Lightly flour the work surface and place the rounded dough pieces on the floured surface, cover with plastic wrap, and let dough pieces rest for 30 minutes.
  5. After 30 minutes, dust a large wooden cutting board. Uncover the rested dough pieces and lightly dust with flour.
  6. Gently form the dough pieces into a disk with a rim of dough and a thin membrane in the middle.
  7. Gently stretch the dough to enlarge the disk and to thin the center of the Bialy.
  8. Place the formed Bialys onto the floured cutting board and cover the Bialys with plastic wrap.
  9. Ferment the Bialys at room temperature 70°F to 74°F (21℃ to 23℃) for 30 minutes.
  10. After 30 minutes place the parchment paper onto the wooden transfer board.
  11. Uncover the Bialys and dust lightly with flour.
  12. Gently stretch the bialys once more to enlarge the size and place onto the parchment sheet transfer board.
  13. Place 1 Tablespoon of the Onion Poppyseed filling in each cavity of the Bialys.
  14. Spread the filling using the back of the Tablespoon.
  15. Cover the filled Bialys with plastic wrap.
  16. Ferment the Bialys at room temperature 70°F to 74°F (21℃ to 23℃) for 45 minutes.
  17. After 45 minutes, uncover the Bialys and place onto the 550°F (288℃) pre-heated baking stone and oven.
  18. Bake at 550°F (288℃) for 8 to 10 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.
  19. Remove the Bialys from the oven using a baker’s peel and place it on a cooling rack.
  20. Remove the parchment paper from the baking stone.
  21. Cool the Bialys for 15 minutes before slicing and eating.
  22. Enjoy

Storing the Bialys: Bialys are intended to be enjoyed the same day they are made but can be cooled to room temperature and placed into an airtight plastic freezer bag and kept frozen for 2 months. Thaw the Bialys in the plastic bag at room temperature before splitting and toasting before enjoying them.

Equipment: (Shop my Amazon Page for Ingredients & Equipment)

  • Measuring Cups and Spoons
  • 10-inch Saute Pan with Lid
  • Heat Resistant Rubber Spatula

Carmelized Onion Poppy Filling:

  • Measured                           Grams             Ingredients
  • ¼ cup                                         56 g.            Vegetable Oil (or any fat of your liking)
  • 3 cups                                      454 g.            Yellow Onion (¼-inch dice (0.65 cm)
  • 2 Tbsp.                                       18 g.            Poppy Seeds
  • 1 tsp.                                            8 g.             Sea Salt (fine)
  1. Place the saute pan over medium-low heat and preheat the pan for 8 minutes.
  2. Add the oil, onions, salt, and poppy seeds to the pan and stir with the rubber spatula to coat and mix the ingredients.
  3. Cover the pan with the lid and let cook for 10 minutes. (Adjust the heat if the filling is cooking too quickly)
  4. After 10 minutes remove the lid and stir the ingredients to caramelize the onion filling evenly.
  5. Spread the mixture out evenly and cover with the lid and let cook another 10 minutes.
  6. After 10 minutes remove the lid and stir and scrape the ingredients from the bottom of the saute pan to caramelize the onion filling evenly. (Adjust the heat if necessary.)
  7. Place the lid back on the saute pan and cook another 10 minutes.
  8. After 10 minutes check to see if the Onion Poppyseed Filling is evenly caramelized. If not, continue to cook with the lid on and check every few minutes and stir to ensure even browning.
  9. Once the filling is evenly caramelized remove the lid and spread the filling across the bottom of the pan. Turn off the heat and let the filling cool completely to room temperature before using it in the Bialys.
  10. The filling can be made 5 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

18 thoughts on “Bialys | Sponge Method

  1. gerryp123

    Another “bialy-bake” — great results, just like my memories of bialys in Brooklyn NY.

    Wondering if you have thought of any other center-fill besides onion? Wouldn’t be a classic “bialy”, but might be just as good.

    1. Alejandro Ramon

      Hello Gerry, Congratulations on your baking success making the bialys! It is wonderful to hear about your baking adventure and results. Other options I would think fit the Eastern European flavor and flare of bialys is roasted garlic & poppyseed, roasted potato & and spring onion, sour cream & bacon, roasted sweet red peppers & fresh cream cheese, and caramelized fennel & goat cheese are just a few ideas for you.

    1. Alejandro Ramon

      Hello Yan, The recipe formulation and your results will not be the same if you replace the All-Purpose Flour with Whole Wheat or Rye. Using either alternate flour will result in a dense bialy.

  2. Gerald Pasternack

    I baked your “Bialy” recipe today. Excellent recipe; well written; good results; thanks.
    Here are a couple of observations
    1. The dough seemed excessively hydrated to the point that dough handling and shaping was difficult. I even tried an extra “stretch & fold” and a longer proof time, but these steps did not help much. Perhaps a lower hydration is required??

    2. The amount of oil used in the onion mix is too much. The excess oil seeps into the dough when baking, and affects the bialy’s flavor.

    Happy to hear your response to my comments. Hoping to improve the bake for readers of this recipe.

    1. Alejandro Ramon

      Hello Gerald, I appreciate you for taking the time to share your experience and results making the recipe.

      The hydration of the recipe is important to create a light airy crumb structure with a crisp crust. The more you practice handling sticky doughs the better you’ll become. As bakers, we learn to quickly touch and shape dough but that only comes from repeating this over and over.

      Feel free to adjust the amount of oil in the filling to suit your taste.

      Thank you for taking the time to share your experience and results with our community. Have a great day!

  3. Gerry Pasternack

    Some recipes advise pricking the center of the formed bialy dough with a fork before final proof, to keep the center from rising. What do you think?

    1. Alejandro Ramon

      Hello Gerry, There is no need to prick the center of the Bialy. Hand shaping and stretching the center of the Bialy is the best way to achieve keeping the center of the dough thin and flat. Pricking the dough will allow the filling to leak out under the dough and burn while baking creating flavors that are not delicious.

      1. edmund kadyszewski

        Alejandro, you are a master! Great recipe that has produced reliable results for me in 3 attempts. I always had a problem with my centers getting so small as to be barely visible before following your instructions. The results I get are close to identical to the bialys I remember eating as a kid on NYC’s Lower East Side Those were from a little whole in the wall bialy bakery on 14th st. between Avenues A and B.
        – I did one bake following your recipe but pricking the centers with a fork before filling. I had no leakage issues but do agree with you, the step is not necessary if one follows your recipe.
        Thank you for posting such a detailed recipe. It has brought my family and friends much eating pleasure

        1. Alejandro Ramon

          Hi Edmund, It is my pleasure to meet you. Congratulations on your baking success. I so appreciate you taking the time to write and share your experience making the Bialys. It is so wonderful you are able to replicate a taste from your childhood. Thank you for your kind comment. Have a great day!

    1. Alejandro Ramon

      Hello Justin, It is my pleasure to meet you. Yes, at the “Continued Recipe” Step 4 you can bulk retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator. The next day you can use the dough directly from the refrigerator and pick up the recipe to divide and preshape the dough. I’d love to hear about your results. Thank you for writing and have a great day!

      1. justin wernick

        Thanks for your reply. My bialys have come out great. My son loves them. Better then store bought.
        Also I appreciate how meticulous you are in your instruction .

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