Step On It

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No one is sure about the birth of Bialys (pronounced be-Al-ee), a little Polish roll with an onion and poppy seed filled pocket. In her book, The Bialy Eaters, Mimi Sheraton speculates that a pretzel like bread fell on the floor and was unwittingly stepped on. Not wanting to waste precious dough, the frugal baker filled it with onions and poppy seeds and baked it. Whatever the story may be, you’ll be running to try these savory, filled breads. Just try not to step on any. The recipe follows:

Makes 12 Bialys

Dough

4 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons Kosher salt

1 tablespoon sorghum or sugar

2 teaspoons rapid-rise yeast

2 cups warm water

Filling

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 large onions, sliced thin

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

Instructions

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, salt, and yeast. Stir in sorghum or sugar and water. Mix until no dry bits of flour remain. Dough will be quite loose and wet. Using a wet hand, fold dough by pulling dough up and stretching it over itself. Turn bowl a quarter-turn and repeat. Continue to turn and fold dough for 3 minutes. Cover dough with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled in size, about an hour, maybe a little longer if your kitchen is cold.

Meanwhile, pour oil into a large skillet and heat over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool and stir in poppy seeds.

Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly flour parchment. Transfer dough to a floured surface and gently press into a rectangle. Divide dough in half and then in half again. Portion each quarter into 3 pieces. Form dough into rough ball by folding edges of dough into the center. Arrange 6 balls, seam side down, on each baking sheet. Lightly flour tops of dough and loosely cover with plastic wrap. Proof for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions. Heat oven to 475 degrees. On lightly floured surface, gently press each dough ball into a 5-inch circle (flour your hands if dough is sticky). Return to baking sheets, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and proof until dough is puffy, 15 to 20 minutes.

Grease and flour a 1-cup measuring cup. Firmly press cup into center of each dough round until cup touches sheet to make pocket for filling. Cup should not tear through bottom of dough. Grease and flour cup as needed if dough is sticking.

Divide onion-poppy seed mixture evenly between rounds (start with a heaping tablespoon per Bialys and then fill in the rest). Bake until spotty golden brown, about 20 minutes, rotating and turning baking sheets halfway through baking. Transfer Bialys to cooling rack for 10 minutes before serving.

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