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Tag Archives: Rose Levy Beranbaum

Classic Bialys

1 Oct

The bialy is an elusive creature. Most bialys I have encountered have been less than stellar, with a large number of them falling into the category of actually being just flat out terrible. It’s a lot like the search for a good bagel (at least, the search for a good bagel here in the Pacific Northwest). Mass produced grocery store bagels are just awful, let’s admit it. And grocery store bialys…well, so there are really no such things as grocery store bialys, since a bialy is not nearly as well known a commodity as a bagel, which actually has the benefit of saving the bialy from a fate as sad as that known by most bagels.

What I am saying is, a good bialy is hard to find. When I worked at a coffeehouse many years ago (as the vast majority of people who moved to Portland in the ‘90s were contractually obligated to do), I was always tasked with explaining to customers what those flat things covered with cheese that sat next to the bagels were. It’s a bialy, I would say, and then I would launch into an explanation of what a bialy was, only to end up having to close the speech by then warning whomever I was talking to that the bialys sold by that particular coffeehouse were not, sad to say, very good. They were, in fact, terrible. (Tangent: With the exception of some truly incredible cinnamon rolls and the twice-weekly batch of fresh shortbread cookies that I always made on my shift, the majority of the baked goods offered at this coffeehouse were just horrible. In particular, I will never forget the shamefully bad scones we sold there: chewy, tough little numbers flavored with almond extract and seemingly made by someone who had never, ever encountered an actual scone before in his or her entire life—seriously, these things were like tiny little loaves of flat, stale bread, and I never understood how the bakery we got them from was even allowed to call them scones.)

A good bialy is crisp on the outside, slightly chewy in the middle, and light throughout. The dough should have a deep flavor, like good artisan bread. The filling should be a nice dollop of sweetly sautéed onions and a touch of poppy seeds. That’s it. Those simple elements combined make one of the most pleasing savory baked goods known to all of humankind, which is why, I believe, the bialy tends to be grossly mishandled most of the time. Each element of a bialy needs to be top notch, giving every bite a component of flavor that stands strong with its companions to complete the overall taste experience.

These bialys, from Rose Levy Beranbaum, do just that. They are perfect in every way, from their chewiness to their strong flavor profiles. If I could go back in time and swap these into the pastry case at my old job, I totally would, just so people could have a proper bialy experience instead of the weird, bland, cheesy one that was sadly offered. Having not mastered the art of time travel, however, I shall simply keep making these lovely little bialys at home, sharing with you and everyone else I know the delights of a classic, delicious bialy.

Last Year: Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Tart

Classic Bialys Recipe

Adapted slightly from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Bread Bible

For the bialy dough:

2 cups bread flour

½ teaspoon instant, rapid-rise yeast

1 teaspoon salt

¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons (7 fluid ounces) warm water

For the bialy filling:

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ cup finely chopped onion

pinch of sea salt

1 teaspoon poppy seeds

generous pinch of black pepper

To make the bialy dough, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour and yeast, then whisk in the salt (keeping the salt from coming into direct contact with the yeast as much as possible). If using a stand mixer, fit the machine with the dough hook and turn the speed to low. Kneading on low speed, gradually pour in the water, mixing for about 1 minute until the flour mixture is moistened. Increase the mixer speed to medium, and knead for 7 minutes. If kneading by hand, once the flour mixture is moistened, turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes. The fully kneaded dough should be soft and elastic, and should not stick to the bowl or surface when being kneaded.

Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat with oil, then cover with a lid or plastic wrap and allow to rise for about 2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size.

Firmly press on the dough to deflate it, then transfer it to a floured counter. Cut the dough into 6 equal pieces. Working with one piece of dough at a time, keeping the remaining dough covered, round each piece of dough by pulling the dough together to form a pouch, stretching it make a smooth skin, then pinching it together where the edges meet. Set each round on a floured baking sheet or tray, pinched side down. Lightly flour the tops and cover with plastic wrap.

Allow bialys to rise for around 2 hours, or until almost doubled in size. When pressed lightly in the center, the bialy should keep the impression.

While the bialys are rising for the second time, make the filling. In a small sauté pan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, add the pinch of salt, then sauté over medium heat, stirring often, for about 5 minutes, or until translucent. Remove from heat, add the poppy seeds and pepper, then stir to combine. Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Before preheating, place a heavy sheet pan on the floor of the oven. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest level, and place a heavy baking sheet or baking stone on the rack to preheat along with the oven. Line a rimless or overturned baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper, and set aside.

Working with one piece of dough at a time, hold a piece of dough with both hands. With your thumbs in the middle and almost touching, pinch the center of the dough tightly between your thumbs and first two fingers and stretch the dough to around 5 inches in diameter, forming a crater in the center. Place the shaped dough on the parchment-lined baking sheet. In the center crater of the bialy, spoon a heaping teaspoon of the onion-poppy seed filling. I made three bialys at a time, since I only wanted to bake three bialys at a time.

To bake the bialys, slide the parchment with the bialys directly onto the hot baking stone or heavy baking sheet. Toss a handful of ice cubes onto the hot baking sheet placed on the oven floor (or, if you are way of misplacing the ice cubes, carefully tip the ice cubes from a small plate onto the hot baking sheet placed on the oven floor), then immediately shut the oven door. Bake the bialys for 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden and mottled with brown spots.

Remove the bialys from the oven on their parchment, then discard parchment paper and place bialys on a wire rack to cool until just warm.

Bialys will keep for a day at room temperature, but they are best (read: super phenomenally good) eaten the day they are made.

Makes 6 bialys.

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Apple Cinnamon Crumb Bread

26 Jan

It has been raining.  The sun has disappeared, the clouds are looming in a rather ominous fashion, everything is absolutely soaked, and there is water where there is not supposed to be water.  Meaning, inside our house.  Clearly, it is time for some cake.

What’s that?  The name of this recipe does not indicate that one would be making cake, but rather bread?  Yes.  Yes, this is true.  But, in the interest of maintaining complete honesty, I could not in good conscience continue to call this baked treat a bread when, butter and sugar and cake flour, oh my, it is clearly nothing so innocent.

What it is is utterly delicious.  I’ve been eyeing this bread (cake) for years, stopping at its lovely and drool-inducing photo every time I flipped through Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Bread Bible, but it was only during a recent bout of rather soggy weather that I was finally persuaded (by myself, and my woe over not being able to see the sun) to make it.  Predictably, I have been cursing myself ever since for the long wait I endured before tasting this bread (cake), as it turns out that this bread (cake) just so happens to be perfect in every way.

Buttery crumb topping?  Perfectly spiced slices of apple waiting beneath the crumb topping?  An unbelievably moist and perfectly textured bread (cake) propping everything up?  Do you like any of these things?  If so, let me know, because I might be compelled to bring you some of this the next time I make it.  When I first made this bread (cake), I was immediately struck with the realization that, alone at home, I could not be trusted to be in the same house with it.  After wrapping it up and practically forcing my son’s kindergarten teacher to take it from me (and subsequently spoiling the children’s heretofore unfettered streak of receiving purely healthy afternoon snacks while at school), I decided that, if I were to make this bread (cake) again, it would have to be while surrounded by a ravenous horde who would be certain to devour the treat before I was able to stuff it down my own gullet.

This is a rather inelegant way of saying my friends, this is a baked good of legend.  I highly recommend you make it, but I also advise you to do so at your own risk of overindulging to the point of shame.  If you are not prone to such behavior, I can only say good for you, and how in the world did we ever come to be friends?

Apple Cinnamon Crumb Bread

From The Bread Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum

Crumb Topping and Filling

¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 ½ tablespoons (or, 1 tablespoon plus 1 ½ teaspoons) granulated sugar

¾ cup walnuts (I used walnuts and pecans, and it was fantastic)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons unsifted cake flour

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Apple Filling and Batter

1 small tart apple (I used a Granny Smith), sliced into 1 heaping cup of slices

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 large egg

2 large egg yolks

½ cup sour cream

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 ½ cups sifted cake flour

¾ cup granulated sugar

¼ teaspoon baking powder

3/8 teaspoon (or a scant ½ teaspoon) baking soda

scant ¼ teaspoon salt

9 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Adjust an oven rack to the middle level.  Grease and flour a 9”x5” loaf pan.

In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse the sugars, nuts, and cinnamon until the nuts are coarsely chopped.  Reserve ½ cup for the filling.  Add the flour, butter, and vanilla to the remainder and pulse briefly just until the butter is absorbed. Alternately, if you do not have a food processor, you can chop the nuts by hand and then mix everything together using a fork.  Empty the mixture into a bowl and refrigerate for about 20 minutes to firm up, then break up the mixture with your fingers to form a coarse, crumbly mixture for the topping.

Just before mixing the batter, peel and core the apple, then cut it into ¼-inch thick slices.  Toss slices with lemon juice.

In a medium bowl, combine the egg, egg yolks, about ¼ of the sour cream, and the vanilla.

In a mixer bowl, or other large bowl, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Mix for 30 seconds on low speed using a hand-held mixer or the paddle attachment of a stand mixer.  Add the butter and remaining sour cream and mix until the dry ingredients are moistened.  Increase speed to medium if using a stand mixer or high speed if using a hand-held mixture, and beat for 1 minute to aerate and develop the structure.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Gradually add the egg mixture in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Scrape about 2/3 of the batter into the prepared pan.  Smooth the surface, then sprinkle with the reserved ½ cup crumb mixture.  Top with the apple slices, arranging them in rows of overlapping slices.  Drop the reserved batter in large blobs over the fruit and spread it evenly using a small offset spatula or the back of a spoon.  The batter should be ¾-inch from the top of the pan.  Sprinkle with the crumb topping.

Bake the bread for 50-60 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes back clean and the bread springs back when pressed lightly in the center.  If tested with an instant-read thermometer, the center of the bread should read 200 degrees Fahrenheit.  Tent the bread loosely with buttered foil after 45 minutes to prevent overbrowning.

Remove the bread from the oven and set it on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.  Place a folded kitchen towel on top of a flat plate and cover it with plastic wrap.  Oil the plastic wrap.  Loosen the sides of the bread with a small metal or plastic spatula, and invert it onto the plate.  Grease a wire rack and reinvert the bread onto it, so that it is right side up.  Cool completely, about 1 ½ hours, before wrapping airtight

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