This wonderful recipe was sent to me by Bonni Lee Brown of Bradenton, Florida. Bonni grew up in New York City where her father owned a pharmacy in Brooklyn. Bonni says, "This is the closest recipe I've played with that approximates the fresh bialys my Dad would bring home on Sunday mornings. I was never a big bagel fan, but cream cheese and lox on a bialy I could go for anything. My children think these bialys are the best they've had outside of New York City."
Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper and sprinkle lightly with cornmeal.
Prepare Onion Topping; set aside.
In a large bowl, combine 1/2 cup water, yeast, and sugar; let stand 10 minutes or until foamy. Add remaining 1 1/2 cups water, salt, bread flour, and all-purpose flour. Knead by hand or with dough hook of mixer for 8 minutes until smooth (the dough will be soft). If you think the dough is too moist - add flour, a tablespoon at a time. If the dough is looking dry and gnarly - add warm water, a tablespoons at a time.
Form dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl, turning to oil all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 1 1/2 hours or until tripled in bulk. Punch dough down in bowl, turn it over, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise another 45 minutes or until doubled in bulk.
On a floured board or counter, punch dough down and roll into a cylinder shape. With a sharp knife, cut cylinder into 8 rounds. Lay dough rounds flat on a lightly floured board, cover with a towel, and let them rest 10 minutes. Gently pat each dough round into circles (a little higher in the middle than at the edge), each about 3 to 4 inches in diameter.
Place bialys on prepared baking sheets, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise an additional 30 minutes or until increased by about half in bulk (do not let them over-rise).
Make an indention in the center of each bialy with two fingers of each hand, pressing from the center outward, leaving a 1-inch rim. Place approximately 1 teaspoon of Onion Topping in the hole of each bialy. Dust lightly with flour, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Bake on upper and lower shelves of the oven for 6 to 7 minutes, then switch pans and reverse positions of pans (front to back), and bake another 5 to 6 minutes until bialys are lightly browned. These are soft rolls, and it is important not to bake them too long or they will be very dry. Remove from oven and let cool on wire racks.
After cooling, immediately place in a plastic bag (this will allow the exterior to soften slightly). These rolls are best eaten fresh, preferably lightly toasted and smeared with cream cheese. For longer storage, keep in the freezer.
Makes 8 bialys.
In a small bowl, combine vegetable or olive oil, poppy seeds, onions, and salt; set aside.