Smoky onion and poppy seed bialys

  • makes 8
  • A little effort

Unlike their bagel cousins these chewy Polish breads are not boiled before baking and have a little pocket of caramelised onions and poppy seeds. The poolish starter gives a more developed flavour to the finished bread.



  • onion 1 large, peeled and thickly sliced
  • active dried yeast 1 tsp
  • strong white bread flour 300g 
  • plain flour 175g, plus more for dusting
  • sea salt 1½ tsp 
  • plain flour 50g
  • active dried yeast ½ tsp
  • olive oil 1 tbsp
  • smoked sea salt ¼ tsp
  • sweet smoked paprika ¼ tsp
  • poppy seeds 1 tsp, plus a pinch extra for sprinkling
  • sesame seeds a few pinches


  • Step 1

    The day before you want to make the bialys, make the poolish starter. Mix the flour and yeast with 50ml warm water in a bowl, then cover with clingfilm and leave overnight.

  • Step 2

    The next day, start the dough by putting the onion in a small pan with 150ml water. Heat until the water just begins to bubble, then immediately take off the heat – you don’t want to lose any of the quantity through evaporation or the dough might become dry. Leave to cool to room temperature. Pour off the water into a measuring jug and check it’s 150ml – if not, top up. Keep the onions aside for later.

  • Step 3

    Meanwhile, mix the yeast with 100ml warm water and leave it to stand for 10-15 minutes until foamy. Tip the flours into a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, and when the yeast mixture is foaming, add the poolish starter and onion water. Turn the mixer to a low speed to combine the dough, then once it’s all together, turn up the speed to a medium setting and knead the dough for  5 minutes.

  • Step 4

    Add the salt and knead for 1 minute more. (Alternatively make by hand – mix first with a wooden spoon, followed
    by your hands and then knead for 10-15 minutes on a lightly floured worksurface). Leave the dough in a bowl, covered by oiled clingfilm, in a warmish area until doubled in size for up to 2 hours.

  • Step 5

    Knock back the dough by punching it down a couple of times, then cut into 8 equal pieces. Keep the rest of the dough covered while you work, one piece at a time, on a lightly floured worksurface. Shape the dough into flat rounds and poke the middles to make a dip for the filling – then space on a baking sheet, lightly dusted with flour. You’re going to need to cover the bialys with a deep roasting tin while baking – so check now that one fits, and space them across two trays if necessary.

  • Step 6

    When all are shaped, cover loosely with clingfilm or a slightly damp tea towel. Leave to rise again for 20 minutes until puffy and round.

  • Step 7

    While the dough is rising, make the filling. Finely chop the blanched onion, then put in a small pan with the oil. Fry gently until softened and really golden, then stir in the smoked sea salt followed by the paprika. Cook for a few minutes more, then take off the heat and stir in the poppy seeds and some ground black pepper. Cool.

  • Step 8

    Heat the oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7. When the bialys are ready to bake, spoon about 1 tbsp of onions into the centre of each and sprinkle over a few more poppy seeds and some sesame seeds. Cover the bialys with an upturned deep tin, and put an ovenproof weight on top – a heavy baking dish, or even a brick.

  • Step 9

    Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the tin covering them and bake for 5-8 minutes more until the bialys are very lightly golden. Eat immediately or within a day as bialys don’t keep long. If you do have leftovers, split and toast, or pop them in the freezer.

Nutritional Information

  • Kcals 272
  • Carbs 52.3g
  • Protein 8.4g
  • Fat 2.6g
  • Sugars 2.1g
  • Salt 1.1g
  • Saturates 0.5g
  • Fibre 3.1g