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A bialy is a shaped leavened bread roll that originated in Poland. It is usually shaped somewhat like a bagel, but with an indentation instead of a hole; it can also be shaped into a figure-eight, with two indentations. The indentations are generally filled with savory foods like onion or garlic flakes. A traditional bialy has one indentation that is covered in minced onion and oil. The flavor coated, flattened dent in the bread creates a crunchy and potently flavored area in the middle of a soft and doughy outer crust.
Often favored over the bagel for its more delicate texture, this dish is made by shaping, flavoring and baking a dough ball. The name for the dough ball that is formed into a bialy is tagel. To prepare the bialy, an indentation is pressed into a lightly flattened tagel. The indentation in the bialy is called the kuchen.
After the kuchen is pressed into the dough, the indentation is coated with the chosen vegetables, herbs and oil, then baked. Common types of oil include olive or canola. Though they are traditionally made with a thin coating of vegetables, the range of toppings put on this bread is as wide as those put on a bagel. Toppings can include things like cream cheese, lox and roast beef, but many people prefer a simple spread of butter on their morning bialy.
This food is considered to be a form of pletzel, a flattened, cracker-like crust covered in toppings. Unlike most pletzels, the bialy dough is leavened, making it fluffy and chewy rather than flat and crunchy. While a pletzel has a flat crust like a pizza, a bialy is more like a tiny pizza encircled with a baked bagel. This dish originated in Bialystok, Poland, but has become a highly popular dish in the state of New York. It is particularly popular in the Coney Island neighborhood of New York City.
Though it resembles a bagel in shape, this bread is usually lighter than the traditional New York bagel. Some prefer bialies to bagels because they are softer and less chewy. In New York, bialies are commonly sold by bakers who also make bagels.
Most of the time, it is difficult to find bialies in the United States outside of New York. Since bialies do not stay fresh long, they cannot be shipped or sold commercially. A bialy is best eaten within six hours of being made, after which it goes stale.