As I was paging through a Polish cookbook in our local library I came across a recipe for bialys and was completely caught off guard! Growing up I had bialys all the time but I had no idea they were a traditional Polish recipe until now. Right then and there I decided I had to add bialys to our traditional Polish paleo Christmas dinner. This is my rendition of a Paleo bialy which is one of my all time favorite, pre-paleo foods.
A Blast From My Past
When I was growing up we would eat bagels, cream cheese and lox with sliced onion and tomato along with a side of smoked fish regularly. And if we were going to visit my aunts and grandma in the city it was almost inevitable that my dad was going to stop at Kaufman’s Bakery in Chicago for the best of all of those ingredients.
We regularly celebrated a couple of the Jewish holiday’s with my dad’s side of the family but this was my holiday because I absolutely LOVED this meal!
What’s funny is just going to Kaufman’s website and looking at their photos, I can smell the everything bagel, the onion bialy and the smoked fish as if I was standing in the deli right now.
At the time I never thought about the history of the bagel and bialy…I just ate them and all their glorious flavors. But when I found bialys in that Polish cookbook, I wanted to learn more!
Traditional Polish Bread
It turns out that bagels and bialys originated in Poland and were consumed in Eastern European Jewish communities as early as the 17th century.
In “The Joys of Yiddish” the first known mention of the Polish word bajgiel derived from the Yiddish word bagel in the “Community Regulations” of the city of Kraków in 1610 stated that the item was given as a gift to women in childbirth. (Source)
This, to me, was just mind bending.
Bagel Versus Bialy
I’m pretty sure most everyone knows what a bagel is but you may not be as familiar with bialys.
Actually, if you’ve ever been to a family restaurant in a suburban town where anything and everything can be found being served on the menu, you may have seen a bialy here or there mixed in with the bread that is initially placed on the table.
There are a couple different varieties of bialy so first I’ll tell you about the more popular version.
A traditional bialy can look quite a lot like a bagel but it’s actually different. They’re both typically round however a bialy will have an indentation in the center where additional ingredients are added such as minced onion, poppy seeds and/or garlic.
This chewy yeast roll can be up to 6 inches in diameter and differs from a bagel because it is not boiled before being baked.
There is another variety of bialy that is smaller and more of a baguette style, but you won’t see these as often. Even though I was a total fan of the everything bagel (and you know I love my onion and garlic) I used to enjoy the smaller, baguette style bialy over the traditional version.
Unlike the onion and garlic filled bialy, these were typically found with poppy seeds on top. They were closer to 50% soft center and 50% crunchy exterior, and they were my favorite. I would slice the bialy down the center and slather it in butter and if there was only one in the bread basket I always got dibs! :)
A More Dense Bialy
Now I haven’t had a traditional bagel or bialy in forever, aside from this Paleo Bacon Bagel and taking my go at a Paleo Everything Bagel (shown above)…though that recipe has yet to make it to the blog. I just had to make a paleo bialy for our traditional Polish dinner.
I haven’t played with combining yeast and alternative flours which is why this is much more of a dense bialy, because it’s made from primarily almond flour. Especially when compared to the traditional version. It definitely has that similar consistency of chewy center and slightly crunch exterior however I left off the poppy seeds because adding them would mean my mom would not have been able to try them.
And actually this was one of the first recipes I made using Primal Kitchen’s new Avocado Oil. The flavor of their avocado oil is so mild, especially compared to other varieties I would normally buy, that I was totally hooked on first taste.
These paleo bialys went over really well with our non-paleo audience! You can serve them as you would a typical roll and you don’t even have to mention that they’re paleo.