While we described how we shaped our bialys in yesterday's recipe, it's really one of those things that makes more sense if you can see it. Here are some pictures to show you the method we used, plus a few extra bialy-making pointers.
Shaping the bialys is the very last thing to happen before you put them in the oven to bake. The rolls should be very puffy, hold an indent in the the top, and feel spongy when you pick them up. If you try to shape the bialys before they have fully risen, they will spring up in the oven and you'll lose the shallow bowl-like shape. (We probably should have let our rolls proof a little more before shaping them. As you can see in the first picture, they rose quite a bit in the oven!)
To shape the bialys, pick them up one at a time and hold the piece of dough like a steering wheel (as in the second photo above). Pinch the middle of the roll with between your thumb and fingers, pressing firmly but not actually poking a hole through. The aim is to form a thin cracker-like skin in the middle of the bialy. Gradually rotate the dough in your hands, continuing to press outward until the depression is about three inches wide with a 1-inch ring around the outside.
Lay the bialy on the baking sheet and continue with shaping the other bialys. You might notice the shaped bialys shrinking or springing back or shrinking. Just let them rest for a few minutes, and then press and stretch them on the baking sheet until they are the right size again (as in the third photo above).
Pricking the bottom of the bialys with a fork will help them stay flat during baking. Other recipes we've read mention cutting an "X" the bottoms with a knife or pair of kitchen shears to prevent it from rising. The recipe for bialys on the King Arthur Flour website also recommend setting another baking sheet over the top of the bialys during the first few minutes of baking to keep them flat (see link below).
Have you ever made bialys at home? Any more tips to share?
• Bialy Recipe from King Arthur Flour
Related: Food Science: Why Bagels Are Boiled
(Images: Emma Christensen and Scott Heines)