Growing up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Kossar's Bakery was a frequent stop for me and my family. A commercial bakery that was open to the public, it had large windows that were steamed up from the workhorse ovens inside. The place was covered in flour and the hard working bakers were intimidating to a little girl asking for a single bialy. But the sight of the piles of fresh bulkies – medium and large – in the windows combined with the unique and never forgotten aroma made it impossible to pass without stopping in. Kossars specialized– they only baked bialys (onion or garlic), bulkies (torpedo shaped rolls with big holes and scorched onion topping) and discs. I never ate the discs.
I went with my father on Sundays mornings when we would cruise the neighborhood picking up 'appetizing' – smoked and cured fish. I went with my friends before a movie at the Essex St theater which was on the same block. I went during lunch break when I attended Seward Park High School across the street. I went whenever I needed a warm, onion scented piece of comfort. In later years, after I moved upstate, whenever a friend would travel down to the city and ask me if I wanted anything the answer was always Kossars bialys.
Now that I live in Arizona, bialys are not easy to come by. I tried mail ordering them from the new owners of Kossars, who have polished it up quite a bit, but that did not do the trick. Being that I need to have either bagels or bialys with lox on Christmas morning, I decided to make my own this year. I knew that whatever I turned out would not have the magic of Kossars, but I tried anyway.
I used the recipe from King Arthur Flour and I was very surprised at the results. They were actually good! Next time I make then I will form them a little smaller and flatter before baking so they are not quite so puffy. But this lower east side transplant was happy on Christmas morning.
Check out these old pictures of Kossars and follow the link for the recipe. You can also see my bialys!
The windows were always steamed up.
These guys could really bang them out!
Check out the prices....
Here is the link to the classic bialy recipe from King Arthur.