This is the first Father’s Day since my father, Harry Graf, passed away. It feels strange despite the fact that in recent years he was not well enough to really enjoy the celebrations. He never knew his father and I often wondered what it must have been like for him to grow up without one. I never asked. What was most remarkable about my father was his resilience. He survived his service in the Polish army and he survived the Holocaust. After the war, he and my mother moved to France where they faced a new language and culture. Five years later, with my sister in tow, they moved to the United States and settled in New York where I was born. My father had to learn yet another language and adapt to a new country once again. Determined to have a better life, he studied English and eventually become a stock broker. Anyone who ever met my father knows that he would shake your hand and then would tell you to “squeeze.” That word had so much meaning for him. It stood for strength, determination and a belief that one must live life to the fullest, to squeeze out every drop that you can. On July 2, 2010 we will have his unveiling and ”squeeze” will be inscribed on his gravestone. May he rest in peace.
One thing that my husband and father had in common was that they both had Sunday rituals that revolved around the family. When I was growing up my father always made steak and fries on Sundays. It was his day to cook and it was a treat. Norm, my husband, has always made Sunday breakfast for our family. When the children were young, he prepared eggs, hash browns, french toast or pancakes. Now that our children are grown and out of the house, Norm has developed a new Sunday ritual. He bakes. He has taken a class with famed artisanal baker Peter Reinhardt and is very serious about his new hobby. We no longer have big hearty breakfasts but we have bialys, bagels, challahs, artisanal breads, and hazelnut flutes. Both of these men nurtured their families by cooking for them. What a wonderful legacy.
So Happy Father’s Day to all of you and especially to the men who take the time to cook for their family and friends.
Adapted from Peter Reinhardt’s Lean Dough Recipe.
2 1/4 cups warm water
2 tsp instant yeast
3 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
5 1/3 cups bread flour
Flour for dusting
Oil for greasing bowl
1 whole onion, minced
2 teaspoons poppy seeds (optional)
1 Tbsp bread crumbs
1 pinch salt
Place minced onion in a bowl and leave on counter for about 30 minutes. Combine with remaining topping ingredients and set aside.
Combine flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add warm water and mix thoroughly until dough is formed and comes away from the sides of the bowl. Allow to rest for five minutes. Place dough on a floured surface and knead gently for about four minutes. Dough will be sticky.
Shape the dough into a ball and place in a large oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to four days.
Take dough out of refrigerator and divide into 16 equal portions, and roll into balls. Gently flatten each ball into a 3 1/2 inch circle, spacing evenly on a cookie sheet with oiled parchment paper. Cover with tea towels and allow to rise until puffy, about one hour.
With wet hands, make an indentation in the center of each bialy, leaving a 1″ edge. Then flatten center of bialy with a moistened shot glass by pressing in a circular motion. Place about 1 tsp of the topping into the hole and press down slightly.
Cover with cloths and allow to rise for another half hour. Preheat oven to 450°F and bake bialys for 15 to 20 minutes, rotating cookie sheets after 10 minutes. Bialys are golden on top and crusty on bottom when finished.
Makes 16 Bialys.
Norm’s inspiration to try Bialys came from Mimi Sheraton’s book “The Bialy Eaters: The Story of a Bread and a Lost World”