What is the origin of the word bublik?
The word bublik comes from the root boubl (бубьлъ) which means “swelling”, “bubble”, or “tumor”. It is of Ukrainian origin and comes from the ancient East Slavic and Proto-Slavic (bǫbьlь) languages, as do Polish bąbel, Czech boubel and Slovak bublina.
How to make bubliki
Bubliki are made from a leavened dough of wheat flour with yeast, milk, sugar, butter or margarine, and egg white. The raw dough rings are first boiled, brushed with egg yolk, sprinkled with poppy seeds or sesame seeds, then baked.
Poppy or sesame seeds are a popular addition to the dough, as are many other toppings, but the most popular variety of bublik by far includes a generous amount of poppy or sesame seeds.
What is the origin of bublik?
To go back to the origins of the bublik, one has to go back to the bagel, cited in 1610 in a source from the Jewish community in Krakow, Poland.
Bagels have spread across Poland and all surrounding areas with a large Jewish population, reaching Ukraine, where it has taken its present form.
The word bublik was adopted in the Russian and Ukrainian languages and was first documented in the 18th century.
Jacob Bruce, born in 1669 in Moscow and died in 1735 in Moscow, was a Russian statesman of Scottish origin, born from the Bruce of Scotland. He was one of the most erudite figures of his time in Russia. In 1717, in Saint Petersburg, he published among many other works in various fields, a Russian-Dutch and Dutch-Russian dictionary and it is in this lexicon that the word bublik appears and more precisely “wheat bublik”, or бублик пшеничнои in Russian.
The history of the Jewish bagel, the older brother of the bublik, dates back to the early 17th century.
The origins of the bagel are uncertain, some historical lovers of this bread claim that it was therefore born around the 17th century from the recipes of the Jewish tradition.
Just from a word בײגל (bagel), its Yiddish name is beygl which also derives from the German word beugel, which means “ring”. Its typical shape effectively resembles that of a ring, a soft cloud of bread with a hole in the center.
Anyway, it is the city of Odessa in Ukraine which is most commonly considered as the place where the bublik was born and from where it would have spread to Moscow, Kiev and then to others cities of Russia.
Another version on the origin of the bagel tells that this bread would have been born in 1683 from the creation of a Polish baker to honor the victory of the king of Poland against the Ottoman Empire, king John III Sobieski of Poland-Lithuania who pushed back the Turkish invasion at the gates of Vienna.
The Jewish baker decided to shape his dough into a circle with a hole in the center to give the impression of a stirrup (Bügel in German and Austrian).
Linguist Leo Calvin Rosten (1908 – 1997) a writer, teacher and researcher, best known as a humorist, journalist and lexicographer, who wrote The Joys of Yiddish, recorded the first mention of the Polish word bajgiel (itself derived from the Yiddish bagel) in sources from the Krakow Jewish community in 1610. In his work, he indicated that this bread was offered to women who gave birth. According to this version, the bagel was therefore invented in Poland and not in Austria.
What is certain is that bagels traveled from Europe to the United States in the 20th century, brought by Polish Jewish immigrants and that the recipe for this soft bread conquered New York, becoming the emblem of brunch and American breakfast.
The bagel became so popular that in the early 19th century, the recipe was adopted by Eastern European cuisines and these Jewish bagels were turned into bubliki in Russia.
The different ring-shaped breads
Ring-shaped breads are very common in Eastern European cuisines. The bublik, similar to this Ashkenazi Jewish bagel, is larger and has a larger central hole.
The Russian baranka (баранка) is a ring of dough, a little smaller than a bublik, but also thinner and drier. The baranka was officially documented for the first time in a decree of 1725 by Peter the Great. It is said to be from Belarus.
The sushka (сушка) is an even smaller, dry bublik variant, about 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter, and has the consistency of a hard cracker. According to an old Russian definition, a sushka is a thin baranka that has been dried. Its diameter varies from 2 to 5 inches (4 to 12 cm) and its thickness does not exceed ½ inch (1,5 cm).
In Russian and Ukrainian, the word bublik is often used as a generic designation for any ring-shaped product of this type. In Russian, the word baranka is also used as a generic term such as “baranka-type products”.
The term obarinok (обарінок) or obvarinok (обварінок) is sometimes used as a synonym for bublik or baranka in Ukraine.
The bublik or baranka are known as abaranak (абаранак) in Belarusian and riestainis or baronkos in Lithuanian.
Polish obwarzanek is prepared with the same technique as bublik or baranka, but its most common form, obwarzanek krakowski, has an intertwined ring shape.
Sushki, bubliki and baranki, are made with wheat flour. They can be plain or have different flavors ranging from vanilla to mustard. They can be circular or oblong. The oblongs are called c, meaning shuttle.
Traditionally, bubliki, like all these different ring-shaped breads, are strung on a string to be sold on the street or in regional markets.
Moreover, the bubliki, affectionately known as boublitchki in Russian and Ukrainian, are at the origin of the words of the famous boublitchki song written in 1926 by Jacob Yadov, inspired by the cries, at every street corner of Odessa, of the street vendors offering their bubliki: “Купите бублички” (Koupitié boublitchki), meaning “buy boublitchki”.
How to serve bublik
Bublik is often eaten plain as a snack or dipped in tea just like baranka and sushka.
Another common way to taste bublik is to divide it into several pieces and eat it with jam (varenye), smetana cream or other similar toppings.
Unlike the modern bagel, bublik in Eastern and Central Europe is rarely considered a breakfast food. It has a denser texture and is easier to chew.
- 1¾ cups milk
- ½ cup butter
- 5 tablespoons caster sugar
- 2 eggs
- 3½ cups flour
- 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 tablespoons milk (for brushing)
- Poppy seeds
- Sesame seeds
- In a saucepan, boil the milk, remove it from the heat, add the butter and half the sugar. When it reaches a temperature of around 97 F (36°C), add the yeast and let it rise for 20 minutes.
- Separate the eggs.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the flour and the other half of the sugar and mix.
- Dig a well in the center and pour in the lightly beaten egg whites (keep the yolks separate).
- Start kneading using the dough hook, gradually adding the yeast mixture.
- Add the salt and knead until a soft and homogeneous dough is formed.
- Cover the dough with a cloth and let it rise for an hour in a warm place, away from drafts. It must at least double in volume.
- Place the dough on a floured work surface and punch it down to degas for 1 minute.
- Divide it into 30 equal pieces.
- With each dough piece, form a circle about ½ inch (2 cm) thick and 5 inches (10 cm) in diameter.
- Cover them with a cloth and let them stand for 20 minutes in a warm place, away from drafts.
- Preheat the oven to 390 F (200°C).
- Boil a large amount of water in a large saucepan.
- After drilling and stretching a hole in the center of each disc of dough, dip them 2 by 2 for 15 to 20 seconds in boiling water, turning them once, gently.
- Remove them gradually from the boiling water using a skimmer and place them, spaced, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Beat the egg yolks and the 2 tablespoons of milk and, using brush each bublik with the mixture.
- Generously sprinkle each bublik with sesame or poppy seeds.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.