Pletzel (A mission to bring this fabulous bread back from near extinction!)

pletzel

This is a flat bread made with an enriched dough, topped with sautéed onions, sprinkled with poppy seeds and drizzled in olive oil. Okay, so many many years ago when the pletztel was in the height of fashion, it was done with dough slightly less decadent than brioche and the oil used was less exotic than extra virgin olive oil, but it was still superb. It was a bread brought to the states from Eastern Europe and was easily found in Jewish bakeries all across the country, until about 25+ years ago. I blame the rise and global domination of the bagel for the demise of this fabulous bread, along with its cousin the bialy. Once again people are craving great bread, demanding it in fact and they need to know about the pletzel. I, along with Jeff are on a mission to introduce (re-introduce to some) this rich flavorful savory treat and we hope you will help us spread the word! Here is how:

Some of you who have skimmed through the book may have seen this recipe.  It is titled John Barrymore Onion Pletzel on page 185. Why, you might ask, is it named after the actor John Barrymore? Well, no one quite knows the answer to that. It is what Jeff’s grandfather used to call this style of pletzel. Unfortunately no one ever thought to ask him why, so it remains a complete mystery. Jeff wanted to keep the name for the book. He said it was nostalgia, but I suspect the real reason is he hopes Drew Barrymore might catch wind of the recipe and contact Jeff to find out why he named a bread after her grandfather. As of the time this post was written Drew Barrymore still had not contacted him, but Jeff remains hopeful! ;)

John Barrymore Onion Pletzel

1 pound Challah (see page 180 in the book) or Brioche dough

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, vegetable oil or melted butter (plus more for drizzling over the top)

1 small onion, thinly sliced

2 teaspoons poppy seeds

1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350° and prepare a baking sheet with a silicon mat or parchment.

pletzel

Take your 1 pound ball of dough and sprinkle it with flour, along with the work surface.

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Roll it out to a 1/2 inch thick rectangle. (There are many variations of the pletzel and some are much thinner than this. If you remember the pletzel of your youth being more the thickness of lavash rather than focaccia, then you will want to roll it out 1/4 inch thick.) Place the dough on the prepared baking sheet and let it rise for about 20 minutes while you prepare the onions.

pletzel

Sauté the onions in the oil over medium heat until

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very lightly browned (a cast-iron pan works beautifully). If they are overbrown they will burn in the oven.

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Cover the dough evenly with the onions. Sprinkle the poppy seeds over the onions, then the salt and drizzle with more oil or butter.

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Bake the pletzel for 15-25 minutes, depending on the thickness you have chosen. It is great alone or with a nice hot bowl of soup. Enjoy!

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69 thoughts on “Pletzel (A mission to bring this fabulous bread back from near extinction!)

  1. Wow, this is the most forgiving breadmaking I’ve ever seen! No need to lightly scoop into the cup, any kind of granulated yeast is ok, it’s ok to leave it in the fridge for days, WOW!

  2. The second loaf of deli rye was sampled today and it is great! I think if one has time, all these doughs ought to spend at least 24 hours in the fridge before baking..the difference in flavor is remarkable.

    I have always wanted to make pletzel, something my grandma made for us on Sunday mornings. Before she dies I asked her for the recipe and for some reason (she couldn’t read English) she said it was on the bag of Gold Medal flour. (I think she was teasing because she never believed you could learn to cook from reading recipes.)
    Anyway, I’m going to try this this week..I knew I saw it but couldn’t find it in the index under pletzel or onion bread. Why didn’t I think of John Barrymore???

    Then I remembered I’d also seen it here so now I’m saved.

  3. Clarice: In many cases, I’m with you. But we know that if we’d said there’s a 24 hour lead time, we’d have lost lots of potential new bakers.

    Some people remember a pletzel with a lower enrichment, so you can experiment with less egg if you’re finding it to “eggy.”

  4. Thanks again, Jeff. I am certain my grandma’s dough was not as rich as the brioche dough, but I think it’ll be delicious. I made a big batch of the dough tonight..and we may well be snowed in tomorrow –the pletzel will be suberb comfort food if we are.

  5. Hi — enjoying the bread baking. I have a special interest in the flatbreads. About the Lavash recipe: the text in the recipe says in bold text that it makes several Lavash. I don’t know what a Lavash would notmally look like. The recipe goes on to say to roll the 1/2 pound flat round until its thiclness is 1/16 to 1/8. When and how does it get divided into several Lavashes?

    While I’m asking about the Lavash recipe, I use the aluminum pan inverted over the dough instead of the water in the broiler method. For a boule (and others, like dinner rolls) I take the pan off after 10 minutes and let the bread continue for another 25 minutes without it. Lavash takes 5 minutes total. Should the pan be on for the full 5 minutes?
    Thanks for the great bread!
    Steve

    • Steve: I break off a number of smaller balls from the 1/2 lump, smaller ones are easier to roll to the desired thickness. Hmm, not sure how to approach the steam question. Try about half on/half off with the aluminum cover. In most ovens and for most lavash-rollers it takes longer than 5 minutes because it’s challenging to get it as thin as we say. Jeff

  6. Great recipe! Made this for the 2nd time tonight. This time I used the brioche/challah recipe, whereas the first time I used the basic “boule” recipe. I have to say – I really, REALLY prefer the pletzel when made with the simpler, less rich dough. With the challah dough, it puffed way up, and came out far too cakey. I would definitely make it again, but highly recommend sticking with the simple Boule dough! The onions and drizzled oil are rich enough. Oh – also, I would go back to canola; olive oil would be nice if it was Italian, but as a Jewish bread, canola tastes more authentic, somehow. :-)

  7. Instead of making the Pletzel as in the recipe (as a flatbread), I rolled up the dough and made onion rolls.
    Fantastic.
    Soft onions and soft bread on the inside and carmelized onions and crisp crust on the outside.
    I posted pictures on my blog.

  8. A tip for preparing the onion, adapted from America’s Test Kitchen’s recipe for quiche Lorraine: after adding the onion to the saute pan, turn down to medium-low and COVER IT for 20 minutes. The onions will steam and go limp without developing much color at all. Stir once or twice while cooking.

  9. This looks great and I can’t wait to try it. I remember eating onion pletzel, still warm from the kosher bakeries in the Bronx. Do you happen to know anything about potatonik? My mother used to make it and of course had no written recipe. I think it just had grated potatoes, onions, flour and maybe eggs?

  10. I had to tell you, I own all your books. But finding this recipe when I first opened to the page was so WONDERFUL!
    I remember this bread so clearly from my childhood in NYC – we called it Onion Board.

    I never really saw it again after we moved to the suburbs and I’d forgotten it – your recipe tastes just like my memories!

  11. The pletzel we had in Paris were like large round rolls, about 1.5 inches thick. And there were some with green olives or black olives on top of some instead of onions. All were delicious. They even made sandwiches on the pletzel. Has anyone had experiences making them thicker and smaller?

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