Pletzel (a mission to bring this fabulous bread back from near extinction!)
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 making the pletzel:
Some of you who have skimmed through the book may have seen this recipe. It is titled John Barrymore Onion Pletzel on page 305 of the book. Why, you might ask, is it named after the actor John Barrymore? Well, no one quite knows the answer to that. It is what my grandfather used to call this style of pletzel.
John Barrymore Onion Pletzel
1 pound Challah (see page 305 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.
Take your 1 pound ball of dough and sprinkle it with flour, along with the work surface.
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.
Sauté the onions in the oil over medium heat until
very lightly browned (a cast-iron pan works beautifully). If they are overbrown they will burn in the oven.
Cover the dough evenly with the onions. Sprinkle the poppy seeds over the onions, then the salt and drizzle with more oil or butter.
Bake the pletzel for 15-25 minutes, depending on the thickness you have chosen. It is great alone or with a hot bowl of soup. Enjoy!
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86 thoughts on “Pletzel (a mission to bring this fabulous bread back from near extinction!)”
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!
Glad it’s working for you, Judy.
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.
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.”
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.
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: 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
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. 🙂
I love this bread, in all of its forms! I agree that the olive oil adds a definite Italian flair!
Instead of making the Pletzel as in the recipe (as a flatbread), I rolled up the dough and made onion rolls.
Soft onions and soft bread on the inside and carmelized onions and crisp crust on the outside.
I posted pictures on my blog.
Laura: So glad this worked well for you! Jeff
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.
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?
Carol: There’s a recipe for it in George Greenstein’s book, the Amazon link’s at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1580088449/ref=as_li_tf_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=arbrinfimiada-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1580088449“>Secrets of a Jewish Baker: Recipes for 125 Breads from Around the World
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!
Cherie: So glad to hear this– it is a blast from the past. it’s pretty much unavailable anywhere now in the US
A new deli called The General Muir in Atlanta now serves pletzel, which lead me to this recipe!! Yay for old school comebacks! https://www.thegeneralmuir.com
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?
The Pletzel recipe in the “New” book says it makes two boards, but reading it, it calls for 1 grapefruit-size piece of dough to make one. Did I read it wrong?
Our mistake, it only makes one. Sorry for the confusion!
I woke up this morning with a memory of having dreamt of breakfasts at Stan’s Diner in Chomedey 45 years ago… Stan’s “Special on a Pletzel” was the highlight of the day: 3/4″ of mixed cold cuts in a sliced pretzel grilled on the sandwich press – fabulous! – and now I have the recipe! Big thanks!
What a great memory Phil.
Where can I buy pletzal in the Philadelphia area or in jenkintown ?
I’m not sure where to buy it, but you can certainly make it at home!
I haven’t seen it since I was young. I used to buy it in Logan, on 11th street at Rosen’s bakery. Thin crust, so good!
Hope the recipe met your memories expectation…
With tomato sauce, it’s Jewish pizza.
Oh my gosh! I was just reminiscing about this bread wit my boyfriend! I got online to see if I could find a bakery who still carries it and I found this recipe. My family used to go to a Jewish Bakery called Eaglemanns every Sunday and get a big order of this bread, we called it “Onion Board”~ we’d either bring it home for just us to enjoy or we’d stop by my grandmothers, she would put on a big pot of tea and coffee, and we’d sit around her table and eat this bread and ooh and aah about how good it was. I’ve not had this bread for atleast 30 years, the bakery went out of business, I moved to the southwest, and for some reason 2 nights ago a memory of this bread popped into my mind. I could taste it!! I became a “paleo” eater and left bread behind for about 10 years. SInce covid, I have little by little started to eat bread again. I’ve never made bread mysef though….this seems easy this recipe. But I long for a piece of Eaglemanns onion board!!! I love that you are trying to help bring this bread back!
What a great memory! We both love that bread so much!
My comment was for HELENE
Rosen’s was in Philadelphia
So glad to see this. I remember growing up Jewish in Houston, TX where only Jews knew about bagels, but we also got pletzels from the bakery. There is a wonderful new (maybe 40 years old!) bakery in Houston that sells great New York bagels and also bialys, but no pletzels. The ones we would get were individual pletzels, about 5 or 6 inches in diameter with onion slices on top (another recipe says ‘diced’ onions, but your ‘slices’ look much better). I remember being a child, picking the onions off and eating them separately. I am not a baker, but I may try your recipe. I didn’t realize that the reason I never see them or hear about them is because they disappeared with the popularity of bagels. Who knew?! Thanks.
What a wonderful memory, I do hope you give the pletzel recipe a try. You’ve reminded me to bake them again soon too, they are one of my favorites!
Great article, thank you. So it’s almost 2022; does anybody in the country sell a decent onion board, even if they don’t ship them? They used to be all over the Bronx in the ’50’s and ’60’s. The onions were usually caramelized, or most of the onion was. The rest was partly-caramelized, and it was full of poppy seed. Like you said, much like the middle of a bialy. I recall the onion board dough being bialy-esque.
I can’t imagine where you’d buy this now, I’ve not seen in anywhere in about 40 years. So… you’ll have to bake your own…