Today I’m making pletzel. Or onion board, to those of us who are not in the know. Pletzel is a wonderful pizza-like bread with onions and butter and poppy seeds strewn across its face. I’ve made it with a thick crust and with a thin crust, toasted it so that it’s crunchy, and left it doughy and soft. Evan grew up knowing pletel. In upstate New York, where we live, this stuff can be bought in the local bakery. I, however, born in the Southwest and raised in the Midwest, had never heard of the stuff before coming here. Actually, I only heard about it a few years ago, but I’ve been a lifelong fan ever since.
I no longer have a memory of from whence this recipe came, but I use it every couple of weeks. It’s delicious. It smells delicious, it looks delicious, it is delicious. It’s impressive, too, in a rustic kind of way, though it’s really easy to make.
Today, as I bake, I’m looking out of the kitchen windows at what looks very much like a winter day. It’s not especially cold, but it’s wet. And the leaves, bright yellow, orange and red just last week, are nearly completely gone from the trees. Instead, the ground bears a thick blanket of the now muted colors, and the wind carries the few remaining leaves down to rest on it. It’s beautiful and it’s a perfect day to bake.
Pletzel (Onion Board)
Makes two 9 inch boards
1 cup warm water
1 packet dry yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
1½ teaspoons salt
2½-3 cups flour (unbleached white)
½ cup melted butter
1 whole onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Preheat over to 450 degrees (F).
Proof your yeast first, to make sure it’s viable. Put the 1 cup of water in a warmed bowl and add to it your packet of yeast and the 2 teaspoons of sugar. Leave for a few minutes. If it foams, it’s alive. If it doesn’t foam, throw it out and start again.
By proofing your yeast, you avoid going through all of the steps of making the bread only to discover, when the dough doesn’t rise, that your yeast was dead.
Some people put only a teaspoon of sugar in the yeast when proofing, but I put my full recipe amount in. Once, I tried to do it “by the book,” only to realize that I couldn’t remember if I had put in all of the sugar, or only a portion…and how much…for the proofing stage. I had turned to other things while waiting for it to proof, and, my memory being utterly imperfect, I hadn’t a clue what I’d done. So, now, the full amounts go in. Easy.
So, once you’ve determined that you have viable yeast, add the salt and about 2 cups of flour to the yeast mixture. Stir, and add more flour, ½ cup at a time, until the dough is stiff enough to handle. Knead on a floured surface for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is firm.
Oil the bottom of a warmed bowl and place your dough in it. Cover and place in a draft-free, warm place. It will take anywhere from an hour to a scary long time for your dough to rise and double, depending on how drafty its spot is. I put mine by the woodstove, but the drafts around it make it take, usually, about three hours to rise. In the dead of winter, it can take all day. As long as it’s growing, be patient.
While your dough is rising, sauté the onions, small batches at a time, in a pan in a little melted butter. The pan should be hot and you should put only about a quarter of the onion in to sauté at one time. Stir the onions constantly, until they are a rich, golden brown. Set aside.
Do the same with the garlic. Set aside in the same bowl as the sautéd onions.
When the dough has doubled in size, punch it down (mentally affix a face to it—hey, why not?), cover it and leave it alone for about 5 minutes. Divide the dough into two balls.
Lightly oil the bottom of two 9 inch round pans (or shape pan) and spread 1 ball of dough onto each pan. Push the dough out toward the edges, from the center, with your fingers.
Brush melted butter over the tops of the dough, then spread the onion and garlic mixture over the buttered tops. Press the onion and garlic mixture lightly into the dough with your fingers. Sprinkle with poppy seeds.
Leave uncovered, in a warm place, to rise for about 45 minutes. Place in oven for about 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. Remove immediately from the pans, to avoid sticking, and cool completely on wire racks.
Pletzels can be frozen easily. Just wrap the cooled pletzels in wax paper and put them in plastic (I know, I hate using plastic, too, but if you wrap your pletzel in wax paper first, you can reuse the plastic bags forever). To reheat, allow the pletzel to defrost, or wrap it in a dampened towel in the microwave. Place the defrosted (or close to defrosted) pletzel in the warmed oven (I use a toaster oven for this), and warm or toast.
They are delicious right out of the oven, too. We eat ours with mayonnaise, cheeses, tomatoes, avocado, egg salad, tuna salad, cream cheese…and/or any combination thereof.
Sorry, but I can never get a picture of a whole finished pletzel, it would appear. It's barely out of the oven, and this is what we have left. You get the idea, though.
This is the dough I use for onion rolls, too. Man, are they delicious!