Citizens, a Pletzel or Pletzl (Yiddish פלעצל, German Plätzchen, cookie or cracker) is a type of Jewish onion and poppyseed flatbread or cracker. Pletzel is an old Eastern European recipe that can still rarely be found in a few last holdout NY Jewish bakeries.
It also used to be called an “onion board” in NYC, and those NYC Jews of a certain age (myself included) remember them. My grandmother knew it was one of my favorite snacks and always had a piece waiting for me fresh from the bakery when I came to visit.
Interestingly, Pletzl, from Middle High German ple(t)zel, “little square”, is also the name of the center of the former Jewish quarter/ghetto in Paris.
Citizens, my version is made as it should be with but one minor tweak – I’ve added some nigella seeds for extra flavor (they’re the black seeds sometimes found on rye bread crust) but you can use all Poppy seeds for the classic recipe.
Battle on – The Generalissimo
¾ cup yellow onions, finely chopped
2 tsp. Kalonji (aka Nigella) seeds (optional – if you prefer a traditional recipe, use poppy seeds instead)
2 tsp. poppy seeds (plus more to sprinkle on pletzel)
2 tsp. Melted chicken fat (preferred) or olive oil – more if needed
salt to taste (about ¾ tsp.)
1 ½ T. dry yeast
¼ cup warm water
¾ cup ice water
2 large eggs
4 cups bread flour
2 ¼ tsp. salt
2 T. canola oil
2 T. sugar
2 T. malt syrup
For the Topping:
Sauté the topping ingredients in the fat or oil over medium-low heat until tender and translucent, stirring often, until starting to brown – about 15 minutes, or so. Don’t try to rush cooking the onions, since the slower they cook, the sweeter they’ll be.
Once the onions are starting to brown, add the salt and continue cooking, stirring very often. The salt will help draw out moisture and the onions will cook faster, so keep an eye on them so they don’t burn. Instead, try to cook them until they’re golden brown. Once browned, remove from heat.
For the Dough:
Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water, stir. Add remaining ingredients and mix until dough forms a ball in the mixer. Add additional flour if needed. Knead for 5 minutes in a mixer. Let the dough rest for 15-30 minutes.
Oil two large cookie sheets. Divide dough in two, and roll as thin as possible, letting dough rest if it is hard to roll. Place dough on the cookie sheets.
Brush with canola oil. Stipple all over with a fork, spread with onion topping, sprinkle with additional poppy seeds, and bake at 400° (with a pan of water for steam in the oven) for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. I prefer my Pletzel with a bit of bready chew – if you prefer a cracker, leave it in 30 minutes.
Remove, let cool and cut into pieces.