Friday, July 16, 2010

Just like old times - Pletzel

A few postings ago, when I reminisced about raisin bread, I mentioned a local family-owned bakery, from my hometown in northeastern Canada, Bernie's Bakery. No doubt it no longer exists. Be that as it may, I have very fond memories of going around the corner from my grandfather's house on Sunday mornings, the wonderful aroma of fresh baked bread filling the whole neighborhood, and buying bread with grandpa. Bernie was an immigrant from Poland, and as such he baked the kinds of bread typical of Eastern Europe along with a few North American breads almost as a reluctant concession to the reality that he was no longer in Poland. Dark and light rye breads. Pumpernickel. Black Russian bread. Also, cinnamon rolls and a plain white sandwich bread that was strong and yet had an almost creamy interior all at the same time. And a Pletzel. What is a pletzel, you say? Well, it's not quite a bagel, and not quite an onion roll. It falls somewhere in between. It is a flatbread with a slight depression in the middle holding onions and maybe poppy seeds or other yummy things. In New York it has a close cousin called a bialy.  The important thing is it's delicious, and relatively easy to make. Slice one open while still warm, apply a good strong mustard then pile up corned /roast beef or pastrami and you're in business. OMG, I'm drooling on my keyboard!!

Here's what you'll need:
for the dough

1 1/2 cups warm water
5 teaspoons yeast
5 tsp. sugar
5 - 5 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
2 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
for the onion topping

1/2 cup dehydrated minced onion (*)
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 1/2 tbsp. poppy seeds
1 tbsp. coarse sea salt for sprinkling (optional)
Here's what you'll need to do:

Mix the water yeast and sugar. Add one cup of the flour and some of the salt. Add most of remaining flour and stir with a wooden spoon to make a soft dough. You can mix in a stand up mixer using the dough hook or hand knead eight to ten minutes, whichever you prefer. Cover and let the dough rise for about 45 minutes. While the dough is rising, you can line two baking sheets with parchment paper andthen sprinkle them with a little cornmeal. Preheat the oven to 450 F (220 C). Prepare topping by covering onions with hot water and allow to soak 15 minutes. After the onion is re-hydrated, drain and then toss with oil and poppy seeds and set aside. Degas the dough and divide in two roughly equal pieces. Then, divide each half into six pieces, 12 pieces in all. Allow dough to rest ten minutes. Roll or stretch each portion into a four to five inch oval or circle. Place the pletzel on prepared baking sheets. Brush each pletzel lightly with the egg glaze. Finally, spoon on about two teaspoons of prepared onion topping and a little bit of coarse salt (optional). Cover with a floured towel and allow to rise 30-40 minutes.
Bake until golden brown (25-30 minutes). If bialys brown too fast, reduce heat to 425 F. Theoretically, these freeze well, but honestly they have never made it to the freezer. They are usually gone in a few hours, gone,but not forgotten. If you prefer, you can make a thicker pletzel simply by letting them rise longer. If you prefer them thinner (and therefore crispier) just bake them after less rising time. Yum!!

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