Welcome to the cutting room floor. Whenever I finish a cookbook, there are recipes that didn’t make the final book not because they’re flawed in any way, but because they weren’t necessary. Smitten Kitchen Keepers already has a couple great savory breads and sufficient caramelized onion magnificence, so I pulled this recipe out because I knew it would be perfect for the site, right now. Why? This week is the most significant Jewish holiday of the year, Yom Kippur, a day of atonement. It is traditional fast for the day, and the fast is traditionally broken with a dairy meal, quite often a giant spread of bagels and fixings. But that wasn’t the first time I made this. In March 2020, when the whole world shut down, so of course did all of the bagel shops in my neighborhood. I started making easy bagel-y breads so we could still enjoy our cream cheese and lox weekend fix. This one has a cool history, too.
The pletzel is an Eastern European savory flatbread smothered in onions and poppy seeds with a chew similar to focaccia, but usually thinner and more crisp. Once they made it to America, they were common in Jewish bakeries, going by the name onion board or onion flat. But they’ve fallen out of favor — wrongly, one bite of this will make clear. Let’s bring them back. Put out as part of a breakfast spread, I find them a more indulgent but less heavy bagel alternative that is still fantastic with everything we like on bagels — lox, cream cheese, paper-thin slices of red onion, cucumber, tomato, capers. While the no-knead focaccia base rises, you cook the onions; while the bread bakes, you set out your fixings. When it comes out of the oven, your home smells impossibly good, and you probably didn’t even have to go shopping to make it happen.
A few other favorites: An amusingly divisive Cream Cheese Board [TikTok, Reel], Homemade Bagels (on my agenda for the week!), Homemade Cream Cheese, Smoked Whitefish Dip, Wild Mushroom Pate, Bialy Babka, Baklava Babka, or Better Chocolate Babka, and My Family’s Noodle Kugel.
6 months ago: Lemon Cream Meringues
1 year ago: Big Apple Crumb Cake
2 year ago: Whole Wheat Chocolate Oat Cookies and Simple Cauliflower Tacos
3 years ago: Chickpea and Kale Shakshuka
4 years ago: Crispy Spinach Pizza
5 years ago: Pizza Beans and Chocolate Tahini Challah Buns
6 years ago: Homemade Merguez with Herby Yogurt and Magic Apple Plum Cobbler
7 years ago: The Perfect Manhattan, Broccoli Cheddar Soup and S’more Cupcakes
8 years ago: Latke Waffles and The Crispy Egg
9 years ago: Frico Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
10 years ago: Crackly Banana Bread and Spaghetti with Broccoli Cream Pesto
11 years ago: Apple Pie Cookies
12 years ago: Single-Crust Apple and Plum Pie
13 years ago: Date Spice Loaf and Lebanese-Style Stuffed Eggplant
14 years ago: Summer’s Last Hurrah Panzanella, Sweet and Sour Glazed Cippoline, Majestic and Moist Honey Cake, and Best Challah (Egg Bread)
15 years ago: Red Velvet Cake, Noodle Kugel, Spaghetti Fideos with Chorizo and Almonds and Couscous and Feta-Stuffed Peppers
16 years ago: Acorn Squash with Chile-Lime Vinaigrette
Focaccia Onion Board
- 3 cups (390 grams) all-purpose flour
- Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon (3 grams) instant yeast
- 1 1/2 cups (355 grams) lukewarm water
- Olive oil
- 2 large yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons poppy seeds
Meanwhile, prepare your onions: Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Once hot, add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Once the oil is heated, add the onions and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Cook onions, stirring every minute or two, until a medium brown, almost caramel colored, about 25 minutes. [See Note at end.] Scrape onions onto a plate to cool while you finish the bread.
Finish the focaccia: When the dough is doubled, line a 9×13 cake pan with parchment paper and drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil over it. Do not deflate your dough, just scrape it onto the oiled parchment. Drizzle the top of the dough with another tablespoon of olive oil and use your fingers to dimple the dough, flattening it out. It’s okay if it doesn’t reach the edges. Let the dimpled dough rest at room temperature for 15 minutes and heat your oven to 425°F. After 15 minutes, dimple the dough only where needed a little further into the corners. Let rest for a final 15 minutes before scattering the top with onions, poppy seeds, and a few pinches of salt.
Bake the focaccia: For 25 minutes, until deeply golden brown at the edges and across the top. While it bakes, you can prepare any toppings you’d like to serve it with, such as cream cheese or butter, lox, thinly sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, or capers.
To serve: Loosen the focaccia if it’s stuck in any place and slide it into a cutting board. Cut into 12 squares, using a sharp knife to get through the onions on top without pulling them off, and replacing any that scatter. Eat right away.
Do ahead: Focaccia keeps at room temperature for 1 to 2 days. Reheat on a baking sheet at 350°F for 10 to 12 minutes.
Note: These are not caramelized onions; we do not need 60 to 90 minutes over low heat with constant stirring. That is not how any ancestor of mine cooked onions. I’m intentionally using a higher heat for more quickly developed flavor. If they’re not picking up color by 20 minutes, bump up the heat slightly. If they’re coloring too fast to make it to 20 to 25 minutes, reduce the heat. We want to stopping shy of a dark bronzed color, as the onions will finish in the oven and we don’t want them to burn.