Pletzel Sabich

March 24, 2022
3 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten. Prop Stylist: Molly Fitzsimons. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog.
  • Prep time 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • makes 4 sandwiches
Author Notes

Pletzel isn’t the kind of Jewish food you hear much about these days, and I hope to change that. A traditional Ashkenazi Jewish shtetl dish, it’s a flatbread covered with raw onions and poppy seeds. Yiddish for “little square,” the term pletzel is used to describe both the dish and a little square in a city (like the German “Platz” or French “place”), though in this context it's usually spelled "pletzl." It’s also formally the name of a historically Jewish area in Paris, in the Marais neighborhood of the Fourth Arrondissement. The Parisian Pletzl is home to the city’s largest selection of Jewish bakeries and kosher dining establishments, including Florence Kahn’s eponymous bakery and delicatessen, where you can, of course, get her take on the pletzel. Instead of a flatbread used for dipping, Kahn uses pletzel as a chewy sandwich bread. After having one of hers—which you can read more about here—I left inspired to make my own pletzel-based version of Israeli sabich, a pita sandwich of fried eggplant, hard-boiled eggs, parsley, amba, and tahini that (by most accounts) traces its roots back to Iraqi Jewish refugees who arrived in Israel in the 1940s and 1950s.

Note: Flattening the dough as written in Step 7 will give you a thick, bready, pita-like pletzel. If you prefer something thinner, feel free to flatten it a bit more. But definitely don’t go thicker than 1 centimeter or you’re going to get something resembling a burger bun. (Of course, if that happens, the resulting sandwich will taste the same—it’s all going to the same place anyways.) —Joe Baur

What You'll Need
  • Pletzel Dough
  • 7 grams (2¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 34 grams (3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon) granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 cup warm water (110°F/45°C)
  • 600 grams (5 cups plus 5 tablespoons) white whole-wheat flour, plus more as needed
  • 4 grams (1½ teaspoons) kosher salt
  • 76 grams (¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 80 grams (¼ cup) honey
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 large white onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 8 grams (1 tablespoon) poppy seeds, plus more for sprinkling
  • Sabich Filling & Assembly
  • 1 (9- to 10-ounce) medium globe eggplant
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 small beefsteak tomato, diced (about ½ cup)
  • 1/2 English cucumber, diced (about ½ cup)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice (from about ½ lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley leaves
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 large eggs
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1/2 cup hummus, divided
  • Tahini and mango pickle or chutney, such as amba, for serving
  • Pickles and zhug, for serving (optional)
  1. Pletzel Dough
  2. Place the yeast in a small bowl with 4 grams (1 teaspoon) of the sugar and the warm water. Mix and let it sit for 7 to 10 minutes, until it’s foamy.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, remaining 30 grams (about 3 tablespoons) of sugar, and salt.
  4. Form a well in the center of the bowl and add 50 grams (about ¼ cup) of the olive oil and the 80 grams (¼ cup) of honey. Crack in two of the eggs. Use a large wooden spoon to roughly combine.
  5. Add the bloomed yeast to the bowl and continue to mix for 7 to 10 minutes, until the dough forms a tacky ball. Add extra flour as needed, 1 tablespoon at a time, if the dough is still sticking to the sides of the bowl.
  6. Lightly grease a large bowl with 13 grams (about 1 tablespoon) of the olive oil. Place the pletzel dough in the bowl, flipping it over to make sure it’s lightly covered with oil. Cover with a kitchen towel (if it’s humid in your kitchen a dry towel is fine; if it’s dry in the kitchen, dampen the towel) and let it rise for 60 to 90 minutes, or until it’s at least doubled in size.
  7. When the rise is almost over, line two sheet pans with parchment paper. In a small bowl, combine the onion with 13 grams (about 1 tablespoon) of the olive oil and the poppy seeds.
  8. Gently punch down the dough and lightly dust a work surface with flour. Divide the dough into four equal pieces. Roll each portion of dough into a rough ball, then flatten each piece of dough with the heel of your hand into a disk that’s about 1 centimeter thick (16 to 18 centimeters/6½ to 7 inches wide).
  9. Place 1 tablespoon of the onion mixture into the center of the disk, gently pressing it into the dough. Fold the sides of the dough into the center and pinch it together so that the onion mixture is covered. Flip the ball over, seam side down, and rotate the ball on your work surface with your hands cupped around it, applying gentle pressure, to seal the bottom. The dough should be slightly tacky and pliable. Divide the balls between the prepared sheet pans, then gently flatten balls back to 1 centimeter thickness (6½ inches wide).
  10. Heat the oven to 375°F/190°C. Crack the remaining egg into a small bowl and beat it with a fork. Brush egg wash on each pletzel. Gently scatter and press about 1 tablespoon more of the onion mixture to the top of each pletzel. Sprinkle with more poppy seeds on top before letting them rest, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking, until the pletzels are golden brown and puffed. Remove from the oven and let them cool to room temperature.
  1. Sabich Filling & Assembly
  2. Trim the top and bottom of the eggplant. Slice the eggplant lengthwise into about ¾-inch-thick pieces. Stack the planks together and slice in half crosswise.
  3. Line a large plate or sheet pan with a kitchen towel or paper towels. Arrange the eggplant over the towels, then salt on both sides. Let the eggplant sit for 20 minutes, then dry off the eggplant with additional towels if needed.
  4. Drain the tomatoes in a mesh strainer. In a medium bowl, toss the drained tomatoes with the cucumber, lemon juice, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Fill a small saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, lower the heat to medium-high and gently lower the large eggs into the pot, cover, and let them cook for 10 minutes. Remove the eggs from the water with a slotted spoon, place in a small bowl, and run them under cold water. Let cool completely, then peel the eggs and roughly chop into pieces.
  6. Line another large plate or a sheet pan with paper towels. Add about ¼ inch vegetable oil to a large skillet. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until a drop of water added to the pan sizzles immediately. Adjusting the heat as necessary to avoid burning, fry the eggplant for 2 to 3 minutes per side, until golden brown on both sides. Transfer the fried eggplant to the prepared sheet pan and season with salt.
  7. To assemble a pletzel sabich, cut one pletzel in half, then use the knife to carve out a small opening (to essentially make a pita pocket). Squeeze the pletzel lightly from the sides so that it opens (be careful not to pull the top and bottom apart). Repeat with the remaining pletzels.
  8. Spread about 1 tablespoon of hummus on the inside of each pletzel. Fill each with a few pieces of fried eggplant, chunks of hard-boiled eggs, and a spoonful of tomato salad. Drizzle with tahini, amba, pickles, and zhug, if using. Serve immediately.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Joe Baur
    Joe Baur
  • Leslee Paul
    Leslee Paul
  • Cecilia M.
    Cecilia M.

3 Reviews

Leslee P. April 17, 2022
This bread sounds a bit like what we called “onion” bread offered in Jewish bakeries all around New York decades ago. It’s was similar to focaccia but tougher. And just to be clear : Hebrew doesn’t use characters; it is written in an alphabet of Hebrew letters.
Cecilia M. April 9, 2022
The bread is heavenly. I cut the recipe in half (although I regretted it later when I found how awesome the pletzl turned out). I searched for more info about this style of roll/board bread and found there are two schools, those that use eggs and those who do not. I am so glad I decided to try this one. I did cut back the sweetness by almost half, and I sautéed the onions to the just brown stage to add inside and on top of the rolls, before baking, that change added it’s own sweetness so I was glad I cut back on the sugar. I did not make the filling, but boy are Pletzel going to be in the keeper file!
Joe B. April 18, 2022
Thanks for sharing, Cecilia! Glad you enjoyed it.