The Food Maven Diary
The subject of onion cookies was brought up by my new boss, Maurice Tunick, WOR's program director. He remembers his mother's, although he never ate them. He was a picky eater then. Now he regrets his abstemious youth and wants to make up for lost time.
Call them tzibeleh kuchen. Call the tzibeleh pletzel. Whatever. They are an old-time treat that you probably have to be over 50 to remember. However, technically speaking, according to George Greenstein, whose recipe this is, they are not pletzel. Pletzel is a crisp "board" of dough covered with onions. These will never become crisp, no matter what temperature you bake them, how long you bake them, or how thin you roll them. The moisture of the onions will eventually soften them up, even if you manage to get a little snap in them when they come from the oven. Indeed, these taste best straight from the oven or, at least, reheated. I brought mine back to their prime by putting them on a baking sheet for 10 minutes in a preheated 350-degree oven.
George is the author of Secrets of a Jewish Baker. He was a Jewish baker, a second generation baker, on Long Island for many, many years. The book was his retirement project. But you won't find this recipe in his book. It is from his personal files. I received several other recipes from listeners – all more or less the same, just with slightly different proportions -- but found George's to produce the best.
Makes 2 1/2 to 3 dozen cookies
1 pounds onions, ground or finely minced, drained
1/4 cup reserved onion juice or water
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1/2 cup poppy seeds (optional)
1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water (for egg wash)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and lightly grease a cookie sheet.
Mix together the onions, onion juice, sugar, oil, and eggs.
Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and poppy seeds. Stir well to mix thoroughly.
Add dry ingredient to wet ingredients and mix, but only long enough to blend thoroughly. Overmixing will make the cookies tough.
Tip the dough out onto a floured worktop, preferably a floured cloth. Divide the dough in half.
With your hands, form one half an oblong. Roll out into a rectangle about 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick. With a wheel knife or a sharp blade dipped in flour, trim the edges to make them even, then cut into 2 by 2-inch squares (or cut into diamonds or use a round cookie cutter)
Brush a light coating of egg wash over the top.
Slide a metal spatula under 6 to 8 pieces at a time and transfer them to a prepared lightly greased baking sheet. Slide them off, about a finger width apart for even baking.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until barely brown on the edges. Cool on a wire rack while still on the pan. Best when used the same day but keeps well when kept in a tightly closed container.