Ripped from the headlines

Onion Rolls

Not a Bialy...

My parents used to warn me, “Don’t be a procrastinator!” Usually this was a concern about homework. Now that I am all grown up (please don’t laugh), I don’t think I procrastinate all that much. This would be because of all the aforementioned childhood warnings about the dangers of procrastination. They ring in my ears whenever there is anything I need to get cracking on and can feel myself stalling. It is advice that follows me around like that bowl of Cream of Wheat that used to follow the kid around all day in the old TV commercial.

I thought of this the other day while riding New York City’s sparkling subway. A man across from me was reading a newspaper. This was an actual newspaper, not one of the free mini-newspapers they push at you every morning. Every so often he would tear out a page, piling his “clippings” neatly on the seat next to him.

You may think that there’s nothing remarkable about that, but the over the past year or so the iPad, the Kindle, and the Nook have taken over the subway system as the reading media of choice. I’m kind of stuck between generations here: part of me misses the crinkle of the old broadsheet newspaper (remember how big the papers were before they went narrow a couple of years ago?), but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I have been reading The New York Times on line for years, and don’t miss washing the ink off my hands…and clothes…and furniture.

The fun thing about reading newspapers and magazines digitally is that it has created a whole new kind of procrastination. Okay, maybe this isn’t actually procrastination in the strictest definition of the word. It used to be that you’d see a recipe that sparked your imagination and you’d rip it out and stick it up on a bulletin board, or on the door of your refrigerator, or you’d file it in the front of a cook book. Then five to ten years later you’d think, “Hey, where’s that recipe for Bisque Tortoni?” and not be able to find it, or you’d look at the pile of torn, yellowing recipes and think, “Why did I save these? Toss!”

I am now guilty of the digital version of the same crime. It started innocently enough: I would print out recipes, happy and satisfied that they were always the same size and therefore easy to organize and file. As technology progressed I started saving them as PDF files, and filing them in folders on my computer.

Funny thing is that the net result was still the same. I would still not use most of my “clippings” and even if I wanted to I had no idea or interest in rooting through the files to find the one that interested me that day. Is there a New Year’s resolution here? No. Far from feeling guilty or regretful about my habit, I’m kind of proud of it. No, I don’t use many of the clipped recipes, but when I do, the results are golden. Isn’t that true of most cookbooks you might buy? Technology hasn’t got a chance against human nature.

Lately a couple of the clipped recipes have been calling my name loudly and frequently. Last week, to celebrate New Year’s Eve I made the Café des Artistes Orange Savarin. This week I’m baking a recipe that was listed in The New York Times as a Hanukkah recipe, Onion Flat Rolls or “Pletzlach.”

I had never heard of these until about a month ago. When I was a kiddie, Hanukkah food was Potato Latkes and Milk Chocolate coins called Hanukkah “Gelt.” Onion Rolls? That was Sunday morning brunch fare, all year ‘round. Hooray for Hanukkah, but give me an Onion Roll any time of the year.

The onion rolls with which I am most familiar are, of course, Bialys, the Bagel’s roguish brother. I always preferred the Bialy over the Bagel. They’re better with the lox that inevitably follows them through the door. Pletzlach are a simpler version, using a slightly sweet, egg-enriched dough. Less chewy, yes, but eaten plain with a nice glass of seltzer and you’re in heaven. Throw a slice or three of lox on top and you’re in…what’s higher than heaven? Yeah, okay, there.

Don’t be put off by the fact that this is bread making. Use a Kitchen Aid mixer to do the kneading for you. I cut the recipe in half and made ten rolls—using the single egg in the full recipe as a “spooned-in” ingredient, in other words adding just enough to pull the dry ingredients together. But make the full recipe and you’ll make a crowd of people very happy.

The Pletzlach make a great “bring along” too—on those occasions when you’ve been invited to someone’s house for dinner and shouldn’t arrive empty handed. Also, bringing your own bread to someone’s house is a great survival technique. If the person you’re visiting hasn’t been gifted with cooking skills, you’re assured you’ll like something they serve.

But we don’t know anyone like that, do we?


Click here for the recipe for Onion Flat Rolls (Pletzlach).


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