Saturday, September 3, 2011

Easy Onion-Poppy Seed Flatbreads (aka “Mrs. M’s Moonies”)

There’s nothing like an old family recipe, especially if it’s from your grandmother.

This is another of my grandmother’s most special recipes, for onion-poppy seed flatbreads called moonies, “moon” being a slightly anglicized version of the Yiddish word for poppy seeds. (Warning: there are similar sounding recipes around for poppy seed cookies that include vanilla, more sugar, and no onion. I’m sure some of those are very good, but don’t be fooled; those are cookies, not flatbreads. My grandmother’s are something you can, for example, warm up and spread butter on for breakfast.) If you’re looking to make and serve something that’s both delicious and unusual, moonies may just be what you want.

To give you a sense of how my grandmother, who was also known as “Mrs. M,” liked to do things, know that the recipe below, which makes 18–20 4” moonies, is my grandmother’s original version scaled down to a ¼ batch. She liked to make sure we had enough to eat. (The only change I’ve made is the use of egg substitute instead of a fresh egg. If you prefer to use fresh eggs, feel free to make the swap.)

Last year about this time, I got to pay tribute to my grandmother on the anniversary of her passing by sharing with the world one of her most special recipes, a simple but exceptional potato salad. (Click here to see it.) It’s a recipe, and a group of memories, her family continues to hold dear. This year I hope to do the same with moonies.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Grate 3-1/2 large onions on the large holes of a box grater. Let the onions rest in a strainer or colander to drain the excess liquid.

Combine the following dry ingredients in a large bowl: 1-1/2 pounds of all-purpose flour (about 5-1/2 cups); 6 ounces (about 1-1/4 cups) poppy seeds; 1-1/4 teaspoon kosher salt; 1-1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 4 ounces (about ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon) sugar.

After the onions have drained, mix them into the dry ingredients. When combined, make a well in the flour-onion mixture, and add the following wet ingredients: 1 egg-substitute egg or beaten fresh egg; and 4 oz. salad oil (canola or similar). Mix the wet ingredients into the dry, and add up to 3 ounces of cold water, a little at a time, until a “sticky dough” forms.

Divide the mixture into 2 portions to keep the amount of dough you’re working with manageable. Working on a well-floured surface, repeat the following steps for each portion. Add a little flour as necessary to keep the dough from being too sticky to handle.
  • Roll or pat the dough down to ½" thick.
  • Use a 3” diameter round cookie cutter to cut out circles. (For maximum authenticity, cut the circles with a drinking glass instead of a cookie cutter.)
  • Lay the cut-outs, one at a time, on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet (or use silicon cooking pads), pressing each down to ¼” thickness (about 4” diameter) as you place them. Place the cut-outs as close as possible since they don’t spread when heated.
  • After the baking sheet is filled, make three slits in each cut-out to prevent bubbles from forming during the baking.
Bake until browned, but not burnt, about 35 minutes, turning the baking sheet half way for more even baking. (If you’re using two baking sheets, also move each to the other’s location.) When the moonies are done, remove them from the sheet and cool on a rack.
You can serve these warm with butter (or butter substitute), or freeze or refrigerate for later toasting and serving. Or, you can do what my mother likes to do, and leave them out on the counter for a day before serving for firmer texture.

I hope you will enjoy these delicious (and, be warned, potentially addictive) flatbreads. If, by chance, they get you thinking about your own cherished memories of special dinners and the special people who cooked them, so much the better.

For a cookbook-style, notebook-ready copy of this recipe, just drop me a line along with your e-mail address and it will be yours.

That’s it for this week. See you next Saturday with another kitchen-tested reduced fat recipe! Till then, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. Especially if she’s your grandmother.


  1. That is sweet Ben.. Interesting recipe. I am making monkey bread today, so come by my recipe blog and see how it turns out!!

  2. Glad you like it, Tawnya! Your monkey bread sounds great. I am looking forward to seeing it!

  3. these look so interesting Ben! I really like onion in bread, will give them a try.

  4. Thanks, Barbara! The onion makes a tasty combination with the poppy seeds. Let me know how you like it!