Caramelized Onion Bread

banner

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes

    2

    medium loaves

Appears in

Bien Cuit: The Art of Bread

Bien Cuit

By Zachary Golper and Peter Kaminsky

Published 2015

  • About

When I worked for Georges Perrier at Le Bec-Fin, they put raw onion in the sourdough, a practice that is quite common in France. I didn’t like the sharp, acrid taste at all, so Georges showed me how to get serious about caramelizing onions. His method takes a long time and a lot of stirring, but it’s so much better than the common shortcut of adding sugar to onions and sautéing them. I incorporated those onions into a baguette, which Georges liked a lot. Here’s the secret: The onion should be neither the centerpiece nor the last thing you taste; instead, it should be a persistent note in a chorus of flavors. For this recipe, I thought the fresh and slightly cooling sensation of buckwheat would play well with the other ingredients. I also used butter because it works well with caramelized onions, and honey, to extend the sweet finish the onions elicit. Georges would serve this bread with smoked meat, especially bacon or pancetta. I love it with brisket or anything you’d serve with caramelized onions. If you make traditional French onion soup, it would be an ideal crouton.

Ingredients

Starter

  • 125 grams (¾ c + tbsp) white rye flour
  • 0.3 gram (generous pinch) instant yeast
  • 125 grams (½ c + 1 tsp) water at about 60°F (15°C)

Dough

  • 425 grams (3 c + tsp) white flour, plus additional as needed for working with the dough
  • 75 grams (½ c + tsp) buckwheat flour
  • 15 grams ( tsp) fine sea salt
  • 1 gram (generous ¼ tsp) instant yeast
  • 350 grams ( c + tbsp) water at about 60°F (15°C)
  • 50 grams ( tbsp) honey
  • 25 grams ( tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 50 grams (¼ c) Caramelized Onions
  • Dusting Mixture, for the linen liner and shaped loaves

Method

For the Starter

  1. Put the flour in a medium storage container. Sprinkle the yeast into the water, stir to mix, and pour over the flour. Mix with your fingers, pressing the mixture into the sides, bottom, and corners until all of the flour is wet and fully incorporated. Cover the container and let sit at room temperature for 10 to 14 hours. The starter will be at its peak at around 12 hours.

For the Dough

  1. Stir together the white and buckwheat flours, salt, and yeast in a medium bowl.
  2. Pour about one-third of the water around the edges of the starter to release it from the sides of the container. Transfer the starter and water to an extra-large bowl along with the remaining water and the honey. Using a wooden spoon, break the starter up to distribute it in the water.
  3. Add the flour mixture, reserving about one-sixth of it along the edge of the bowl (see Mixing). Continue to mix with the spoon until most of the dry ingredients have been combined with the starter mixture. Switch to a plastic bowl scraper and continue to mix until incorporated. At this point the dough will be sticky to the touch.
  4. Push the dough to one side of the bowl. Roll and tuck the dough (see Rolling and Tucking), adding the reserved flour mixture and a small amount of additional flour to the bowl and your hands as needed. Continue rolling and tucking until the dough feels stronger and begins to resist any further rolling, about 10 times. Then, with cupped hands, tuck the sides under toward the center. Place the dough, seam-side down, in a clean bowl, cover the top of the bowl with a clean kitchen towel, and let rest at room temperature for 45 minutes.
  5. For the first stretch and fold (see Stretching and Folding), lightly dust the work surface and your hands with flour. Using the plastic bowl scraper, release the dough from the bowl and set it, seam-side down, on the work surface. Gently stretch it into a roughly rectangular shape. Fold the dough in thirds from top to bottom and then from left to right. With cupped hands, tuck the sides under toward the center. Place the dough in the bowl, seam-side down, cover the bowl with the towel, and let rest for 45 minutes.
  6. For the second stretch and fold, repeat the steps for the first stretch and fold, then return the dough to the bowl, cover with the towel, and let rest for 45 minutes.
  7. For the third stretch and fold, gently stretch the dough into a rectangle. Pinch the butter into pieces, distributing them over the top of the dough. Using your fingers or a spatula, spread the butter across the surface of the dough. Scatter the onions on top. (For photos of the following process, see Incorporating Add-Ins.) Roll up the dough tightly from the end closest to you; at the end of the roll the dough will be seam-side down. Turn it over, seam-side up, and gently press on the seam to flatten the dough slightly. Fold in thirds from left to right and then roll and 4 or 5 roll and tuck sequences to incorporate the butter. Turn the dough seam-side down and tuck the sides under toward the center. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with the towel, and let rest for 45 minutes.
  8. For the fourth and final stretch and fold, repeat the steps for the first stretch and fold, then return the dough to the bowl, cover with the towel, and let rest for 20 minutes.
  9. Line a half sheet pan with a linen liner and dust fairly generously with the dusting mixture.
  10. Lightly dust the work surface and your hands with flour. Using a bench scraper, divide the dough into 2 equal pieces. Press each piece into 9 by 5-inch (23 by 15 cm) rectangle, then roll into a loose tube about 9 inches (23 cm) long (see Shaping a Tube or Oval Loaf). Let rest for 5 minutes. Press each piece out again and then shape into an oval about 12 inches (30 cm) long. Transfer to the lined pan, seam-side up, positioning the loaves lengthwise. Dust the top and sides of the loaves with flour. Fold the linen to create support walls on both sides of each loaf, then fold any extra length of the linen liner over the top or cover with a kitchen towel. Transfer the pan to the refrigerator and chill for 12 to 18 hours.
  11. Set up the oven with a baking stone and a cast-iron skillet for steam (see Baking Stones and Steam, then preheat the oven to 500°F (260°C).
  12. Using the linen liner, lift and gently flip the loaves off the pan and onto a transfer peel, seam-side down. Slide the dough, still seam-side down, onto a dusted baking peel (see Using a Transfer Peel and Baking Peel). Score the top of each (see Scoring). Working quickly but carefully, transfer the loaves to the stone using heavy-duty oven mitts or potholders. Pull out the hot skillet, add about 3 cups of ice cubes, then slide it back in and close the oven door. Immediately lower the oven temperature to 460°F (240°C). Bake, switching the positions of the loaves about two-thirds of the way through baking, until the surface is a deep, rich brown, with some spots along the scores being very dark (bien cuit), about 25 minutes.
  13. Using the baking peel, transfer the loaves to a cooling rack. When the bottoms of the loaves are tapped, they should sound hollow. If not, return to the stone and bake for 5 minutes longer.
  14. Let the bread cool completely before slicing and eating, at least 4 hours but preferably 8 to 24 hours.