Saturday, January 30, 2010

Caramelized Onion Braided Bread

"The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight."
~ M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating  

If you know anything about me you will know of my love for onions- especially sauteed onions.  I love them so much I could eat them by themselves and be perfectly happy.  Mmmmm...buttery heaven.   Am I strange?  Maybe.  But I can't help it, the way the butter, salt and heat break down the sugars in the onions it just makes them pure bliss.  I seriously put onions in everything I make (or at least pretty darn close)!  So when I saw this recipe for a Caramelized Onion Braided Bread in the bread machine cookbook, I knew it was calling my name.  Since I am borrowing Bonnie's bread machine in the hopes of knowing wether I should get one for myself or not, I have wanted to play around a bit and get a feel for it.  I want to try out different types of breads just to see how easy (or not) the bread machine makes things.  And the cool thing with this recipe is that it works with both the bread machine and my own oven.  One does the mixing, kneading and raising and the other does the baking.  So I get to use the machine to do all the hard work and then I still get to play a bit with my hands and still feel like I "baked bread".  Pretty cool.

First thing you will want to do is take one large onion, thinly sliced and saute it in a skillet in 4 tablespoons of butter for 20 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally, until they are golden brown.  Don't rush them or they will burn.

Pour the contents of the skillet into a strainer set over a bowl.  Use the back of a spoon to gently push out the butter and some of the juice from the onions.  Measure out 3 tablespoons of liquid and reserve.  (I got pretty much exactly 3 tablespoons, maybe a little more so I just reserved all of it.)

Place all of the ingredients except the onions and poppy seeds in the machine, program for Dough or Manual, and press start.  Now I didn't have poppy seeds on hand so I decided to go without this time around instead of running to the store.  I will definitely try them next time though.  (Ingredients are listed at the end of the recipe).

When the beeper sounds or during the last 5 minutes of the final knead cycle, add the onions and poppy seeds (if using).  At the end of the second rise, remove the dough (it will be sticky) and place it on a well-oiled bowl.  Cover tightly and place it in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or as long as overnight.

Baking Instructions
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water
Lightly butter or grease a heavy-duty cookie sheet.  On a lightly floured board, pat the cold dough into a fat log and then cut into 3 equal pieces.  With the palms of your hands, form each piece into a 16-17 inch length.  Pinch 3 of the ends together, then make a fairly tight braid, pinching the other ends together.  Place on the prepared cookie sheet.

Generously brush the top of the braid with the egg glaze and reserve the egg glaze.  Let the bread rise, uncovered, in a warm, draft-free place for about 1 hour, or until almost double in size.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with the rack in the lower third, but not on the bottom, position.  Repaint the braid with the reserved egg glaze.  Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until deep golden brown and the inside is done (check by inserting a small sharp knife between the braids to make sure the bread is cooked throughout).

This is easily one of the very best breads I have ever eaten in my life (aside from my Grandmother's Babchi Bread).  A lot of extra work goes into this one compared to the first loaf I baked, but it was oh so worth it.  I had Scott wrap it up after it cooled because I was headed downtown to E 4th St. to celebrate my sister's birthday with some girlfriends.  I told him I would slice it up the next morning.  So today when I woke I was just dying to see how it turned out.  It look stunning, and once I opened up the foil and plastic wrap I was enveloped in the move amazing scent.  Even Jackson came running over to see what smelled so yummy.  The onion flavor wasn't super strong (I honestly could even do with more onions, believe it or not!  But that is coming from an onionaholic...) just a wonderful mellow flavor.  Do you like Onion Bagels?  Me too.  That is what this reminded me of, only softer.  I popped a few slices in the toaster and just warmed them through, slathered some butter on them and topped it with a slice of cheese- so delicious!  Jackson gobbled his up in no time and asked for more.  I had to pack it up right away otherwise I could have easily eaten more then I should have!

Since this bread isn't baked in bread pan, but more like a baguette, it isn't a high raiser.  It would still make a lovely small sandwich.  But what I am really dying to try is rubbing it with some garlic cloves, brushing it with a little olive oil and popping it under the broiler for a few.  Then topping it with some bruschetta tomatoes, fresh basil and good parmigiano-reggiano.  I see this become a huge summertime staple.  Yum, yum, yum!  Do yourself a favor and give this a try!!  

For the Onion
1 Large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
4 tablespoons of butter

For the Bread
1 tablespoon honey
3/4 cup water
1 extra-large egg (I only had large, so I called my mom and she said to go with that and not add anything else.  If it had been a small or medium sized egg she told me I would want to add another.  But since it was still large to just use it- close enough)
3 tablespoons butter and onion cooking liquid that was reserved
3 cups unbleached white flour (last minute I realized I had only 2 cups of white flour so I added 1 cup of my whole wheat flour to it and it still turned out super light and moist.  Not at all heavy)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons yeast
1 cup caramelized onions
1/4 cup poppy seeds (Like I said earlier I skipped these this time.  But I will totally try them next time around)

*Recipe taken from Bread Machine Baking: Perfect Every Time by Lora Brody and Millie Apter


  1. Amie, I could almost smell the aroma of this bread while reading your blog! It reminds me of some carmelized onion and poppyseed party rolls my mom made when I was little. We have friends coming over for dinner tonight and I have decided to include this bread in my menu. I will be sure to share my results

  2. Wouldn't that be great if it tasted the same, Kathleen. What wonderful memories that would bring back! I am excited to hear what you think! And I bet you will add the poppy seeds, so I am curious if it changes the bread much. I will be waiting with details :)

  3. well all I can say is that I WOULD have eaten the whole loaf...I love sauteed onions too and BREAD IS MY WEAKNESS! The braising turned out perfect, Amie! I have come to the question???? Are you going to buy a bread making machine? you could also just keep borrowing Bonnies!


  4. I made the bread on Saturday. I divided the dough and made 2 loaves and put one in the freezer for later. Breads like this do really freeze well, just be sure to wrap them good. I added the poppy seeds but only sprinkled them on top. My mom's rolls had the onions on top and were sprinkled with the poppy seeds, but I think the flavor overall was quite similar. My dinner guests enjoyed it too.

  5. That is such a great idea to separate the dough into two loaves. I will definitely do that next time around. I am glad you enjoyed them!

  6. Amie, thanks for directing me to this AWESOME bread! It is officially on my to-bake list! So fun to meet you on TK!

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