One of the most attractive aspects of baking is that one can easily make use of a plethora of different ingredients. As such, my rediscovered penchant for savoury oven antics shall soon find itself with broadened horizons. After all, there’s no fun in baking exceedingly delicious bread, if it doesn’t have a personal and interesting twist. There’s nothing wrong with indulging in a little dull bread from time to time, but doing so is merely functional when compared with the eating of more complex loaves. Now, before you all rush for your collective soapbox, I ought really to further clarify my position. I’m not purporting the stance that bread which is both monochrome in both colour and flavour isn’t delicious, or fantastic, merely that a little extra is required to satisfy my intrigue. Granted, onion isn’t the most remarkable ingredient to employ in the baking of bread, but its flavour comes through magnificently.
The secret to making good-quality onion bread is to ensure that the vegetable has reached a decent stage of caramelisation before it is kneaded in. In making certain of this, one can be sure that the eye-watering flavours of raw onion will have been replaced by a certain rustic sweetness, helped along by only a modicum of sugar. It has to be admitted that there was a lack of certainty regarding the use of only one onion. However, the dark sweetness it instilled shone through unimpeded. This must have been facilitated by the oil in which the onion was cooked, since the flavour of the vegetable would have permeated it entirely.
There appears to be a little confusion surrounding the lack of a second rise in my bread recipes. As far as this baker is concerned, there are two schools of thought on the matter. One takes my approach; the other takes the longer method. Frankly, I have never been able to discern a difference between bread that has risen only once and bread that has been knocked back and allowed to rise again. Ignoring the fact that the second method sounds uncannily like the story of Easter, one need not focus too heavily on the rising process, so long as it is given a lengthy first rise. Indeed, by far the most important consideration to take into account when making bread is the kneading of the dough. The kneading is what assists the bread in its growing endeavours and ensuring a good knead will almost certainly guarantee a sumptuous texture.
Caramelised Onion Bread
Makes one 2lb loaf
• 250g brown bread flour
• 200g white bread flour
• 50g rye flour
• 7g fast action dried yeast
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• A good amount of oil, rapeseed or olive
• A modicum of sugar
• A couple of pinches of salt
• 300ml warm water
1. Begin by frying the onion in a little oil. After 5 minutes add a pinch of sugar and cook until they begin to turn brown. Take them off the heat and set aside.
2. Place the yeast in a bowl along with a splash of warm water, set aside. Put the flours and salt into a bowl and mix thoroughly. Tip in the yeast after it has been left standing for 5 minutes, a drizzle of oil and ¾ of the water. Bring the ingredients together, it should be sticky and malleable, but not wet; the remaining water may be needed. Knead the slightly cool onions into the dough, this should consume no less than 10 minutes of one’s precious time. Grease a 2lb loaf tin, shape and place the dough inside. Cover and leave to rise for around 1 ½ hours.
3. Preheat the oven to 200C. Bake until brown, the bottom should sound hollow when tapped. This should take between 30 and 40 minutes. Turn the loaf out and leave to cool for around an hour.
Cost: The bread, like my last and all of those that will follow it, was extremely cheap to produce. Indeed, once one has a collection of flours, it’ll feel like no money is being spent at all. The entire loaf, which is rather filling, should set one back no more than 55p. Lovely.