It was two reasons that got me baking this bread in a month when I haven’t had much time to spare for baking bread. The first was that this month’s bread over at the Bread Baking Babes group is an anniversary bread. The original group started baking together 8 years ago. The other more compelling reason for me was that this bread has caramelized onions in it. Now that’s something that’s a bit difficult to resist. This month, we also have a new member, Kelly of A Messy Kitchen, joining the group.
This recipe was chosen by Tanna for us to bake and is from the bread book Ben Cuit – The Art of Bread. Ben Cuit is French for “well done” referring to the really dark colour of bread which apparently is typical of the Ben Cuit bakery breads and those in this bread book. What makes this bread really worth making is the addition of the caramelized onions to it. I’m of course, assuming that you really like the flavour of caramelized onions, otherwise this isn’t the bread for you.
As the author of the book explains about this recipe and I quote, “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.”
Note that this bread takes 3 days to make so that’s how long you’ll have to wait before you can eat it. Actually, you’ll have to wait almost another day, because the advice that comes with the recipe says “Let the bread cool completely before slicing and eating, at least 4 hours but preferably 8 to 24 hours.”! The consolation is that much of the time during the 3 days of making it is hands off time, and that you have a gorgeous looking loaf of bread at the end of it all and it tastes just as good.
I recently acquired a Dutch Oven (long story – they’re not available in India though Prestige had introduced a series of cast iron enameled cookware but then discontinued it for lack of demand in the Indian market) and decided to inaugurate it with this bread. This was also an opportunity for me to try out a proofing basket I converted from a cane flower basket which I found when I last visited my aunt. That’s another thing you can’t find in India unless you’re willing to fork out a ridiculously large sum of money which is better used elsewhere.
I followed the chosen recipe mostly but substituted for the buckwheat flour which I didn’t have, with whole wheat flour. You could also use whole wheat or plain flour in place of rye flour if you choose. The recipe below makes 2 medium sized loaves but since I almost always small batch, I halved the recipe to make one loaf and it was the best onion bread we’ve ever eaten.
To caramelize the onions, heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a pan and about 2 largish onions, finely chopped, to it. Over low to medium heat, keep cooking the onions while stirring frequently, until they’re cooked and turn a deep golden brown but do not burn. Take off the heat and let it cool.