Wednesday 24 April 2013

Cheese and Caramelised Onion Bread with a Poolish

Deep frying onions may sound like an odd thing to do but I know of no better method of producing crisp brown slices of onion, perfect for pureeing as part of a curry paste or in this case for flavouring along with some good cheddar, a couple of loaves of bread.
Readers of my blog will know that when it comes to bread baking I rarely go for breads with a multitude of ingredients, preferring on the whole to produce rather plain bread which will serve me well for 3 or 4 or even five days, as an accompaniment for food. My sourdough is a good example, a simple mostly white bread which is a treat on the day it is baked, and as the days go by, lovely toasted or turned into croutons.
Occasionally though a flavour combination does inspire me to bake a different kind of loaf, cheddar and caramelised onions is one such combination. This loaf is good toasted and as long as you are sensible about the filling it works well when making sandwiches.

To make this bread you will need:
For the poolish,
250g of strong white flour
3g of fast action yeast
300g of water

For the main dough
All of the poolish
300g of strong white flour
3g of fast action yeast
10g of salt
2 large onions (around 450g) sliced
250g of good strong cheddar cheese, grated.
Oil for deep frying

Make the poolish by putting together the ingredients and leave in a large bowl covered overnight. In the morning the surface of the poolish should look bubbly and the mix should be well aerated.
 Prepare the fried onions by peeling and slicing. Heat oil up in either a deep fat fryer or as I do a large Indian karhai or wok. It's important when deep frying to have enough room for everything to expand, some ingredients when deep fried, especially vegetables, produce a great number of bubbles. When a single slice of onion rises to the surface when placed in the hot oil, place all the onions into the oil to fry. I find this process will take at least 15 minutes but keep an eye on them. Initially they will remain pale and they will bubble gently on the surface. The onions near the edge will brown a little earlier than the rest so gently coax these back into the centre. The onions will finally show signs of browning and it's important to be attentive and keep the mass of browning onions moving about. Be brave and keep them cooking until you have achieved an even deep brown colour, the bubbles will reduce greatly by this time. Remove from the hot oil and drain on kitchen paper.

Not quite done

Just right

Make the dough by adding the remaining flour, yeast and salt and mix until well combined, adding a little more water if the dough looks a little dry or stiff. Knead on a medium speed for 2 or 3 minutes if using a mixer or 5 to 10 minutes by hand before kneading in the cheese until well combined and finally the onions. Leave the dough to prove at room temperature for a couple of hours, covered with a damp cloth. Divide the dough in two and shape into whatever shape loaves you fancy. Leave to rise for another hour before baking in a hot, 200C oven for 30 to 35 minutes. I hold back a little of the grated cheese to sprinkle on top of the loaves prior to baking.

This bread has a very special texture, akin to a brioche, it's important to make sure you bake it long enough to ensure the crumb is fully set, the extra fat content from the cheese means baking time needs to be lengthened a little.


  1. This looks SO good! How did you stop yourself from eating those magnificent onions with a fork before you made that gorgeous loaf of bread? You must have amazing willpower :)

  2. The secret, as in comedy I'm told, is timing. Prepare the onions just before adding to the dough. Believe me, good as crispy fried onions are, they're even better in this bread, so worth curbing your appetite. Good to hear from you, happy baking, Tôbi.


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