Thursday, November 5, 2009

One dough: two twists, a wreath and a demented frog

Having bought a huge bag of red onions at Costco to make Kathy's Asiago-Onion Bread, I had to use up these pungent bulbs, right? No sense in letting them go to waste. So after French onion soup, onion omelet, and so forth, I decided to go all out for onion bread. For the dough I turned to Nancy Silverton's Italian Ring Bread in her book, Breads from La Brea Bakery as I had already used that recipe for fougasse last summer and I remembered loving it. Try it! You'll see. It is soft, smooth and flexible and incredibly forgiving. So much so that even though I had dimpled the foccacia all over and it was weighed down by onions and goat chesse, half of it sprang back up in the oven like the throbbing throat of a demented frog... And best of all, this dough is so versatile, the same batch can yield very different breads:
Onion Twist
Goat-cheese Onion Foccacia
Poppy-seed Wreath
Please note that this is a two-day dough and that there is no onion in the wreath. Ingredients: For the sponge 254 g cool water (70F/21C) 57 g mature white starter 227 g unbleached all-purpose flour For the final dough 556 g cold water (55F/13C) 5 g instant dry yeast the whole sponge 1136 g unbleached all-purpose flour 25 g salt 54 g extra-virgin olive oil Other 3 big onions, peeled, sliced and cooked in two spoonfuls of olive oil until caramelized 40 g important parmesan cheese, freshly grated 60 g fresh goat cheese (if desired, for the foccacia) Poppy seeds for the wreath (optional) extra-virgin olive oil (for brushing) Freshly ground black pepper (optional)
  1. The day before baking, make a sponge by placing water, white starter and flour in a mixing bowl and stirring with a spatula
  2. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough ferment overnight at room temperature
  3. The day of the baking, place water and yeast in the bowl of a mixer. Uncover the sponge and add it to the yeast mixture, along with the flour
  4. Mix the dough on low speed for 4 minutes
  5. Cover the dough with a proofing cloth and allow it to rest in the bowl about 20 minutes (autolyse)
  6. Add the salt and continue mixing on medium speed for 4 minutes, scraping the dough down the sides of the bowl as necessary with a rubber spatula
  7. Add the olive oil and mix on medium speed until incorporated and desired dough temperature (74-78 F/23-26C) is reached
  8. Remove the dough from the mixing bowl. It should feel soft and resilient. Mix it for a few minutes by hand on a lightly floured work surface
  9. Place in oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and let ferment at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 3 hours (mine fermented for one hour at room temperature last night then it went into the fridge overnight)
  10. Preheat the oven to 450F/232C one hour before baking
  11. Uncover the dough and turn it onto a lightly floured surface
  12. Stretch it lightly into a rectangle, dust it with flour and divide it into four equal pieces (each of mine weighed around 570 g)
  13. Pre-shape as 4 balls and let rest, covered, for about 20 minutes
  14. Shape as 4 balls and let proof for 40 minutes, covered
  15. To make the twists, flatten two of the balls into rectangles with a rolling pin, snip 2 inch-strips on the long sides of the rectangles, spread the cooled onions in the middle, dust with parmesan cheese (if desired, use some freshly ground black pepper as well)
  16. Fold the strips onto the middle, forming a braided pattern
  17. Brush with olive oil and bake for 35 minutes (with steam the first ten minutes). Check at half-time to make sure the loaves are not browning too quickly. If you feel that's the case, tent some foil over them
  18. While the onion twists are baking, uncover one of the two remaining balls, flatten it lightly and using your elbow as a cutter, make a hole in the middle. Widen the hole with your fingers and gently set the crown to rest, covered, on a semolina-dusted piece of parchment paper
  19. Take the last ball, flatten it gently with your hands, dimple it all around, brush with olive oil, dimple again and spread with caramelized onions and crumbled goat cheese (add freshly ground pepper if desired)
  20. Set the foccacia to continue proofing, covered, next to the crown until the twists come out of the oven
  21. When the oven is ready, lightly spray the wreath with water, then dust it with poppy seeds and snip with scissors all around to form the design
  22. Bake the wreath and the focaccia at 450F/232C for 35 minutes, with steam the first 10 minutes. Check after 15 minutes to make sure neither of them is browning too fast (you may want to tent some foil over the focaccia at one point to prevent the onions from becoming too dark. I didn't do it and I should have)
  23. Rotate if necessary to ensure even baking
  24. Let cool on a wire rack before eating
I can't slice the wreath open as I am giving it to a friend, so I won't know what its crumb is like but isn't the difference between the crumb of the twist and that of the foccacia rather striking? Same dough, different handling and shaping and very very different results.
Twist crumb Foccacia crumb
But then, it's a good thing, isn't? If not, the onion/parmesan filling would have ended up in our lap!
All these breads go to Susan, from Wild Yeast, for Yeastpotting.


  1. You had me at the demented frog lol! Wonderful bread, and yes, it never fails to amaze me how dough can behave in different shapes

  2. Wow MC! You always make such pretty breads!! They are all outstanding!

  3. hey! your breads and your web are amazing! congratulations!
    I will take good note.

  4. Too pretty to eat! But too delicious looking not to! Problems, problems ...

    This is the time of year when I pick up a big bag of storage onions at our local restaurant supply place - although I've bought a 50 pounder ('cause it's only about a dollar more than the 25), we simply can't use up 50 lbs in 6 months - well, we could, but we'd be sick of onions then.

  5. Oh these bread look so delicious. Now, I have to try that recipe from Nancy Silverton's book . . . I love bread with onion.
    Really, really fascinating that there is such a different crumb with the foccacia and the twist.

  6. Hello MC,
    All out for onion bread, indeed!
    I love how you used this dough to make three uniquely beautiful and delicious-looking breads!
    :^) breadsong



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