Week Twenty-Four: Breads With Vegetables
To finish this week out, I wanted to make an onion bread. But this bread isn’t actually very onion-y. I might have called it “Dill Onion Bread” instead; except that it’s not particularly dill-y either. It does, however, have dill and onion both in – dare I say – perfect balance, neither canceling the other out, not drowning out one with the other, but the one flavor complementing the other to the point that you have a delightful singularity of flavor, neither onion nor dill. Dillonion. Unfortunately, this nicely-balanced dillonion quality is… weak.
My very excellent editor and sous chef described the bread thusly: “It tastes like Thanksgiving.” I’ll be honest: I didn’t quite get that. What I did get, though, was a bread that paired very nicely with some garlicky hummus and a lightly-dressed salad. (We’ve been eating a fair amount of that sort of thing lately, for some reason: bread + salad + protein = dinner. I cannot explain this phenomenon.)
Dill, of course, is a natural paring with any seafood; so I thought a tuna salad sandwich would be lovely with this bread. I have yet to try it out, but it’s probably on the menu in the near future. You could make this dough into baguettes, to serve with any seafood entrée, with the exception of mussels. Mussels need a really hard and crusty bread to best soak up their cooking liquid, and this bread just doesn’t have that crisp crust.
The dough is surprisingly rich with oil, egg, and cottage cheese. I say “surprisingly”, because it really doesn’t taste it. Putting this bread together, I was expecting a softer result, something almost akin to a savory brioche. But it ends up with a moderately hard crust, which softens a bit after standing, and an open crumb. It’s not as soft as a store-bought sandwich bread (which is a plus in my book), but it’s certainly not as hard as the average artisanal loaf.
All in all, this is a good bread. Is it great? Not really; but you could absolutely do worse. I’ve certainly made far worse breads; but I’ve also made better breads. I imagine an autolyse period (that 15 or 20 minute cat-nap you give the dough after mixing) would benefit it, as would the addition of some sourdough starter. The onion and dill flavors could also be increased a fair amount, despite the fact that it looks like quite a bit of both go into the dough already. I’m just not convinced that all the ingredients were worth their expense for what you get out of it.
Thus, the genius of Chef Bo Friberg is revealed: even his “dud” recipes are still totally decent. Chef Friberg ftw!
Onion Dill Bread
Adapted from Bo Friberg
Makes 2 small loaves or 1 large loaf
6 ounces (1 small or 3/4 medium) yellow onion, chopped finely
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (such as canola)
1 1/2 tablespoons dried or 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 pound (about 3 1/2 cups) unbleached bread flour, divided
6 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) whole wheat flour
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast (1 packet)
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 cup warm water (115º to 130º F)
1 whole large egg + 1 egg yolk
3 ounces (about 1/3 cup) cottage cheese
1. In a pan over moderate heat, sauté the onions in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Be careful not to brown them. Remove from the heat, add the remaining olive oil, the vegetable oil, dill, and salt. Stir to combine, and set aside.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together 10 ounces (2 1/4 cups) of the bread flour, the whole wheat flour, yeast, and sugar. Mix the water, the egg, egg yolk, and cottage cheese together. Add to the flour mixture in the bowl.
3. Using the dough hook, mix at low speed until a dough begins to form, scraping the bowl down as needed. Add the reserved onion mixture, and continue kneading at low speed until incorporated, adding enough of the remaining flour to help it integrate. Increase the speed to medium and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the dough forms a cohesive and elastic ball. Add the reserved flour by tablespoons to achieve the proper consistency; the dough should be slightly firm, and not sticky. Transfer the dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
4. Uncover the bowl, and using a nonstick spatula, fold the dough over itself in a tri-fold, as though you were folding a letter. Re-cover the bowl, and let the dough rise for another 45 minutes, or until doubled in volume.
5. Lightly oil a baking sheet, or line with a sheet of parchment paper. Punch the dough down, and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Form the dough into a single oval loaf, or divide it into two pieces and shape into oval loaves, with a skin stretching around the outside. Place smooth-side up on the prepared baking sheet, and cover loosely with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Let rest until nearly doubled in size, about 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 400º F thirty minutes before baking.
6. Spray or sprinkle the loaf (or loaves) with water, and transfer to the oven. Bake at 400° F for 10 minutes, opening the door to spray again with water every minute or two. Continue baking for another 20 minutes, or until golden brown and baked through, and an instant-read thermometer registers 200° F when inserted into the center. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
1. Instead of cottage cheese, you can use any similarly-textured dairy product: sour cream, thick yogurt, crème fraîche, quark, clotted cream, etc., etc. Cottage cheese is commonly available, and reasonably priced. And don’t worry about seeing lumps of cheese goo in the bread; they just melt into the dough, leaving no trace but a little richness and moisture.
2. You can substitute the whole-wheat flour with additional bread flour, if you like.