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2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 cup (4 ounces) lukewarm water
2 tablespoons (7/8 ounce) sugar
1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (4 ounces) milk
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 to 2 1/2 cups (8 1/2 to 10 5/8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) butter or margarine
2 cups chopped onions (2 medium-to-large onions, 12 ounces unpeeled, 10 ounces peeled and chopped)
1 tablespoon poppy seeds (optional)
poppy seeds (optional)*
Sponge: In a large bowl, or in the bucket of a bread machine, mix together the yeast, lukewarm water, sugar and 1 cup of the flour. Let sit till bubbly, about 30 minutes.
Manual/Mixer Method: Place all of the remaining dough ingredients into the bowl with the sponge. Mix and knead until you've formed a smooth dough. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover it, and let it rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until it's almost doubled in bulk.
Bread Machine Method: Place all of the dough ingredients into the pan of your bread machine, along with the sponge; program the machine for manual or dough, and press Start. Check the dough about 10 minutes before the end of the final kneading cycle; it should be perhaps a bit "gnarly," but still nice and soft and workable.
Filling: While the dough is rising, prepare the onions. Melt the butter in a large frying pan and add the onions. Saute them over low-to-medium heat until they're soft and barely golden, about 20 minutes. Remove them from the heat and set them aside. Stir in 1 tablespoon poppy seeds, if desired.
Shaping: Gently deflate the dough, and turn it out onto a lightly floured or oiled work surface. Divide it into eight pieces. Flatten each piece into a rough rectangle approximately 4 inches wide by 7 inches long. Spoon 1/8 of the onion mixture in a strip down the "short center" of each dough rectangle (i.e., spoon filling the short way across the dough, not the long way). Fold both sides of dough over the onions and pinch together to seal all around, making eight rolls which are each approximately 4 inches long by 2 1/2 inches wide. If you happen to have a crimping sealer, run it all around the border of the dough; it'll do a really nice job.
Place the rolls, about an inch apart, on a lightly greased (or parchment-lined) baking sheet. Set them in a warm place to rise until puffy, about 1 hour.
Preheat your oven to 500°F. Gently brush the rolls with a little melted butter, then sprinkle with poppy seeds, if desired.
Bake the rolls for 10 minutes, or until they're golden brown; this quick baking at a high temperature makes rolls that are golden brown outside, but still very soft inside. Remove the rolls from the oven and cool them completely on a wire rack. Store them in a plastic bag. These rolls are actually better, in taste and texture, if allowed to "ripen" overnight. Yield: 8 rolls.
*Traditional onion rolls have a bit of chopped onion sprinkled on top. I don't do this as it's hard to prevent the onion from burning, and burned onion imparts a very bitter taste to the rolls.
Nutrition information per serving (1 roll, 133g): 302 cal, 11g fat, 7g protein, 40g complex carbohydrates, 3g sugar, 2g dietary fiber, 35mg cholesterol, 285mg sodium, 175mg potassium, 49RE vitamin A, 3mg vitamin C, 3mg iron, 32mg calcium, 96mg phosphorus
This recipe reprinted from The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. XII, No. 4, Spring 2001 issue.