This bread has an absolutely intoxicating smell. It is simply amazing! My favourite way to enjoy it is to have it on its own, because it really doesn’t need anything else to distract its wonderful flavour. But I imagine it’d also be absolutely amazing to have with a thick and creamy seafood chowder in winter.
I often stick a pot of sliced onions with a chunk of butter, and let it very slowly cook down (lid on) and caramelise in Big Bill my clay oven overnight. The result is melt-in-the-mouth caramelised onions which is imply wonderful for many uses. The onion renders its own juice being cooked with a lid on. This recipe calls for 2 cups of such caramelised onions in its own juice. If you do not have a clay oven, try sticking some onions into your oven next time you finished baking. Alternatively, you can melt a little butter on the stove top, then slowly cook 4 sliced onions down until they are absolutely soft.
- 2 cups of caramelised onions with its juice (This takes about 4 onions. Top with water to make 2 full cups if there aren’t enough juice.)
- 3 cups high grade flour
- 1 cup wholemeal flour
- 1/2 cup sourdough starter
- 1tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup cheese cubes roughly 1cm in size
Here’s what I do:
- Mix everything except cheese until the dough comes together.
- Incorporate the cheese into the dough and knead a few times just so the cheese is evenly distributed. The dough should be soft and sticky, but not sloppy. This is not a very wet dough, because the cheese needs enough “structure” for support.
- Cover the dough in a large bowl and let the dough rise until doubled to tripled in size (this may take anything between 6-14 hours, depending on the day’s temperature and sourdough starter).
- Gently, scrap the dough out onto a well floured workbench with a wet rubber spatula. This prevents the dough from getting degassed too much.
- Use wet hands to gently even the thickness of the dough out (don’t actually press it or flatten it). Then use a scrapper to fold the left third into the middle, followed by the right side, like folding a letter. (You may wish to watch the video in this article on shaping dough.)
- Shape your loaf into whatever shape you like. These days I prefer to divide the dough (roughly 1 Kg) in two, and shape into oblong loaves.
- Pinch the seams together and let it rise seam side down on a well floured wooden board, or seam side up in a well floured banneton or other mould.
- Dust the top with flour and let it double in size. When the dough is ready to be baked, you should see the dough bounce back slowly when you indent it with your finger tip. This normally takes 2 hours for me. Preheat the oven to 250C prior to baking. Heat a pizza stone if you have one. Also put a tray on the lowest shelf and fill it with hot water.
- Transfer the dough onto a baking tray or a peel/paddle with the seam side down. Slash with a sharp knife so it’ll split into the pattern you desire. Spray it with water and put it into the oven. Reduce the oven to 220C and bake until the crust is lightly golden. Then reduce the oven to 180C to finish baking. It’ll take roughly 45 mins to 1hr in total to bake through. To test for doneness, tap the bottom of the loaf and see if it sounds hollow. When it does, it’s done.