The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

caramelized onions

dabrownman's picture

These rolls are SD / YW, caramelized onion, sun dried tomato, bacon, parmesan cheese Emperor Rolls with Seeds so they are pretty much not Kaiser rolls or semmels any more.  We forgot to put in the basil but left it in the formula.


We were reading a post on another unmentioned site on how to make your own sun dried tomatoes.  Tomatoe are 25 cents a pound for Roma ones this week so no time like the present  to dry them.  Sun dried tomatoes have become increasingly more expensive in the store and are very easy to make at home.  I prefer mine roasted slowly with a little salt and Herbs de Provence packed in olive oil so that you get flavored oil too.


After finishing the tomato drying project we were looking around for a new way to use them besides in our standard pizza dough.  We also needed some hamburger buns for our monthly hamburger dinner.


We usually make these no fancy do shaped buns, with parmesan cheese, basil and apple wood smoked bacon but thought that a few minced sun dried tomatoes wouldn’t hurt them any – unlike what FedEx might do to your next package.


This time the apprentice thought we might give Emperor Roll shaping a try for these rolls and stick some; white and black poppy, white and black sesame, basil and nigella seeds on them with egg.  The (2) multi-seeded ones also had kosher salt and chia seeds in the mix.  We recently found some oregano seeds but forgot to use them on purpose - just to be consistent in forgetting stuff we would have liked to put in our recipes .


We also wanted to enrich our last dough for rolls with an egg to go along with the butter, NF milk and olive oil.  They ended up being 75% hydration our recent norm for white breads.


Kaiser rolls are always plain instead of having seeds on them and oddly they have nothing to do with the Kaiser either.  Odd how things get named isn’t it?  Kaiser rolls originate from Vienna, Austria and were supposedly named after the Emperor Franz Joseph but they are never called Emperor rolls.  So we ended up naming these Franz Joeseph's Emperor Rolls with Seeds.  We can understand how Empress Ying would have every right to be miffed bout this.


We shaped the rolls like they do here:


And not the way Norm does here:


Had we known it was Norm at the time, we would have shaped them the authentic way.  Next time for sure.


These Emperor Rolls with Seeds came out nicely brown and went soft as summer rolls tend to do in AZ.   Kaiser Rolls should be crusty and hard for NY authentic ones.



We built the YW and SD levains separately over a 6 hour build with equal amounts of flour for each and 69% hydration.   The dough flours were autolysed with the milk for 4 hours.   When the levains and the dough flours came together we added the egg, oil softened butter, salt and malts and squeezed the dough through our fingers until incorporated.

After the dough had rested for 15 minutes, we did the first of (4) sets of S&F’s on 30 minute intervals.  The first one was (16) ¼ turns reducing by 4 turns each successive set.  The dough rested in a plastic covered oiled bowl in between sets.  After the last set the dough was retarded for 12 hours in the 38 F fridge in the oiled plastic covered bowl.

After the retard was complete we let the dough sit out for 1 hour on the counter to warm up.  We then weighed out (10) 112 g pieces and shaped them into balls.  After a 10 minute rest under plastic on the counter, we rolled out the balls into 14”ropes.

After another 10 minute rest they were shaped into Kaiser rolls and placed on parchment paper on cookie sheets to final proof covered in a plastic trash can liner for 2 hours.  The tops wee brushed with egg wash and sprinkled with the seeds.

Big Betsy was fired up to 450 F with (2) of Sylvia’s steaming bread pans with wet towels in them.  After 45minutes the rolls were ready to bake with additional steam provided by the ½ C of water we tossed into the bottom of the oven.

After 2 minutes the temperature was turned down to 425 F and then down to 375 F when the steam came out at the 10 minute mark. The rolls were rotated 180 degrees every 5 minutes after the steam was removed to ensure even browning.  They were removed from the oven when they reached 205 F internal temperature about 25 minutes including the steam.  We didn’t brush the tops with milk to keep them soft when they came out of the oven like we normally do since we thought they would go oft enough on their own


YW / SD Combo Starter

Build 1


SD Rye and Desem Starter



Yeast Water









Total Starter












Levain % of Total






Dough Flour









Dough Flour









Non Fat Milk



Dough Hydration






Total Flour



Milk and Water



T. Dough Hydration



Whole Grain %






Hydration w/ Adds



Total Weight






Add - Ins









Red Rye Malt



White Rye Malt



Olive Oil









3 Thick Apple Wood Smoked Bacon Strips

2 T Chopped basil



4 T Caramelized onion.



1/4 C Grated Parmesan



2 T Sun Dried Tomato



dabrownman's picture

This bread is great! I didn't have any semolina left after my Semolina yeast water bread so I subbed 5% rye, 5% WW and 5% spelt.  for isands66's semolina. No wheat germ around either, but I left it out with no sub since I put in so much whole freshly ground grains. Instead of mashed potatoes that Ian used,  I put in potato flakes (just the flakes about 4 T worth - no added water). I used caramelized onions, aged white cheddar cheese and smoked pork jowl to replace the other like items in Ian's recipe. I like the smoked pork jowl because it has a real apple smoked flavor, almost no fat compared to streaky bacon and it is thicker too. I baked this to 210 F because I thought the add ins would moisten the crumb. I'm glad I did.

The crust on this small batard was exceptional with nice ears and crunchy - yet chewy later. The crumb is moist and slightly open but it is the taste that makes this an outstanding bread. Toasted with butter is just the best. Nice recipe Ian. It is a keeper.

Franko's picture

This bread took a few weeks from first concept to final bake but I'm glad I hung in there to get what I think is a good bread with a savory flavour and aroma. I'd been wanting to make a sour onion rye bread for a while but couldn't find any recipes that really appealed to me. As I was leafing through Jan Hed's 'Swedish Breads and Pastries one day I found a recipe for a Pain Dijonnaise that included mustard in the formula, something I hadn't considered using till this point but thought that adding some mustard along with caramelized onions in a sour rye would be an excellent flavour combination. I had a bake planned for the following day of a Pain de Campagne using a wheat levain so I decided to split the mix and use the onion mustard combination in one loaf to see how the flavours worked in a finished loaf. While it turned out OK it didn't have quite the punch I was looking for, lacking the intensity of overall flavour I was after, but promising nonetheless.

If I was going to make this properly I needed to start a new rye sour from scratch since the one I had wasn't a pure rye sour anymore from letting wheat based sours gradually creep into it over the last year. It took a few tries to finally get an active starter going, but that eventually worked out by keeping it wrapped in towels on top of the hot water tank, the one consistently warm spot in our house during the day while we're away at work.

When I got home from work this past Saturday I mixed the levain/sour for the next days mix leaving it to ripen over 17hours, and then getting the caramelized onions prepared as well as roasting some mustard seeds to include in the mix. The formula I'd worked out would use a dark rye sour, combined with medium rye and bread flour in the final mix, not wanting to overpower the final flavour with any more dark rye and hopefully allow the onion mustard combination to have it's say. Once I had everything in the mixer and started mixing I realized right off that I'd have to add more bread flour to get any sort of a workable mix, using an additional 100 grams to achieve a wet but manageable dough. The rest of the mix went fine after that resulting in a soft but developed dough. Formula, mixing notes, and bake profile to follow.

Once I had the bread out of the oven I had some serious doubt as to whether it was fully baked since it just didn't sound right when I tapped the bottom of the loaf. I don't normally check the internal temperature, but because of the size of this one I thought it would be wise. The reading showed 209.5F from the center so I put my trust in that and hoped for the best. When I sliced it this morning I found that it was fully baked except for one very small area in the bottom center that's barely noticeable. The crumb is chewy and moist, with a solid flavour of sweet onion, a bit of sharp from the mustard, and a pronounced sour character overall. The onion itself seems to have almost completely dissolved into the dough, but now and again you hit a pocket of lovely roasted onion flavour ...which I wish there was more of. Next time I bake this I'll increase both the onion and the mustard percentage, but for now I'm fairly satisfied with the result.


If anyone was wondering what this bread might be used for, the photos below show what I had in mind for it right from the beginning.

Montreal smoked brisket sandwich

Vancouver Island smoked sockeye salmon on toasted onion rye with onion and capers....and yes, no cream cheese!


  1. Mix the levain/sour and let sit for 16-18 hours at 70F

  2. Add all the ingredients of the final dough *except the levain/sour to a stand mixer bowl and mix on 1st speed for 2-3 minutes until combined, then add the levain/sour and continue mixing for 2-3 minutes longer, scraping the bowl down as needed. The dough will be sticky, and show little development.

  3. Transfer the dough to a large mixing bowl and begin folding the dough over itself, rotating it a 1/4 turn for each fold and continue till the dough is cohesive and moderately developed. The dough should be soft and supple.

  4. Turn the dough out onto the counter, and using a minimum of dusting flour continue working the dough, kneading it for 3-4 minutes until the dough can hold a shape without slumping.

  5. Place the dough in a lightly dusted bowl and cover. Bulk ferment at room temp of 68-70F for 2 ½ hrs. Stretch and fold twice in the first two hours.

  6. Gently preshape in a ball, cover and let rest for 15 minutes.

  7. Shape as desired , cover, and final proof for approx. 1 ½ hrs at room temperature.

  8. Preheat oven and baking stone to 485F and have steaming system prepared in advance of loading the bread.

  9. Slash as desired, *note: if making a batard, a chevron style of slash will help give the loaf a higher, rounder, finished profile.

  10. With steaming system in place, load the bread onto the preheated baking stone and bake for 20minutes at 485F. Remove the steam system and lower the temperature to 440F and continue baking for 20 minutes, then lower the temperature to 400F for an additional 15-20 minutes. Check for an internal temperature of 210F. Turn off the heat and leave the bread in the cooling oven for 15 minutes. Remove and cool on a wire rack for 8-9 hours or overnight before slicing.


Caramelized Onion

Two large sweet onions, coarsely sliced and mixed with the olive oil, then baked in a covered pan at 250F for 30 minutes. Remove the lid, stir the onions and continue baking for 30 or more minutes until the onions are a medium brown colour. For a future bake of this bread I would increase the ratio of onion to 35% and the mustard to 10% of the overall flour in the mix for a more pronounced flavour effect.


Sour Rye with Caramelized Onion & Mustard












Dark Rye Flour






Mature rye starter-100%









Final Dough



Medium Rye flour



Bread flour






Sliced sweet onion-cooked



Olive oil



Sea salt






Grainy mustard



Mustard seeds-toasted






DDT- 72-74F



Total kg



Total flour weight



Total Hydration



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