The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Onion Rye Deli Style Sourdough

Isand66's picture

Onion Rye Deli Style Sourdough


My wife recently bought me a Traeger pellet smoker for my birthday and I decided to smoke a brisket for its maiden voyage. I needed a nice deli rye to make a killer smoked brisket sandwich and this bake didn’t disappoint!

I wanted to try a interesting technique that I have not used in over 20 years to add more onion flavor to the dough. The idea is to chop up a small onion and wrap it in cheesecloth and submerge it in the levain. When the levain is ready to use in the main dough you remove the onion and discard it.

I also added some dehydrated onions to main dough which were soaked briefly in olive oil and added at the end of the final mix. I was going to add some toasted onions to the top of the bread but decided it may have been overkill, but maybe next time it’s worth a shot.

I used King Arthur High Gluten flour, some Caputo 00 and some fresh milled Ryman Rye from Barton Springs Mill which was sifted once with a #30 sieve and re-milled. I only sifted out 3% of the bran for this bake. Normally I would use First Clear style four instead of 00 flour but KAF stopped selling it and I have not had a chance to take a drive to nearby Queens NY to buy it from a new source I found. I think this turned out great even without the First Clear but it certainly wouldn’t have hurt it.

I was pleased with how this turned out. The crumb is ideal for sandwiches and the onion flavor is subtle and not too strong but definitely adds a wonderful complexity and flavor to this bake.


Levain Directions 

Mix all the levain ingredients together for about 1 minute and submerge a small onion wrapped in cheesecloth and cover with plastic wrap.

Let it sit at room temperature for around 6-7 hours or until the starter has almost doubled. I used my proofer set at 76 degrees so it took around 5 hours for me. Either use in the main dough immediately or refrigerate for up to 1 day before using.

 Main Dough Procedure

Note: I use an Ankarsrum Mixer so my order of mixing is slightly different than if using a Kitchenaid or other mixer. Add all your liquid to your mixing bowl except 50-80 grams. Next, add all your flour to the bowl and mix on low for a minute until it forms a shaggy mass. Cover the mixing bowl and let it rest for an hour.   Next add the starter and salt and remaining water as needed and mix on medium low (about speed 3) for 12- 24 minutes.  When the dough is almost fully developed, add the olive oil and dehydrated onions and mix for another minute or 2 to fully incorporate the onions. If you are using a more traditional mixer you would only mix around 7-10 minutes.

Remove the dough from your bowl and place it in a lightly oiled bowl or work surface and do several stretch and folds.  Let it rest covered for 10-15 minutes and then do another stretch and fold.  Let it rest another 10-15 minutes and do one additional stretch and fold.  After a total of 1.45 hours place your covered bowl in the refrigerator and let it rest for 12 to 24 hours. I use my proofer set at 79-80 degrees. If you are leaving it at room temperature 72 degrees I would let it sit out for 2 -2.5 hours before refrigerating. Depending on how developed the dough is after the initial mix you may not need to do as many S&F’s.

When you are ready to bake remove the bowl from the refrigerator and let it set out at room temperature still covered for 1.5 to 2 hours or if using a proofer set at 80 degrees for 1 hour.  Remove the dough and do a pre-shape into a round(s). Let it sit covered for around 15-20 minutes. Next shape as desired and add to your proofing baskets/bannetons and cover with a moist tea towel or plastic wrap Sprayed with cooking spray and let rise at room temperature for 1 1/2 – 2 hours.  (I use my proofer set at 80 F and it takes about 1 hour.

Around 45 minutes before ready to bake, pre-heat your oven to 540 degrees F. and prepare it for steam.  I have a heavy-duty baking pan on the bottom rack of my oven with 1 baking stone on above the pan and one on the top shelf.  I pour 1 cup of boiling water in the pan right after I place the dough in the oven.

After 1 minute lower the temperature to 455 degrees.  Bake for around 35 minutes or until the breads are nice and brown and have an internal temperature around 200-210 F. 

Take the bread(s) out of the oven when done and let them cool on a bakers rack for as long as you can resist. 


pmccool's picture

Onions and rye play together very nicely, as you have shown.  That's an excellent bake!

I made a similar bread back in February but used caramelized onions, instead.  Not quite as pretty as yours (I should have let it ferment longer) but still a good marriage of onion and rye.


Isand66's picture

Appreciate your feedback as always.  I’ve used caramelized onions in many past bakes as well and love the sweetness they impart.  I wanted the onions to stand out more in this bake and find the caramelized ones tend to melt more into the dough.  I was actually thinking of added toasted onions on the top but I’m glad I didn’t as it may have been too much 😀.

Best regards,



The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

Great compliment to a nice smoker brisket. Congratulations 🎉

Isand66's picture

I was very happy with this bake and I’m looking forward to more “smoking” soon 😂

tpassin's picture

Good crumb for ingredients like those! I wouldn't mind some of the brisket, either!


Isand66's picture

I was very pleased with the crumb.  It was open enough and holds the ingredients perfectly!  I usually make brisket when we are entertaining or going to a party but this time it was just for the two of us so our 4 pups have been getting a treat with their meals as well 😅.

Thank you for your comments!



squattercity's picture

What fantastic breads, Ian! You are an inspiration! Great crumb (tho, wut, no brisket pics?)!

I wonder if you could enlighten me on the 1 minute at 540F. What does that add? I've made your sweet potato cider rye many times, which, somewhat similarly, calls for 5 min at 525 before the temp drops to a more traditional, if still bold, 450F. I've baked it with and without the high temp blast and can't tell the difference (except for scorched parchment paper.)




Isand66's picture

Appreciate your comments.  My normal procedure is to preheat at 540 and then as soon as I put the dough in I lower it to 450-455.  That works for me in my oven but by all means go with what works best for your setup.  If I’m making one large Miche I will further lower the temp to 235-240 to prevent getting it too dark.  Again whatever works best for you is what you should follow.

Happy baking!


JonJ's picture

This bread must have tasted superb, am shelving the idea of the onion levain for when I've got some good roast beef or even salmon.


Isand66's picture

I look forward to seeing your version and roast beef sandwich 😎