Levain Bread with Caramelized Onions

I am beyond excited about this bread for three reasons: first, it is….. it is…. (drum roll)….. my own recipe!!!! Second, I am entering it in a “Bread Contest” launched by Jackie, from Pham Fatale.   I hope you will have a moment to visit her site on October 1st to see all breads and vote for your favorite.  Third, I am submitting it for this week’s Yeastspotting, my third contribution to Susan’s event.

Of course, for the most part a “new recipe”, is an oxymoron, because almost all are variations on previous themes, and this bread is no exception. I played around with a basic sourdough formula that I’ve used countless times (from Hamelman’s Bread). It uses wild yeast as the sole leavening agent.   I put my very own 1.5 year old starter to work (I call him Mr. Dan), together with white and spelt flour, plus caramelized onions and a small amount of goat cheese in the dough, to balance the sweetness of the onions. I can’t thank Jackie enough for this contest, that gave me a big push to create a bread recipe; I look forward to seeing all the entries.


For the caramelized onions:
2 medium yellow onions, sliced very thin
large pinch of salt
1 T olive oil

For the bread:
330g bread flour
45g spelt flour
185g mature liquid starter
185g filtered water, at room temperature
1 + 1/4 tsp sea salt
85g caramelized onions, cut in small pieces
20g goat cheese, cut in small chunks

Caramelize the onions by sauteeing the slices in olive oil with the salt until they are dark golden. Sautee them slowly over low heat, stirring from time to time to prevent burning. It took me about 40 minutes.  Don’t  rush this process.  Drain the onions of excess oil on a sieve, then cool them and cut into pieces.

Refresh your starter two to three times over the previous couple of days to make sure it’s very active. Do the last refreshment 8 hours before making the dough.

Add all the ingredients (except onions and cheese) to the bowl of an electric mixer and mix on first speed for 3 minutes. Check the hydration: if too sticky add a little more bread flour. Mix for 3 minutes more on second speed. Add the onions and cheese, and mix until incorporated. At this point, depending on the amount of moisture in your onions, you might have to correct the hydration. My dough needed almost 2 full tablespoons of flour.

Place the dough in a bowl coated with a spray of olive oil, allow it to ferment for 2.5 hours, folding the dough at 45 minutes, 1.5 hours, and 2 hours and 15 minutes. After the last folding, wait for 15-20 minutes and form a “boule”. Place it in a banetton or other recipient of your choice, and retard it in the fridge for at least 8 hours. (You can see pictures of how to fold the dough in one of my previous posts)

Remove the dough from the fridge and allow it to sit at room temperature for about 2 hours. Bake it at 430F for 45-50 minutes. A clay pot is perfect for this kind of bread. Place it  in the cold oven, when the oven is ready,  remove the lid (with oven mittens) and quickly dump the dough inside, make a couple of quick slashes, and close the lid.   After 30 minutes, remove the cover  to brown the crust. Internal temperature should be at least 200F.

Place it on a rack to cool for 2 hours before slicing. (I know this isn’t easy, but it’s essential to avoid a gummy crumb).


jump for more photos and final comments


brazilflag Always together, rice and beans are the staple of Brazilian home-cooking.  As a child growing up, I had them many times every week,  alongside beef, chicken, pork, or even seafood.   In Rio de Janeiro black beans are more common, whereas in Sao Paulo you’ll see a more reddish variety.  I’m from Sao Paulo, but my Mom was born and raised in Rio, so in our home you never knew what kind of beans  to expect.  Indeed, cooking beans is a weekly endeavor in Brazil:  you make enough to last the whole week, then you make it again. And again.  And again.   It sits in the fridge, waiting, getting better each day.

I’m not talking about “feijoada“, Brazil’s national dish “par excellence“, made exclusively with black beans. I’ll post a feijoada recipe in the future, but for now here’s  a much simpler preparation that you can adapt in many ways to suit your tastes.  The only thing that I won’t endorse (or forgive) are canned beans.  If you go that route, you’re on your own.  😉

2 cups dried black beans, picked
2 bay leaves

1/2 T vegetable oil
2 very thick slices of bacon, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 t ground cumin
red pepper flakes
ground black pepper
fresh cilantro (optional)

Place the beans in a bowl and cover them with two inches of water.  Allow them to soak overnight (I normally do that early in the morning and cook the beans in the evening).  Drain, discarding the water.  Place the soaked beans in a pressure cooker, add cold water to cover by 1 inch, add the bay leaves, and bring it to a boil. Cook under pressure for 15 minutes, then release the pressure.  If you don’t have a pressure cooker, help the economy and buy one right away! 😉 Actually, you can cook them in a normal pan, but it will take 1 to 2 hours. Cook until the beans become  tender (they can be prepared up to this point and then kept in the fridge overnight).

Heat the oil in a  small frying pan.   Sautee the bacon pieces until they are golden, add the onion and sautee more, until dark golden.  You do want some color here.  When the onion is getting dark, add the garlic and cumin and sautee for a couple of minutes.  Season lightly with salt and pepper, add red pepper flakes.

If you made the beans the day before, heat them until boiling, then add the bacon/onion mixture plus all the oil accumulated in the pan. Mix it all well and allow the beans to simmer for a while (10 to 30 minutes), uncovered.   Remove some of the beans into a small bowl and smash the grains with a fork, forming a paste. Return the paste to the simmering pan and cook everything for 5 or 10 more minutes. Add salt to your taste; add more pepper and cilantro if you desire.   Remove the bay leaves.

Serve over white rice with the meat of your choice.  We had it with pulled pork and arugula salad, served on the same plate, the way my family likes to do it…


to print the recipe, click here.

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After a bunch of nice breads in the BBA challenge, it was bound to happen.  Let’s just say that I have “issues” with this recipe.  In practice, it was not too different from the previous assignment (light whole wheat bread), except that such rye-containing doughs should not be kneaded very long, or they become gummy.

For Marbled Rye you prepare two batches of dough, one that gets a darker color from  the addition of caramel coloring or coffee. I chose coffee.  The first thing that I noticed was that my darker dough was not dark enough, but at that point it was too late and I couldn’t do anything, as the texture seemed perfect. I took a deep breath and moved on.


I formed the loaf, placed it in the pan, and it rose beautifully….


I recommend accepting Reinhart’s advice and shaping it free-form. My pan was not big enough, and the bread ended up with a boxy shape.   But, the most important thing for a marbled rye, is the marbling!  Which  in my case didn’t exist.  It just wasn’t there, it wasn’t anywhere!


I’m accepting names for my fiasco, which tasted pretty good, if that’s any consolation…  “Blobbed Rye”, “Faint Marbled Rye on Drugs”, “Drunk Baker’s Marbled Rye”…


With my self-confidence bruised, I will move on.

Nineteen breads down, twenty-four to go….

Please make sure you check the other bakers who already made this bread, and did a much better job than me:

Carolyn and Joe from Two Skinny Jenkins

Deborah, from Italian Food Forever

Mags, from The Other Side of Fifty

Oggi, from I Can do That

Txfarmer, with her gorgeous website in Chinese

Paul, from Yumarama Artisan Bread


The times, they are a changing… Gotta love Bob!   Now I’ll have this song with me for the whole day… 😉

Fall is here, the beginning of my favorite cooking season: soups, stews, braises, comfort foods of all sorts are back on the menu.  To kick things off with an   ‘Mmmmm” here’s a recipe for vegetable soup, recently featured in Fine Cooking magazine (#101). This soup has a yin-yang aura about it: hearty and light at the same time. It’s perfect for the slightly cooler evenings…


(by Ellie Krieger, published in Fine Cooking)

(receita em portugues na segunda pagina)

2 T olive oil
3 carrots, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups of butternut squash pieces (1/2 inch cubes)
1/4 t ground allspice
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 quart chicken broth (I used homemade, you can use water for a vegetarian version)
1  14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 cups coarsely chopped kale (I used chard from our garden)
1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed well

Heat the oil in a large pot, add the carrots and onion and cook for 5 minutes until they begin to soften.  Add the garlic, cook for one more minute, add the squash, cayenne, allspice, salt, and mix well.
Add the broth, tomatoes with their juice, and thyme. Bring it to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes. Add the chard and chickpeas, then uncover and cook for 10 minutes more.
Remove the thyme sprigs and adjust the seasoning before serving.

To print the recipe, click here


My favorite season is over.  Soon it will be time for “the move”:  summer clothes will go into storage, while long sleeves, sweaters and coats will return to my closet.   My sandals will be gone, and with them the nice tan on my feet… The poor babies will be hiding in socks and shoes for months!

To say goodbye to Summer, I picked a yellow watermelon and turned it into granita. Watermelon is my beloved’s favorite fruit.  His ritual is to sit on the couch with a huge slice dangerously balancing on a plate, and our dogs locked into full begging mode close by. The dogs are watermelon maniacs;  they can smell it from several rooms away.

Granita is a refreshing classic, conveying the essence of Summer’s bliss with each spoonful.



Make a simple syrup
1 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Heat until sugar is completely dissolved; cool to room temperature.

Make the fruit juice
Watermelon pieces
1 T lemon juice
pinch of salt

Juice the watermelon (easier if using seedless fruit, but we prefer to buy the regular kind).   Measure the amount, you will need a minimum of 3 cups.

For three cups of juice, add the full amount of simple syrup made, the lemon juice and salt.  Mix well.

Make the granita:
Pour the mixture in a glass baking dish, 9×13 inches, or 8×8 inches.  Depending on how thick the layer is, the longer it will take to freeze.  Place it in the freezer, and every half an hour (or 45 minutes, depending on the size and shape of your dish), scrape it with a fork to destroy the ice crystals forming on the edges, then place it back in the freezer.  Do this several times, maybe 4 or 5 times,  until the mixture is completely frozen. It will  take from 3 to 6 hours.

To serve, scrape the frozen granita with the tines of a fork into a serving bowl. Decorate with mint (which you can also add to the juice, I normally do that, but forgot this time), and….


To print the recipe, click here.

click for more photos e receita em portugues