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).


When the bread was ready to go into the oven, the sun gave it a last kiss through the skylight above….  A gorgeous day, perfect Indian Summer…


This is my favorite setup for baking this type of bread….


After 30 minutes, remove the lid…


Some slices….


I’m happy with my first “experiment”.  The goat cheese is barely noticeable, but  it goes well with the onions, that tend to be a little sweet.   We had this bread with a nice, hearty chili, quite a great match.  Other good options would be tomato soup too, or a butternut squash bisque.   Next time I will try roasting the onions instead of caramelizing on top of the stove.  Adding roasted red bell peppers might be an extra bonus… 😉

16 thoughts on “Levain Bread with Caramelized Onions

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  4. I just doubled the recipe and have 2 beautiful loaves. Perfect recipe in every way. I found diced onions withstood the long browning process better than thinly sliced but other than that followed to the letter. Thank you!


  5. I have 2 loaves on the go, only difference is that i had a nice swiss cheese. I will come back in the morning for the results, it looks great so far, love the carmelised onions!

    Liked by 1 person

    • unfortunately since then my beloved husband developed a problem that prevents him from eating onions, so I could never re visit this bread. HOwever, looking at the formula I would say that I tend to use less starter now – probably more around 120g – and always do the final proofing after shaping in the fridge overnight. I just about never proof at room temperature these days, because I like the timing of mixing the dough around 4pm and placing in the fridge around 8pm or 9pm at most


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