This is a recipe I developed recently that is mentioned in a guest post I wrote for the blog Happy Lifeaholic titled, “Why I bake bread in a pizza oven but have never owned a microwave … and other cooking stories” which you may read here.
(recipe adapted from a mash-up of the Round Country Bread recipe in The Il Fornaio Baking Book and what was in my refrigerator at the time …)
1-1/2 tsp. yeast
1/2 cup warm water
7 cups white flour
1 Tbsp. salt
2 cups cool water
1 cup Biga* or sourdough starter
1 cup caramelized onions**
Dissolve the yeast in warm water in a small bowl. Set aside for 15 minutes.
Stir 4 cups of flour and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Form a well in the centre and add the yeast mixture, cool water, Biga and caramelized onions (including oil they were cooked in). Mix together and add remainder of flour as needed until it all comes together fairly easily.
Knead for as long as you can (and this is where my Kitchen Aid with the dough hook comes in handy!) The longer you knead bread dough, the better the overall bread will be. I usually knead for 8 minutes altogether with the kitchen machine; 15-20 minutes if kneading by hand. Once you’ve been making bread long enough you can tell by the feel of the dough when it’s been kneaded enough.
Rub a large bowl with olive oil, form the dough into a ball and place in the bowl. Turn the dough so it is evenly coated with oil then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and lay a kitchen towel over it. Allow the dough to rise at room temperature until double, about 1-1/2 hours. (These rising times and temperatures also depend upon where you live and your altitude above sea level. I’m baking AT sea level, for instance. So you may need to adjust some of this method accordingly.)
Punch down the dough and allow it to rise a second time, about an hour.
Turn the dough on to a lightly floured surface and divide it into 16 equal-sized pieces. Form these into buns and place them on a prepared baking sheet. (I use an over-sized cookie sheet and place parchment paper on the surface – for easy cleanup.) Allow the buns to rise again for about half an hour. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 425F. When the buns have risen sufficently, bake them for 30-35 minutes until they are golden brown on top. (I am in the habit of turning off the oven and leaving the oven door closed for 5 minutes then opening the door and leaving the baked bread in the oven for 5 minutes more. This seems to give home-baked bread a better crust.)
Remove the buns from the oven and separate them. Allow to cool on racks.
Makes 16 large buns
3/4 tsp. yeast
1/2 cup warm water
3-1/2 cups white flour
1-1/4 cup cool water
Dissolve yeast in warm water. Set aside for 15 minutes. Pour flour into large bowl, make a well and add the yeast mixture and cool water. Stir until all ingredients are combined. Cover tightly and allow to ferment slowly in the refrigerator for 24 hours before using. This makes about 3 cups of Biga. (The longer the Biga remains in the refrigerator the more sour it becomes. It’s still active as long as there are bubbles on the surface.)
2 large white onions, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
Heat oil and butter in a large frying pan, add the onions, separating the slices into rings. Add more oil, if necessary. Fry on low, stirring occasionally, until the onions brown and become caramelized. The onions may be stored in the refrigerator.