Braided Onion Bread

This braided onion bread is made with a rich, buttery, yeast-based dough. Each of the four strands in the braid is stuffed with a caramelized onion and grated cheese mixture.

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One of my first memories related to baking was a demonstration conducted at my kindergarten where bread dough was shaped into turtles, and birds, and elaborate braids. Scissors were used to create the tiny bread spikes on the backs of alligator and hedgehog-shaped loaves. Lobster claws got a snip up the center for visual effect and each figure was placed in an oven until puffy, golden, and fragrant. We were each allowed to take one home. The whole experience blew my five year-old mind. Braided Onion Bread filled With Caramelized Onions and Gruyere Cheese
I still like to bake elaborate braided loaves. Especially when things in my life are tumultuous. I made this one a couple of times prior to the holidays, and decided to make it again last week to photograph and share with you. It’s made with a rich, buttery, yeast-based dough. Each of the four strands in the braid is stuffed with a caramelized onion and grated cheese mixture. If you’ve never baked a braided loaf before, I’ll admit that stuffing the strands adds a layer of complexity, but the whole process is incredibly forgiving if you commit and keep going. If you look at the shape below and think “no way” just remember it’s a simple braid coiled into a snail shape. 
Braided Onion Bread Prior to Baking

The (Stuffed) Braided Bread Process

To make this bread you start by making beautiful yeast dough. You roll your dough into a rectangle, cut that rectangle into four strips, and then stuff each strand with awesomeness. I usually prepare the stuffing a day ahead of time, or the morning of the day I plan on baking. This gives the filling some time to cool. I’ve locked onto this onion-cheese combo lately, but you can imagine endless variations.

To fill the dough, you run the filling in a line up the middle of each of the four strips of dough. Fold them each in half, and then pinch the seam to seal the filling in. Now you have four filled strands that you’ll arrange side-by-side (below). Pinch them together at the top and start braiding (see diagram below). Coil the braid into a tight round, snail shape, let the dough rise, brush with an egg wash, and bake! 

Diagram of a Four Strand Braid

A Four-strand Braid

First, let me say – if you’re worried about trying the four-strand braid, I understand! If you want to fall back to a chubby three-strand bread braid the first time through, go for it. The main thing is to commit to the braid either way. Even if you’re convinced things aren’t going well. This feeling can be triggered by a few things. A common problem is strands splitting open to reveal the filling – just re-pinch and keep going. Or, you might feel like your strands keep stretching and getting longer and longer? It’s ok, you will coil them into a round shape. Keep braiding even if your strands are longer than your sheet pan. Boss the dough around a bit. If it’s too sticky, dust with a bit of flour. The main thing? Don’t get discouraged, keep going.

Braided Onion Bread filled With Caramelized Onions and Gruyere Cheese just After Baking
Please let me know if you bake a braided loaf, or send me a message on Insta. Or if you experiment with other fillings, please leave a comment. I can’t wait to see what you do with this one. I loved seeing all of you posting soup pics last week. xo – h

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Easy Little Bread

The simple, easy little bread you should make right this minute – yeast-based, farm-style, made from rolled oats and a blend of all-purpose and whole wheat flours.

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I’m eating a slice of butter-slathered homemade bread. And quite frankly, it might be the least interesting looking bread you’ve ever set eyes on. That said, at this particular moment, there isn’t anything on this earth that would taste better. I’m convinced of it. It reminds me of the bread my dad would sometimes bake for us as kids. A dead simple yeast bread recipe made from ingredients I can nearly guarantee you have on hand. My dad’s bread was made using all-purpose white flour, whereas this bread is made with a white, wheat, rolled oat blend. I’ve baked it three times this week, after I came across the recipe for it in a beautiful, heartfelt cookbook by Natalie Oldfield.Easy Little Bread Recipe
I snapped a few shots of the book to give you a sense of it. See below. Super cute, right? I love the grids of vintage family pictures, and the soft color palette of the recipe pages. It’s a collection recipes inspired by the notebooks of Dulcie May Booker, written by her granddaughter Natalie. It was published in New Zealand, then Australia and the UK. I stumbled on my copy of it the other day at Omnivore Books here in SF, although I don’t think it’s been published in the U.S. yet.
Easy Little Bread Recipe

The recipes are classic and no-fuss. The kind that can and (clearly) have been whipped up a hundred times over – scones, fruit pies, chocolate cake, lemon bars, shortbread, and a selection of savory dishes as well.

Easy Little Bread Recipe

So, to all of you who still shy away from yeast-based recipes – you’ve got to try this one. You can have the dough in the pan in 5-10 minutes. It sits around for 30 minutes while I’m in the shower, then straight into the oven. Thank you Gran & Natalie. It’s a beautiful book.

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Chocolate Fudge & Tahini Cake

A 100% rye flour version of Benjamina Ebuehi’s Chocolate Fudge & Tahini Cake from The New Way To Cake. It’s everything you want in a cake. The chocolate notes are deep, the crumb perfectly moist, and the salted tahini icing? Something I didn’t know I needed in my life until now.

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I baked a 100% rye flour version of Benjamina Ebuehi’s Chocolate Fudge & Tahini Cake yesterday, and it’s everything you want in a cake. It is from her book The New Way to Cake, the chocolate notes are deep, the crumb perfectly moist, and the salted tahini icing? Something I didn’t know I needed in my life until now. The tahini rounds out the sweetness of the sugar in the icing. Fragrant sesame notes come to life as you whisk the flavors into balance with a generous pinch of salt. It’s so good.

Chocolate Fudge & Tahini Cake
There are a lot of reasons to love The New Way To Cake — the range of beautiful signature cakes, the minimalist book design, the naturally-lit photos by Holly Wulff Petersen — but her celebration of flavors close to my heart is what initially attracted me to it – hibiscus, chamomile, citrus, and chocolate all represent in unique and delightful ways.

A Bit More About Benjamina

She’s a London-based author, baker, food stylist & recipe developer, and she has been involved in some great projects since her appearance on The Great British Bake Off a few years back. You can follow Benjamina on Instagram. She also works in an ambassadorial capacity with Luminary Bakery (read about them!), and co-founded The Sister Table. And, if her use of tahini is what caught your attention today, have a look at the Necatrine, Tahini & Hazelnut Pavlova, on her blog. Or this Tahini Granola

Benjamina Ebuehi's The New Way To Cake

The New Way To Cake

Before we jump into the Chocolate Fudge & Tahini Cake, a few more notes related to The New Way to Cake. The book is 160 pages in length, soft-back, with sixty cake recipes. It has a premium feel, and would make a nice gift for any baker in your life. The main sections are Nuts & Caramel, Spices, Chocolate, Citrus, Floral, and Fruit. The two recipes I’ve earmarked to bake next: Hibiscus Buttermilk Cakes, and then a Chocolate Guinness Bundt with Yogurt Glaze.Chocolate Fudge & Tahini Cake

Benjamina’s Chocolate Fudge & Tahini Cake

The two main components here are a coffee-bolstered, cocoa-based chocolate cake, and the salted tahini icing/frosting. You can make either component a day ahead of time if needed. Although, I should note that, generally speaking, I like to frost cakes the day of serving. Up to that point, keep the cake covered (after cooling completely) and, if needed, rewhip the icing before using.
Salted Tahini Icing

A Rye Flour Swap

I made a few alterations to Benjamina’s cake out of necessity (different pan / alternate flour) & the good news is it baked up wonderfully. All-purpose flour can still tough to come by right now, and I keep a lot of rye flour on hand. I had a hunch that a rye flour swap would be good here – so I went for it. 100% rye. Didn’t hold back. So good! I think people worry that going an aggressive whole-grain flour swap will result in tough, dry cakes and muffins. And quite honestly, that can often be the case. But this worked nicely – have a look at the slice down below! So tender. If you’re apprehensive, go with all-purpose flour, or you can do half rye, half all-purpose flour. But there’s something that happens in the intersection of the rye, coffee, and cocoa, that is really nice.Chocolate Fudge & Tahini Cake
One slice of Chocolate Fudge & Tahini Cake

Benjamina Ebuehi's Chocolate Fudge & Tahini Cake from The New Way to Cake

Let’s Talk Pans

Per my mention up above – I didn’t have the three 6-inch cake pans Benjamina used to create the stunner cake pictured in her book (above). But you all know I have an endless collection of bundt pans. So that’s what I used. I baked the batter in a single 9-inch bundt pan. Buttercream wasn’t going to work with the ridged cake, so I did a salted tahini icing that I could pour over the bundt shape cake, in place of the tahini buttercream version in the book. No bundt pan? My sense is you can get away with baking in a single 13×9 pan, or two 8-inch rounds as well (adjusting the timing, of course). A long way of saying, don’t be deterred if you don’t have the “correct” pan. Bake until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean.
Chocolate Fudge & Tahini Cake
And a last little side note – I’ve been trying to add weekly favorites links to my newsletter more regularly – articles, books, cookbooks I’m excited about, recipes to try, products I love, or new discoveries in general. So, instead of including them here in “Favorites Lists” on the site, you’ll be able to get them there, along with the heads up on new recipes I’m highlighting. I’ve been sending newsletters out once a week, on Saturday mornings. xx -h.

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Chocolate Dipped Biscotti

Sesame studded and heavily scented with crushed fennel seeds and chamomile, these chocolate dipped biscotti punctuated my espressos this week.

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Sesame studded and heavily scented with crushed fennel seeds and chamomile, these chocolate dipped biscotti punctuated my espressos all week. They were the petite treats I looked forward to. If you’ve never baked biscotti before, they’re a lot of fun, and quite adaptable. The main thing? You double bake them. First with the biscotti dough shaped into a long loaf. And a second time after you’ve baked and sliced those loaves into biscotti.

Chocolate Dipped Biscotti Recipe
You can play around with the flavors here, but the way the fennel seeds and chamomile complements the chocolate is really fantastic (I used, and loved, Guittard 66% organic semisweet). That said, I’ll offer up some alternative suggestions down below, because I totally get that not everyone keeps chamomile around 😉 xx!
Chocolate Dipped Biscotti Recipe

Biscotti Tips:

A couple things I should point out:

Rolling Technique: First, make sure to roll your dough into a tight shape (pictured below). This way, when you go to slice your biscotti after the first bake, they’ll hold their shape. You don’t want crumbling biscotti going into the second bake. A serrated knife is the way to go for slicing, using a quick sawing motion, and not too much downward pressure.

Texture and Baking: If you like a cake-y biscotti, slice them a shade thicker and bake them for a hint less time. If you like a crunchier, more structured biscotti, slice them a shade thinner, and bake them a bit longer (consider flipping them toward the end to really get both side toasty).

Storage: On the storage front. They’ll keep in an air-tight container for a couple of weeks.

Chocolate Dipped Biscotti Recipe

Variations

Herbs: I love herbs like rosemary, thyme, and lavender in biscotti. You can experiment with those. Chop and add to your dough with the other dry ingredients. Go easy, make notes, and adjust each time you bake them. A teaspoon is a good place to start.

Spices: A bit of turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, all are welcome here. Basically if it’s a flavor you can imagine being good in a muffin, it’s fair game here. Or, pre blended spices. My favorite chana masala blend is magic here, and garam masala is a good fit as well. 

Citrus Zest: Lemon zest, makrut lime zest (or minced leaves), orange zest – all add a sunny punch of flavor.

Outer Texture: I rolled these biscotti in sesame seeds to add some texture and boost the flavor inside the cookies, but you could go in all sorts of directions. You could roll them in large grains of sugar, for a crunchy, shardy texture. Or, poppy seeds (or a blend of seeds) could be nice. Or, you could add some sort of flavor boost or ingredient to the egg wash you do before the first bake.
Chocolate Dipped Biscotti Recipe

This is what my biscotti looked like when they came out of the oven after their second bake. Once you’ve sliced your biscotti, for the second bake, you can put them all on one pan. They’ve already risen, so you don’t need to distance them the way you would with most other cookies.
Chocolate Dipped Biscotti Recipe
If biscotti aren’t your thing, but you’re still up for a baking adventure, I love these brownies, this Devil’s Food Cake, these snickerdoodles, or the swirl cake from last week.

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