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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Vegetarian Split Pea Soup

A delicious, simple vegetarian split pea soup made from an impossibly short list of ingredients. Seriously, just five!

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Many of you were enthusiastic about the lentil soup recipe I posted a few weeks back. Today’s split pea soup recipe is similar in spirit. It’s a delicious, healthy, textured soup made from an impossibly short list of ingredients. Seriously, just five! No ham hocks in this version, simply green split peas and onions cooked until tender, partially pureed, seasoned and flared out with toppings.
A Really Great Vegetarian Split Pea Soup
Like many lentil soups, this one delivers many of the same nutritional benefits – a good amount of vegetable protein and plenty of staying power. It is hearty and filling, and even better reheated later in the day. You can find dried split green peas in many natural foods stores, I picked these up in the bin section at Whole Foods Market.
A Really Great Vegetarian Split Pea Soup

Split Pea Soup: Finishing Touches

I like to finish each bowl with a generous drizzle of golden olive oil, a few flecks of lemon zest, and a dusting of smoked paprika to give the soup some smoky depth. If you have scallions or toasted nuts on hand (pictured), great! Toss some on as well.

Hope you enjoy the soup, and for those of you who have never tried split peas, this might be the time to give them a go! 

Variations

A number of you had great suggestions for tweaks and variations in the comments. Here are a couple that stood out.

Renae took the soup in a more herb-forward direction. “This soup is divine. I added fennel and sage to give it a warmer texture. Used almond milk to thin it out while blending.”

Jesper noted, “Great looking soup. Instead of using cubed bouillon, I use the water left over from cooking chick peas. Usually I cook them with an onion, a garlic clove or two, black pepper corns and a bay leaf. The result is a lightly flavored vegetable stock, and it freezes well, too.”

I like Christine’s style, “I like to add a few garnishes like chopped fresh marjoram, oregano, thyme and a good dash of hot sauce! Sometimes a swirl of hot mustard is great too.”

And if you’re looking for more lentil or pulse based soups, I really love this Coconut Red Lentil Soup, and this Green Lentil Soup with Curried Brown Butter

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