OK, sounds weird, I’ll give you that. Walnuts and onions aren’t things we normally think of going together in the same way we think of cinnamon and sugar, or even walnuts and chocolate chips. But it’s so tasty! Try it toasted and slathered with plenty of butter or cream cheese, served alongside a green salad with a walnut oil dressing. Or dipped in tomato soup, or spread with almond butter. How about a little cream cheese mixed with pesto and topped with avocado and tomato? Or go sweet with cream cheese and honey.
Key to enhanced flavor here is the levain, which is simply part of the liquid, flour, and yeast mixed and left to ferment on the counter overnight. In this bread the onions go into the levain too, just to infuse the dough with more onion-y goodness. You can use walnut oil or olive oil. If you go with the walnut oil you’ll have plenty left to make a salad dressing. Because it’s a nut oil, either use it up quickly or refrigerate so it doesn’t turn rancid.
Use either yellow or red onions. Chop them up fine and put into the levain raw.
Toast the walnuts by placing them in a single layer on a large rimmed pan and baking at 350°F for about 15 minutes, till fragrant and slightly darkened. Watch carefully so they don’t burn. You can use walnuts right out of the bag but toasting them adds crunch and a slightly sweeter taste. I usually buy 3 pound bags and toast a couple of panfuls at a time, then store them in the freezer. Chop coarsely after toasting.
– Joan, 10 November 2017
Walnut Onion Bread
- scant ⅔ cup (127 grams) lukewarm milk
- 1 teaspoon (7 grams) honey
- ½ cup (65 grams) whole wheat or rye flour
- ½ cup (65 grams) bread flour
- ½ teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 small onion (about 50-60 grams), finely chopped
- all of the levain
- 3 tablespoons (39 grams) walnut or olive oil
- ⅓ cup (75 grams) lukewarm milk
- 1¼ cups (175 grams) bread flour
- ½ teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup (33 grams) walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
For the levain, stir the honey and onions into the lukewarm milk. Stir the yeast into the flour, then add the mixture to the liquid. This will be thicker than a batter but not as dense as a finished dough. Cover tightly and set in a warm (65-70°F) spot overnight or up to 15 hours.
For the final dough, place all of the levain into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Pour in the oil, lukewarm milk, and walnuts. Mix on low till it’s all stirred together. Add yeast and salt to the flour, then add to the bowl and mix again on low till all the flour is incorporated. Turn speed to medium for about 5 minutes. Dough should form a fairly cohesive ball but will still be sticky after 5 minutes. Turn out into a greased bowl and cover. Stretch and turn over after 20-30 minutes and again after another 20-30 minutes, then cover and let rise in a warm spot until doubled in bulk, 1½-2 hours.
Shape dough into a boule by gentle stretching, tucking ends under and generously flouring surface after placing on a greased cookie sheet. Cover and let rise again. Preheat oven to 350°F while the loaf rises. When loaf is almost doubled in bulk and a finger poked gently into its side leaves a dent, slash top as desired and bake for 30-40 minutes, till dark golden brown. Allow to cool for 2-3 hours before cutting or wrapping for storage.