Sunday, January 18, 2015

Caramelized Onion And Cheddar Rolls

I've said it before and I'll say it again - there is NOTHING like the aroma and taste of freshly baked breads/buns!

A few months ago, Mennonite Girls Can Cook posted a recipe for Cheesy Onion Rolls. It looked delicious! It took a while, but I finally got around to trying it in early December.

As always, I made a few minor adjustments: I used a 50/50 mix of whole wheat and unbleached all purpose flour; the amount of salt seemed rather high so I only used 1 teaspoon; and I omitted the poppy seeds (not a fan of those!) Otherwise, I followed the recipe. I normally mix a yeast dough by hand but decided to use the dough hook with my Kitchen Aid stand mixer for this one as this was a bit more flour than I normally use in one recipe.

The results were very tasty! Though to be honest, I ran into a bit of trouble near the end of the recipe. The onion slices kept falling apart as I tried to place them on the buns before baking. Some slices slid off during baking! I also found that the baked onion was a bit stringy on some and even slid off while trying to eat them.

Even so, the dough itself was very easy to work with and the whole concept of a Cheese and Onion Roll was enough for me to make another attempt - with a few more adjustments!

This is what I did differently from the original:
As with the first attempt, I used a mix of whole wheat and unbleached all purpose flour and reduced the salt to 1 teaspoon. The new filling consisted of caramelized onions and grated cheddar cheese. The topping was just a bit more cheese!

I started cooking the onions a few minutes before starting to make the dough to give them time to caramelize and then cool before they would be needed for the filling. Though caramelized onions can be prepared ahead and refrigerated for later use, I find that doing them fresh the same day as you make the rolls works the best.  While the dough was rising, I finished caramelizing the onions, prepared the parchment paper on the pans and grated the cheese.

Once the dough had risen, I punched it down, divided it in half, rolled it out and spread it with the cooled caramelized onions and grated cheese. I then rolled the dough up and sliced it to put on the pans - pressing the dough down as in the original. After they had risen for another hour or so, I brushed the tops with a bit of the egg wash and topped with just a bit more grated cheese.

I can't begin to describe just how amazing the aroma was as the rolls began to bake! I posted the pic online after they were baked and noted that they tasted as good as they looked! Several people thought they looked amazing and commented/messaged me for the recipe! I even had one friend claim that this was a dangerous combination and that I should bring all the rolls to them for proper disposal!!

So, make these at your own risk - and be prepared for them to be devoured before any of them make it to the freezer! 

Caramelized Onion And Cheddar Rolls
These buns may take a bit of extra prep, but well worth the effort! Start the caramelized onions before starting the dough as the onions will take quite awhile to cook, plus they need to cool to room temp before being spread on the dough.

Caramelized Onions
7-8 medium cooking onions (about 2 1/4 - 2 1/2 lbs)
1 - 2 Tablespoons canola oil or olive oil
pinch of salt
balsamic vinegar

Cut the root and stem ends off, then peel the brown skins off the onions. There are any number of ways to cut the onions but just be sure to cut to fairly uniform size pieces for more even cooking and appearance. You should have between 7 and 8 cups of onions when done chopping.

Pour the oil into a large deep fry pan or dutch oven and heat on medium high. Once the oil is hot, add the onions and stir to coat with the oil. Spread the onions evenly over the bottom of the pan and let cook, stirring occasionally. Depending on your stove's burner, you may need to reduce the heat to medium or medium low to prevent the onions from burning or drying out - especially in the latter stages of cooking. After 10 minutes, sprinkle onions with a little salt - about 1/8 teaspoon should do it.. Stir to combine and continue cooking. The onions will gradually cook down over an additional 30 to 40 minutes but you will need to watch them fairly closely - stirring more often nearer to the end to prevent burning but also leaving them just long enough to develop that beautiful dark brown colour. A few minutes before removing from heat, add a couple teaspoons of balsamic vinegar and stir/scrape to lift the brown drippings from the bottom of the pan. This also enhances the flavour and brown colour of the onions. Allow onions to cool to room temp before spreading on the dough.

Once the onions have started to cook in the pan, start on the dough - just be sure to keep an eye on the onions and stir them every few minutes as directed above!

Yeast Dough:
2 tablespoons yeast (instant, fast rising)
6 - 6 1/2 cups flour, divided (I used 4 cups whole wheat and approx 2 cups unbleached all purpose)
2 cups very warm water
1/4 cup potato flakes (can be purchased at most bulk food stores)
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened to room temp

Combine the yeast with 3 cups of the flour and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the water, potato flakes, salt and sugar. Add eggs and softened butter/margarine, mixing till no lumps of butter/margarine are visible. 
Add the yeast mixed with the 3 cups flour. Beat with mixer till well combined. (Before adding additional flour, I scraped off the flat paddle and switched it out the for the dough hook.)

Add remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time until a soft but knead-able dough is formed. Knead well. (I do the last of the kneading by hand to get a better feel of the dough and when it is ready to let rise)

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk. (About an hour in a warm place. Note, that the more whole wheat flour used, the more time it may take for the dough to rise.)

1 -1 1/2 cups caramelized onions
3 2/3 cups grated cheddar cheese, divided (I used a medium cheddar)
1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)

Punch down dough, and divide in half. (I weighed it on my kitchen scale and found that each half weighed almost exactly 2 lbs)

Roll each half out to form a 16 x 12 inch rectangle.

Spread half the cooled caramelized onion on each half. Then sprinkle each half with 1 1/2 cups grated cheese.

Beat egg, and brush a little of it lightly over the long edges. (You'll need the remainder of the beaten egg to brush tops before baking so do not use all or discard the remainder!) Starting on one long side, roll up tightly, pinching seam to seal.

Cut thick slices - about 1 1/2" - and place on parchment lined baking sheets about 2 inches apart.  Press buns to flatten to about 3/4" thick. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled in size (about 1 hour or so).

Just before baking each pan, brush lightly with a little of the beaten egg. Sprinkle 1-2 teaspoons of grated cheese over the top of each bun. Bake in a preheated 350F for about 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool on racks.

Yield: 20 large rolls.

Serve with a salad, soup, chili etc. These can also be sliced and used as a burger/sandwich bun!
These rolls freeze well. I put each one in a fold-over sandwich bag then in a zipped freezer bag for later use. To serve, just thaw and reheat for a few seconds in the microwave.