Sourdough onion bread. (Photo: Miriam Kresh/Unpacked)

This is an old-fashioned, chewy loaf with plenty of onion flavor. There’s not much actual work involved, but it does demand plenty of rising time. Plan on giving it two 8-hour rises and a final 1-2 hour rise. If you’re well organized, the dough can rise overnight and then again throughout the day while you’re doing other things. Then you can bake in the late afternoon and have a warm, oniony loaf for dinner.

Sourdough onion bread

PrintPrep1 hour 30 minutes Cook Time50 minutes Yield1 large loaf


  • ¾ cup sourdough starter
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1 large onion
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Additional ½ cup water
  • 3 ½ – 4 cups flour
  • A little extra olive oil


  • Mix the sourdough starter, 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of flour together in a large bowl. Cover. Put the bowl in a warm place and allow the starter to refresh for 1 hour.
  • In the meantime, chop the onion and sauté it in 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Let it only start to turn golden; about 5 minutes.
  • Add black pepper or grind several turns of the pepper mill over it.
  • Add kosher salt. Stir well, and turn the flame off.
  • Add 1/2 cup water to the refreshed starter, then mix in the sautéed, seasoned onions, with all the oil.
  • Start working flour in, 1 cup at a time, until you have a firm, flexible ball of dough that’s still a little tacky.
  • Fold and stretch as soon as the dough has become cohesive.
  • You’ll see that when you stretch the dough out, the flour is absorbed much more quickly than with traditional kneading. Just pull the dough apart with your two hands, making a rectangle, then fold the sides under to make a ball, then stretch the dough again to shape a new rectangle. Do this 4 or 5 times. If you find the dough sticking to you, oil your hands rather than adding more flour to it. You’ll have a cushion-shaped mass of dough at the last folding. Now, if this seems strange or confusing, just knead the dough as usual for 10 minutes. Stretching and folding gives the bread a rustic texture with a hole-y crumb, but it’s not crucial.
  • Cover your ball of dough with plastic wrap. (I pop the bowl into a clean, used, plastic grocery-store bag.) Leave the dough out for 8 hours. If your kitchen is hot and steamy, and summer nights can be so, stash it in the refrigerator.
  • Gently deflate the dough. Add flour by tablespoons, kneading or stretching and folding as you go, to get a firm ball of dough. Dribble some olive oil into the mixing bowl. Put the ball of dough in and turn it around a few times so the oil covers its surface. Cover again, and leave to rise another 8 hours in the same place as before, until doubled.
  • Break the dough down again gently. It should be quite light. Either cut it in half for 2 medium loaves, or keep it whole for one large loaf. Sprinkle flour as needed to maintain shape. Allow it to rise once more on a sheet of baking paper or on the baking tray, which has been well sprinkled with corn flour, about 1 hour longer, this time in a warm place. It should have not quite doubled, and show bubbles under the skin surface. The timing isn’t exact because the temperature in your kitchen will determine how long it takes. If it’s rising in a cold kitchen, be prepared to allow this last rise 2 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C).
  • Brush the dough with a beaten egg. Decorate it with poppy seeds.
  • Bake for 40 minutes. Check to see if it’s done; if it seems underdone (toothpick test), set your timer for another 10 minutes and let it bake.

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