Making artisan bread isn’t difficult.  This recipe just looks really long since I wanted to give very clear steps and explain why certain ingredients and techniques are used.  You can always change and modify steps and ingredients to make your loaf truly your own creation.

Kathy Whyte/ WNBF News
Kathy Whyte/ WNBF News


Crusty Onion Poppy Seed Bread (total prep., including rising time, about 5 ½ hours.  Yield 1 loaf)

(Special equipment: mixer with dough hook unless you want to hand mix and hand knead the dough, pizza stone, pizza peel)

Caramelized onion made ahead:

1 large onion thinly sliced and slices cut into quarters, caramelized in 1 Tb. good quality olive oil. (about 20-30 minutes over low heat in cast iron skillet, stirring every 5-10 minutes.)


1 1/3 C warm water (about 105 degrees, like warm bath water)

½ tsp. honey

2 2/3 C. white flour

1 package active dry yeast

1 tsp. salt

2 tsp. black poppy seeds

1 Tb. coarse sea salt

Additional flour for dusting

About 1/8 C. corn meal or semolina flour to combine with bench flour to prevent dough from sticking on pizza stone and pizza peel

After onions are caramelized, remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.  Dissolve honey in warm water. Stir in yeast. While yeast is blooming, stir the flour and salt together in the bowl of a stand mixer equipped with a dough hook.  After about 5 minutes, when the yeast/ water/ honey mixture is bubbly, pour the liquid into a well formed in the flour and combine with a spatula until most of the flour is moist.  Knead with the stand mixer and dough hook about 4 minutes on medium/low speed until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  You may have to scrape down the bowl a couple times and/or add more flour a little at a time until the dough ball forms.  Lay out a sheet of wax paper and dust with a little flour.  Turn the dough out onto the floured paper. Make a trench in the top of the dough ball and lay in about ½ the caramelized onion and sprinkle with half the poppy seeds.  Dust the top of the dough and your hands with flour and fold the dough around the onions and poppies.  Gently kneed 3 or 4 turns before making another trench, adding more onions and poppy seeds (save a few onions for garnish on top of the loaf at the end of baking.)  Gently knead another 3 or 4 turns and form dough into a ball.  Coat a glass bowl with a little of the good quality olive oil and roll the dough ball in the bowl to coat with oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm, dark place to rise.  After about 1 hour, uncover the dough and gently press down.  Fold the deflated dough back into a bowl, re-cover and allow to rise about another hour.  Repeat 1 more time.  While the dough is on its last rise, begin to preheat the oven to 475.  Dust a pizza stone with a mix of flour and corn meal or semolina and place on the upper rack the oven while it is heating. Clean the cast iron skillet used to caramelize the onions and pour a couple cups of cold water in the pan to place in the oven on the lower rack when it is about up to temperature. *be careful not to spill any water onto any hot, glass surfaces of the oven like the window)  Dust a pizza peel with a combination of corn meal or semolina and flour.  Dissolve a little salt into a bowl and set next to the pizza peel. Once the dough has risen the final time, remove it from the bowl and gently form it into a loaf shape on the pizza peel, making sure the loaf won’t be longer than the hot pizza stone in the oven.  Dip your hands in the salt water and liberally moisten the top and sides of the loaf.  This will help to make a very crispy crust and get the toppings to stick.  With a sharp knife or kitchen shears, cut 3-4 slices diagonally across loaf. Sprinkle the top with poppy seeds and coarse sea salt.  Cover the loaf with a clean towel and allow to rest and briefly rise another 20 minutes.  You can gently move the loaf around after it rests to make sure it isn’t stuck to the peel. Carefully slide the loaf onto the hot pizza stone. Remember, the oven is really hot and has an added burn danger from the steam created by the skillet of water on the lower shelf!  Bake about 10 minutes at 475 then reduce heat to 400 and continue to bake for another 20-30 minutes. Carefully spoon the reserved caramelized onion onto the top of the loaf and press down when the loaf is brown and sounds hollow when you tap it.  Turn off the oven and allow the loaf to sit for another 5-10 minutes before opening the oven door a crack and allowing it to begin to cool and further crisp the crust.  Remove finished loaf to a wire to cool until it can be handled and sliced with a serrated knife.

Kathy Whyte/ WNBF News
Kathy Whyte/ WNBF News

Serve with butter, dip in a premium olive oil with some cracked black pepper or pair with your favorite soup.

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