Rachel Allen was brought up in Dublin and left home at eighteen to study at the world-famous Ballymaloe Cookery School. Rachel is now a busy ...
For the dough:
215 ml (7fl oz) warm water
1 tsp caster sugar
11/2 tsp dried yeast or 15g (1/2oz) fresh yeast or 1 x 7g sachet fast-action yeast
15 ml (1/2fl oz) olive oil, plus extra for greasing
350 g (12oz) strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp salt
For the onion mixture:
2 tblsp olive oil, plus extra oil for brushing
800g (13/4lb) onions, peeled and sliced
1 tblsp chopped rosemary leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a measuring jug, mix the warm water with the sugar and yeast and leave to stand in a warm place for 5 minutes or until the mixture is creamy. If using fast-action yeast, there ?is no need to let the mixture stand.
Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl, or the bowl of an electric food mixer fitted with a dough hook. Rub in the butter (if using) and make a well in the centre. (If using olive oil instead of butter, pour the olive oil into the yeast mixture.) Pour the yeast mixture (and?the olive oil, if using) into the well and mix to a loose dough, adding extra water if necessary.
Knead by hand for about 10 minutes (about 5 minutes in the food mixer) or until dough is smooth?and springy to the touch. Grease the bowl with olive oil and put the dough back into it, then cover the top tightly with cling film and place somewhere warm to rise for up to 2 hours (even 3 hours on a cold day) or until doubled in size.
While the dough is rising, cook the onions. Place a large saucepan or frying pan on a medium heat and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions and rosemary and season with salt and pepper. Stir to mix and when the mixture beginning to sizzle, turn the heat down to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3/4–1 hour or until deep golden. Then remove from the heat, season with more salt and pepper to taste and allow to cool.
When the dough has doubled in size, tip the cooked onions over the top of the dough in the bowl and, making a fist with your hand, punch the dough to knock it back while at the same time mixing in the onions.
Transfer the dough, and any stray onions, from the bowl to a worktop lightly dusted in flour. (If there are clumps of escaping onions, you may need to tuck them back into the dough with your fingertips.) Form the dough into an oval shape and place on a baking tray, leave to prove in a warm place for about 30 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F), Gas mark 7 (see tip below).
Place the loaf in the oven and bake for 10 minutes, then turn the oven temperature down to 200°C (400°F), Gas mark 6, and continue to bake for 35–40 minutes or until golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely.