Onions have a sweet flavor and a wonderfully tender texture to them when they’re cooked. Onions are a big flavoring component of many dishes and sauces, but they’re not always included in something like a loaf of bread. This Braided Sweet Onion Bread is a soft yeast bread that is stuffed with sweet, buttery onions for a loaf that will give ever-popular garlic bread a real run for its money.
The bread is a lightly sweetened loaf that has a soft, fluffy crumb. The dough is divided into thirds, and each piece of dough is stuffed with an onion filling, then the pieces are braided together to form the finished loaf. It can be a little tricky getting the buttery onion mixture fully enclosed in the dough (your last section will probably be a little better than your first; practice helps a lot!), but a few stray pieces of onion is nothing to worry about and won’t impact the finished loaf.
The onion filling is made by gently sauteing some garlic in a little bit of butter and then tossing the mixture over some uncooked, diced onions. Sweet onions are sweet just as they are and don’t need to be precooked, while regular white and yellow onions are usually cooked to draw out their sweetness. In this recipe, the onions actually cook as the bread bakes, so there is no need to cook the onions in advance. Sweet Vidalia or Hawaiian onions are definitely my favorites for this recipe, but you can substitute other types of onion if you don’t have sweet onions. The onion flavor will be a little more potent with other onions (not that there is anything wrong with that!) and the bread will be a touch more savory overall.
The bread has a real wow factor to it. This is partly because the large, braided loaf is very pretty, but also because the moist, flavorful fulling makes a great contrast to the slightly sweet bread surrounding it. I originally made it to accompany some homemade tomato soup, but the bread goes well with just about everything. Include it in breakfast alongside eggs and bacon, slice it for a sandwich or just spread a little bit of butter on top and enjoy it on its own.
Braided Sweet Onion Bread
2 1/2 tsp (.25 oz) active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water, warm (100-110F)
1/2 cup milk
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 – 4 1/2 cups bread flour
2 tbsp butter
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 cup diced sweet onion (such as Vidalia or Hawaiian)
1/4 tsp salt
In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl, if you’re mixing by hand), combine yeast, sugar and warm water. Stir and let stand for 5 minutes, until foamy. Stir in milk, vegetable oil, egg, salt and 2 cups of flour, mixing just until all the ingredients come together into a thick batter.
Using the dough hook attachment, mix the dough on medium-low speed and gradually incorporate the remaining flour until dough is smooth, soft and elastic. You might not need all of the flour, so add in the last 1/2 cup very gradually. Dough will pull away from the sides of the stand mixer when it is done. It should be soft, but not sticky.
Transfer dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 60-90 minutes, until doubled in size.
While dough rises, prepare the filling. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add in minced garlic and sautee for 2-3 minutes, until garlic is fragrant. Remove from heat and pour butter and garlic into a small bowl. Add in diced onions and salt. Toss to combine.
Set aside and allow to cool.
When dough has risen, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Gently deflate dough and press it down into a rectangle that is about 8×12-inches. Divide dough into three even pieces about 8×4-inches.
Carefully spread 1/3 of the onion mixture into the center (lengthwise) of one of the strips of dough. Pull in the sides to enclose the filling. Pinch dough very firmly along the seam and at the ends to seal. Repeat with remaining dough strips.
Transfer dough strips to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Braid three filled strips of dough together (as you would for challah) and pinch together the ends to finish the loaf.
Cover with a clean dish towel and allow bread to rise for 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375F.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, until bread is a dark golden brown.
Allow bread to cool completely before slicing.