Buttermilk-Caramelized Onion Pull-Apart Rolls

December 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

Since moving into our new house three months ago I have had a love-hate relationship with our oven. It’s a GE Profile Advantium—and it’s a convection oven. Not the typical convection, either. It’s one of those fancy convection ovens—the kind that can also be a microwave, a proofing space for dough, and a toaster. The interior is about the size of a toaster, too. I can list the issues I am having with it—such as the fact that the constantly turning carousel means I can’t use my half-sheet baking pans, or that the oven maxes out at 450F—but I’m going to stop there for now.

Let me hold off on the hate and talk about the love. The love part comes in the baking. The whole convection process, the constantly turning carousel—it makes for a nicely finished baked product. Pies, cookies, breads, rolls—they’ve never been better, quite honestly. And that’s why I haven’t thrown the oven out of our new triple-paned, German-engineered, energy-efficient windows.

My latest baking success is a recipe I spied in a Martha Stewart Living magazine about seven years ago—Buttermilk-Caramelized Onion Pull-Apart Rolls. I made them once, taped the recipe into my little book of “must keep these” recipes, and never made them again until last week. Oh boy, they’re good.

A few notes: There is yeast involved, but don’t let it scare you; you might want to cut down the amount of onions a bit.

Ingredients
11 tbs unsalted butter, softened, plus 3 tbs melted
1/4 oz. active dry yeast
1 tbs sugar
2 tbs warm water, about 105F
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 large egg, slightly beaten
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
2 lbs (or slightly less) sweet onions, thinly sliced

1. Directions say to butter a 9-inch cake pan with about 1 tbs of the butter. I used a 9-inch pie plate – two, actually – but use anything you think will hold the rounds of dough. Also butter a large bowl and set that aside.
2. Combine the yeast, sugar and water in a small bowl and let it sit a bit while it becomes foamy, about 5 min. Give it a good stir to dissolve. Add in the buttermilk and egg.
3. While the yeast mixture is sitting, combine flour and 1 1/2 tsp salt in the bowl of an electric mixer using a dough hook. It’ll form a well naturally. Pour the buttermilk-yeast mixture into that well and mix to combine – you may need to stop it and scrape the sides down. Add in 6 tbs softened butter (I’ve added non-softened butter and it was fine). Mix on medium speed for 10 minutes. A soft, sticky dough will form.
4. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface, then sprinkle a bit more flour on top of the top and get a bunch on your hands, too. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes—gently. It’s gonna stick to your fingers if you knead too vigorously, so be gentle and flour your fingers often. The dough will begin to feel seductively soft and light—it’s the best part of the job. After 5 minutes, place the dough in the buttered bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm place for about an hour, or until it’s roughly doubled in bulk. If it doesn’t exactly double, that’s ok.
5. The recipe says to caramelize onions in 4 tbs butter, but I use olive oil to do the job. Heat the oil or butter in a large pan over medium-high. Add the onions, sprinkle in a bit of salt (I would add 1 tsp) and stir to coat—grabbing the onions with tongs and flipping them over as you would a steak on the grill is the best way I have found to do this. Do this intermittently for 5 minutes, until the onions start to look translucent, then turn heat way down to medium low, and let them cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20-30 minutes until they are golden brown. Take off heat. If I were you, I would put them in a sieve over a bowl and let the onions drip off their liquid.
5. Meanwhile, the dough…punch it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface again—make sure you have plenty of room. Use a rolling pin to form a dough rectangle about 17 in x 10 in. NOTE: the important thing here isn’t the dimensions, it’s keeping the dough relatively of even thickness throughout. Brush the rectangle with 3 tbs melted butter and spread those caramelized onions evenly over the surface. Starting from the long side, roll the dough into a log and press the seam to seal it.

Spread caramelized onions evenly over the dough's surface.

Spread caramelized onions evenly over the dough’s surface.

6. Next, cut the log into about 12 even segments. It’s harder than you think, because you’ll squish the roll into ovals—kinda scary. And then the onions pop out of the ends a bit. Don’t worry about it – it’s gonna happen. Just slice and don’t worry. Put these slices cut-size up in the buttered pan. Directions say to brush with another 2 tbs of melted butter, but really, there’s no need for that unless you want them to look browned. Cover the slices with plastic wrap and let them rise in a warm space for about 50 minutes.
7. Preheat oven to 375F. Bake the rolls for until they are golden. 35 minutes is perfect. Invert the pan onto a cooling rack and unmold the rolls. Serve warm.
buttermillk-caramelized onion pull-apart rolls

I made these to serve with a bean stew, and pulling apart the rolls and dunking bits into the stew was awesome. The onions make the roll moist, which is super. I’ve since made these rolls and spread the dough not with onions but with roasted garlic and rosemary. These weren’t as moist but just as tasty, and you could really get a sense of the roll’s airy texture. This recipe is certainly not disappearing for another seven years.

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