Caramelized onion, Gruyere and Thyme Soda Bread
Breads Uncategorized

Baking Along with The Great British Bake-Off – Bread Week

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This week’s episode of the Great British Bake-Off was all about bread. For the signature bake, contestants made both a loaf of savoury and a loaf of sweet soda bread for Paul and Pru to try. For the technical bake, Paul assigned them rainbow bagels and for the showstopper, contestants had to make a bread plaque that showcased something from their lives out of more than one type of bread dough.

I was VERY tempted to try out the rainbow bagels. I’ve made bagels before with some success so I felt up to that challenge. But the thought of the mess that would come from working food colouring into the bread dough and the possibility of accidentally staining my new countertops put me on to soda bread instead.

Making the bread

Over the years, I’ve tried making soda bread a few times and wasn’t successful. I always found it dry and tasted too much like baking soda. I even tried Paul Hollywood’s recipe a while back and didn’t like the taste of it. Thankfully, it’s unlikely he would be reading this post, but don’t tell him if you see him, lol.

Given that this bread is pretty much the national bread of Ireland, I figured there must be a good recipe out there that tasted good, so I kept trying. I was unsuccessful with soda bread until last winter when I decided to try the recipe in my America’s Test Kitchen cookbook. Honestly, if you haven’t tried recipes from either America’s Test Kitchen or Cook’s Illustrated, you should! Almost every one of the recipes I’ve tried from them comes out exactly as I want them to. This was, by far the best soda bread I’d made. It didn’t taste overwhelmingly of baking soda and the texture was soft and almost cake-like, as I’ve read soda bread should be.

I figured since that recipe worked for me, I should start with that and add my desired fillings. After some thought, I decided on caramelized onions and Gruyere cheese. I wanted a fresh herb as well and thought either rosemary or thyme would work. Since I already had some fresh thyme, I used that.

I caramelized the onions in a bit of oil with a pinch of salt. When the onions reached their caramelized stage, I added a tsp of balsamic vinegar and cooked them for another 2 minutes then let them cool completely. After they were cool, I mixed them into my bread dough along with 150 grams (about 2 cups) of Gruyere cheese and 2 tbsp of chopped fresh thyme.

The taste test

This was a beautiful loaf! We had it alongside some soup for dinner and it was delicious. The caramelized onions were present enough and tasted great alongside the cheese and thyme. Well, that’s what 3 out of 4 of us thought. If you tell my daughter that there is anything other than cheddar cheese in any dish, she won’t eat it. She said she tried it and didn’t like it, but she must have taken the smallest piece off of her slice because it didn’t look like anything had been eaten! The only thing I might do differently is to add some more Gruyere on top of the loaf before baking. It is a fairly subtle cheese and it might have made the cheese more present in the flavour profile if added on top as well. Plus, I like crispy baked cheese 🙂

Caramelized onion, Gruyere and Thyme Soda Bread
Yields: 8 Servings Difficulty: Easy Prep Time: 40 Mins Cook Time: 45 Mins Total Time: 1 Hr 25 Mins
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Soda Bread with Caramelized Onions, Gruyere and Thyme

Caramelized onions, Gruyere cheese and chopped fresh time add another dimension to this soda bread recipe which was adapted from America’s Test Kitchen.


0/15 Ingredients
Adjust Servings
    For the Caramelized Onions
  • For the Dough


0/11 Instructions
    For the Caramelized Onions
  • Combine onions, vegetable oil and a pinch of salt in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until the onions are soft and golden-brown. If onions begin to darken too much, reduce the heat to medium-low and add 1 tsp of water at a time as needed to keep the onions from burning. The caramelization process takes about 30 minutes.
  • Once onions have reached their caramelized stage, add the balsamic vinegar and cook for 2 minutes. Let onions cool completely. Make ahead: onions can be stored, covered in the fridge for up to one week.
  • For the Bread
  • Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 F/205 C.
  • Whisk the flours, sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt together in a large bowl.
  • Add the softened butter and rub it into the flour using your fingers until it is completely incorporated.
  • Stir in the cooled onions, Gruyere cheese and thyme. Mix to incorporate.
  • Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and add 1 1/2 cups/355 ml of the buttermilk. Work the buttermilk into the flour mixture using a fork, until the dough comes together in large clumps and there is no dry flour at the bottom of the bowl, adding up to 1/4 cup/60 ml more buttermilk, 1 tbsp at a time, until all the loose flour is just moistened.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat together to form a 6-inch/15 cm round, then flatten slightly.
  • Transfer the round to a 12-inch/30 cm cast iron skillet. Score a deep cross, about 5 in/13 cm long and 3/4 in/2 cm deep.
  • Bake until nicely browned and a knife inserted in the centre of the loaf comes out clean, 40-45 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and brush with melted butter. Cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.

1 Comment

  1. Was looking for a quick Rosemary foccacia substitute when I found this recipe. I took some liberties but followed the spirit of the recipe I think.

    First I skipped the balsamic on the onions and added a little sugar and baking soda to the onions to caramelize them faster.

    Then I used bread flour instead of all purpose because that is what I had.

    I used a cheese blend vs gruyere because that is what I had, as well as some Romano as I was trying to go more Italian in flavor profile.

    When it was baked and out of the oven I drizzled with good olive oil.

    The resulting bread was amazing. Super light texture inside, nice crisp crust on the outside and great flavor. I will definitively make this again.

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