A good rye is one of my favorite kinds of bread, and I go head over heals for rye rolls. Put a basket of breads or rolls in front of me, and I'll pick out the rye and whole grains first. I first started trying to make rye bread about 10 years ago, and let's just say my first attempts resulted in heavy bricks capable of causing sufficient tooth damage to keep our dentist in business for a very long time. Fortunately I've had a little practice since then and these rye onion walnut rolls flavored with olive oil, sautéed onions, and walnuts turned out delicious. The interior had a tender but slightly chewy texture, and the exterior had some crunch thanks to the egg wash and poppy seeds. Serve them warm and slathered with butter as a side for soups.
The recipe, which is part of our Gourmet February bread baking challenge and BYOB (Bake Your Own Bread) hosted by Sandy of At the Baker's Bench, starts with sautéing onions in quite a bit of olive oil, then all of it goes into the dough. For a minute or so I had what I thought was the stiffest dough ever kneaded in the history of bread making, but then I realized I had forgotten to add the warm water and honey. It took a little work, but I managed to get it mixed in and then had something that actually felt like dough rather than near-dry cement. Even with that little misstep, the rolls turned out delicious and tender.
I work exclusively with instant yeast and modified the instructions for that type, then I included the instructions for active dry yeast in parentheses. The rolls require about 15 minutes to get started, 1-½ to 2 hours for the first rise, about 15 minutes to shape, another 90 minutes to rise again, and about 25 minutes to bake, so plan ahead. A heavy duty stand mixer helps with the mixing and kneading, but I recommend avoiding one of the smaller stand mixers for this dough. My old mixer has a 4.5 quart bowl, and it was so full there wasn't any room for mixing and the dough was flopping out onto the counter, plus the tiny 300 watt motor sounded more than a little stressed. After I moved the dough to a 600 watt 6-quart mixer, mixing and kneading went much more smoothly.
Be sure to visit my friends Kelly of Sass & Veracity, Judy of No Fear Entertaining, Claire of The Barefoot Kitchen, Courtney of Coco Cooks, and Sandy of At The Baker’s Bench to see what they whipped up this week for the Gourmet bread challenge.
Rye Onion Walnut Rolls
- 8 to 10-inch saute pan
- medium bowl
- stand mixer with hook attachment
- 2 baking sheets, lined with parchment or lightly greased
- large mixing bowl
- 1 cup onion (chopped)
- 1 tablespoon salt (divided)
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1¾ teaspoons instant yeast (or 2 teaspoons active dry yeast)
- ¼ cup warm water (105-115° F/41-46° C)
- 1 tablespoon honey or sugar
- 5½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (plus extra for dusting)
- 1 cup rye flour
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¾ cup walnuts (toasted, cooled, and coarsely chopped)
- egg wash (1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water)
- ¼ cup poppy seeds (or nigella seeds)
- Heat the saute pan and cook the onion in the olive oil with ¼ teaspoon of the salt until it's soft, about 4 to 5 minutes. Drain the onions in the sieve over the medium bowl. Add the milk and stir.
- In the bowl of the stand mixer, mix the all-purpose flour, rye flour, pepper, yeast, and the rest of the salt. (If using active dry yeast, stir together yeast, warm water, and honey in large bowl and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. If mixture doesn’t foam, start over with new yeast. Add flours and remaining salt to yeast mixture.)
- Add the warm water and honey to the milk mixture, then pour into the dry ingredients. Mix on low until a soft dough forms. Turn the speed up to 2 and mix until the dough is smooth and elastic, up to 6 minutes. (To mix by hand, add the ingredients in order described to large mixing bowl. Stir with wood spoon until a soft dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a wooden surface that is lightly dusted with flour. Knead by hand until the dough is elastic and smooth, about 6 minutes.)
- Add the onion and the chopped roasted walnuts, then mix again on low until everything is evenly distributed. (By hand: Pat the dough into a 9-inch square and sprinkle on the onions and walnuts. Fold the dough over to enclose the filling and pinch the edges to seal. Knead the dough to distribute the onions and walnuts throughout, about 2 minutes.) The dough will be lumpy. Push back in any pieces of onions or nuts that pop out, though this might be easier said than done.
- Put the dough into a lightly oiled large mixing bowl and turn to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. Allow to rise in a draft-free spot at warm room temperature until doubled, about 1-½ to 2 hours.
- Dust a work surface with flour. Punch down the dough, but do not knead. Divide in half and cover one half with plastic wrap. Roll the other half into a 12-inch (30.5 cm) log. Cut the log into 12 equal pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Place the rolls 2 inches (5 cm) apart on the prepared baking sheet. Cover with a tea towel. Make the rest of the rolls, place on the other baking sheet, and cover.
- Allow the rolls to rise covered at warm room temperature until doubled, up to 90 minutes.
- Place oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat to 375° F/190° C.
- Brush the rolls with the egg wash and sprinkle with the poppy seeds. Bake for about 12 minutes, then rotate and switch the pans and bake for another 8 to 12 minutes, until golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes on a wire rack, then serve.