The caramelized onion boule with cheese and meat at Cascade the Restaurant wowed both my husband and me on a recent visit. The presentation was phenomenal, and the flavors complemented one another. We especially loved the flavor of the mini-boule at the center of the board. I vowed to reproduce it at home, from the bread centerpiece to the aesthetics of the whole arrangement. Note: “boule” is the French word for a round loaf of bread.
First, I had to figure out the recipe for the bread topped with caramelized onions. Of course, you don’t need to pair the mini-boule with cheese and meat — and you don’t have to make it that small unless you’re placing it on a small board. The bread tastes wonderful on its own. I’ve provided measurements for both one mini-boule and one large one/four minis.
Although preparing the caramelized onions can be time-consuming and although making the bread requires a lot of waiting time, the end result looks and tastes amazing.
Recipe for Caramelized Onions
I like to make extra onions to stick in the freezer so that I can use them later for other recipes. If you want a vegan version of this, simply use olive oil instead of butter.
This recipe can easily be halved, doubled, or anything in between as long as you have room in the pan. That said, keep in mind that they cook down to a much smaller volume than you will have at first. Also, do not use Vidalia or other sweet onions because, ironically, they don’t contain the same amount of sugar.
2 pounds yellow onions, halved, then sliced into half-rounds about 1/4″ thick.
2 T butter or olive oil
1/4 cup water
Heat butter (or olive oil) in a skillet over medium heat until hot. Add sliced onions, and cook 30-45 minutes, stirring often, until medium brown. You may increase the heat to medium-high near the end if they aren’t brown enough. Be patient, though! Caramelizing onions takes time.
For the boule topping, you will want the onions to achieve a medium brown color since they will continue to cook in the oven. If you are going to use them for burgers or sandwiches, get them even darker.
When onions have reached the correct color, you should have dark brown bits in the bottom of the pan. Add the water and scrape the “fond” (dark bits) off the bottom and into the onions. When the water has evaporated and the fond is scraped up, remove from heat.
Either let cool to room temperature or refrigerate, up to two days, until ready to use.
Recipe for Caramelized Onion Boules
1 Mini Boule
1 cup all-purose flour
1/3 c. + 1 tsp warm water
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fast-rising yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 T. olive oil
1 egg white, optional
1 Large/3-4 Minis
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 c. + 1 T warm water
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp fast-rising yeast
1 T sugar
3 T olive oil
1 egg white, optional
Bread Machine Method: Put all ingredients in bread maker. Set to dough, and press start.
Stand Mixer Method: Since you are using fast-rising yeast, there’s no need to proof it first, although it’s important to use water that feels warm, not lukewarm and not hot. Place dough paddle on mixer. Pour water, yeast, sugar, and oil in the bottom of the bowl. Add half of the flour and salt. Mix on low, adding remainder of flour 1/2 cup at a time. Mix until all ingredients are incorporated, then let the paddle knead for an additional 5-10 minutes or until dough is elastic. If necessary, add small amounts of water or flour to achieve a smooth, slightly sticky dough.
Turn onto a lightly floured board. Knead a couple of times to form a ball. Either leave on the board or place in a lightly greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Let rise until doubled, about one hour.
By-Hand Method: As with the stand mixer method, you do not need to proof the fast-rising yeast as long as you use warm (not lukewarm) water. Mix all ingredients until well-incorporated. If necessary, add small amounts of water or flour to create a slightly sticky but coherent dough. Knead on a floured board or counter until dough is elastic, about fifteen minutes.
Leave on the floured board or place into a lightly greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or damp towel. Let rise until doubled, about one hour.
Shaping and Baking
If you are making one boule, whether small or large, shape it with floured hands into a round by pulling at the edges of the top and bringing them underneath, pressing to seal, until the top surface is smooth and round. (Dough should be slightly sticky.) Otherwise, if you are making 3-4 boules, cut the dough into equally-sized pieces and shape each individually. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Flatten dough into disks about 1″ thick.
Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a damp lint-free towel. Let rise until doubled and puffy, about 45 minutes. (Alternately, you may let the dough rise in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Let dough warm in the kitchen 1 hour before baking.)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
When ready to bake, make a deep impression with fingers in the center of each boule. To glaze the bread, whisk optional egg white with 1 T water, and brush it on the tops and sides of each dough round. Fill indentations with room temperature caramelized onions, 1-2 T for mini-boules and up to 1/2 cup for a larger one.
Bake for 20-25 minutes for minis or 30-35 for large, until deep golden brown.
Assembling the Cheese and Meat Board
Because of the shape of the bread, I chose a natural-edged acacia tree round to plate my Caramelized Onion Boule With Cheese and Meat. Cascade the Restaurant used something similar, although their board had a metal band on the outer rim, something I couldn’t find.
I was using my board for a couples’ dinner instead of an appetizer, so I used slightly larger quantities.
1 Mini Boule, cut into 4 pieces
Quince paste, cut into cubes or slices
Whole grain mustard
Siracha or chipotle mayonnaise
2 T of pistachios mixed with 1 tsp (approx.) honey
1 T. apricot jam or honeycomb, if you can find it
Three kinds of cheese, preferably one hard, one soft, and one blue. I used aged gouda, Camenbert, and Saint Augur. Cascade used Saint Andre, cheddar, and (I think) Stilton. Choose cheeses that offer a variety of textures and sharpness.
Three varieties of cured meats. I used prosciutto, Rosette de Lyon salami, and a peppercorn salami.
Place mini boule, cut into four, at the center of the tray. Working clockwise, alternate cheese and meat, separating them by one of the condiments. (See photo.)
While my version of the boule is not identical to Cascade’s (mine has a finer grain), the result looks and tastes similar. A wetter dough will give you larger, peasant bread holes, but it’s also more difficult to work with.
Below, you’ll see first the board served by Cascade the Restaurant, then my rendition of it, using the above recipes.
Debbie Lee Wesselmann