Onion and Poppy Seed Bread, the Recipe Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Onion and Poppy Seed Bread, the Recipe

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Onion and poppy seed bread

h2g2's bread expert, 2Legs, gives us the benefit of his experience:

This is pretty-much an invented recipe, brought about after various conversations over pints of beer with a friend who has worked as a baker. Developed over a few years, it has hopefully been refined into something which should come out of the oven each time in a fairly predictable and repeatable way. A basic white bread dough is enriched and flavoured with oil, diced fresh onion and poppy seeds, plus dried herbs (oregano works well and is given in this recipe), to produce a very tasty, rich, filling bread, with a slight nutty flavour and which holds its moisture and freshness for a reasonable amount of time. As the flavour of the bread is mainly determined by the onion, poppy seed and dried herbs, it does not require more complicated techniques for increasing flavour, as some recipes such as baguettes may require.

It works well as a sandwich bread for strong-flavoured fillings, especially mature cheeses like cheddar, and is equally delicious toasted with as much butter as one can safely deem acceptable. It also makes rather tasty and filling cheese on toast, toasted cheese or grilled sandwiches, and is an ideal bread for using to soak up soups, stews or anything else one has to hand.

As with all bread recipes, the timings and quantities of liquids are estimates – ambient temperature, humidity etc can affect both the amount of time it takes to rise and also how much total liquid the recipe needs. Similarly, the amount of water contained in the onion can vary and this can affect the overall hydration of the dough. All domestic ovens vary, but do ensure the oven has plenty of time to reach temperature before the bread goes in. This allows for a good oven spring: the period of increased yeast activity in the dough/loaf, brought about by the high oven temperature, which lasts until the yeast is killed in the oven's heat.

Makes one large (approx 800g) loaf, or two smaller (400g/1lb) loaves. It is best cooked in a bread tin; unfortunately, those tins available for domestic use seem to vary widely in their sizing. I cook this in a tin which was advertised as being a '2kg split loaf tin'. With this quantity of dough, even when fully risen/cooked, the loaf only just about reaches the top of the sides of the tin. However, having tried the recipe to produce a higher quantity of dough, this actually produces less favourable results, as it is difficult to maintain an even consistency and texture to such a large loaf in a domestic cooking situation.


  • 800 grams strong bread flour (100%)
  • 450 grams semi-skimmed milk (56.25%)
  • 36 grams olive oil (4.5%)
  • one medium-to-large onion, diced finely and evenly
  • 12-15 grams salt
  • 3.5-4 teaspoons dried active yeast
  • 2.5 teaspoons poppy seed
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon sugar


  • Measure out olive oil and milk into a microwavable jug; heat to approx body temperature (37-40°C).

  • Dissolve the sugar and honey into the oil/milk mixture, then add the yeast and mix well.

  • Leave the yeast to activate (10-20 minutes), and weigh out the other ingredients.

  • Put the yeast/milk mixture into a large mixing bowl, then add the chopped onion, poppy seed and herbs, and stir well to mix.

  • Mix the flour gradually into the bowl until it comes together, then knead for five to ten minutes.

  • Leave the mixed, part-kneaded dough in a large bowl to autolyse for 30-45 minutes.

  • Turn the autolysed dough out onto a clean worktop, and add the salt.

  • Start kneading, incorporating the salt into the dough. Once fully incorporated, knead for ten minutes.

  • Place dough into the bowl, then leave to rise for 45 minutes or so, until roughly doubled in size.

  • Turn dough out onto worktop, briefly knead to even out the texture, and shape into a ball.

  • Gradually roll, pull and shape the ball of dough out, into a long rectangle of a suitable size to fill the bread tin.

  • Place in bread tin, then let rise for 45 minutes or until the dough is almost at the top of the tin.

  • Immediately prior to baking, spray the surface of the loaf with water (or 'paint' with milk), add poppy seeds to the top, and then slice a line down the length of the loaf in the middle.

  • Bake in a pre-heated hot oven, at between 190 and 220°C, for approximately 45 minutes.

  • Turn out loaf. If required, return it to the oven on a tray, to ensure the sides and base are fully cooked.

  • If doing one large loaf, it will take upwards of 40 minutes to cool sufficiently before you can safely slice it without risk of the loaf falling to pieces as you do so.

Leek and Stilton soup

Should inspiration run dry now the loaf is cooked and safely cooled on the cooling rack, it might be wise to make a soup to eat with the bread; leek and Stilton works particularly well. You will need an electric blender, of a suitable type/size, for blending this particular soup. Aim for a fairly smooth consistency, but with some texture from the vegetables, and then the texture and flavour from the Stilton cheese itself, added after the cooking and blending of the vegetable quotient of the soup.


  • 1 leek, sliced and cleaned
  • one small onion, diced
  • one medium potato, washed, peeled and diced
  • vegetable stock (about a pint and a half - 850ml)
  • Stilton cheese (however much you like or dare)
  • 2 or so cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • butter
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • a few bits of fresh herbs, dried herbs, a bay leaf, or whatever else takes your fancy


  • Fry the leek, onion and garlic in butter for ten minutes on a low heat.

  • Add any herbs, the diced potato, garlic, some fresh ground black pepper and stir, cooking for a minute or two.

  • Throw in the stock, and simmer for about half an hour.

  • Take off the heat, blend to desired consistency, not totally smooth, then crumble in plenty of Stilton.

  • Return to the heat, just long enough to melt the Stilton a bit, so it forms nice globules of cheese larvae inside the cradle of the soup's vegetable goodness.

One word of warning: if you've made both the soup and the bread, you're probably now really very full up, and not feeling in the mood for doing the washing up.

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