Festive bread with blue cheese and red onions that looks too good to eat
A pull-apart bread to share, combining the best elements of a cheeseboard
The blue cheese melts into the dough once kneaded, resulting in a deeply cheese-flavoured bread with tiny nuggets peppered throughout. Photograph: Harry Weir Photography
I can’t think of a better bake than one containing two of my favourite things – bread and cheese. This blue cheese and red onion bread wreath is an absolute showstopper, a beautiful pull-apart bread that is perfect for sharing.
I love a cheeseboard at Christmas and this bake combines all of its best parts into a gorgeous festive treat. It has crusty bread, soft, creamy cheese and a tangy chutney too. I have adapted a basic, pillowy, white bread dough and added a quick, soft and jammy red onion marmalade and tangy blue cheese, and the end result is that beautiful combination all in one mouthful.
We have some wonderful blue cheese producers here in Ireland but use any sharp, rich blue cheese you can get your hands on. The blue cheese melts into the dough once kneaded, resulting in a deeply cheese-flavoured bread with tiny nuggets peppered throughout.
The red onions are sliced and cooked gently until soft and translucent and, with a splash of balsamic vinegar and brown sugar added to caramelise, they give a gorgeous jammy texture. The red onions need to be completely cool when adding them to the bread, so this is best made a few hours or even the day before you want to bake your wreath.
The dough is divided into even-sized balls and arranged in two circles in a large, deep cake tin. Once left to rise, they expand and merge together, creating that Christmas wreath shape. I like to place a scone cutter or oven-proof ramekin into the centre of the bread to retain a hole in the middle and once baked, the gap can be filled with a small pot of your favourite chutney to serve.
BLUE CHEESE AND RED ONION FESTIVE BREAD WREATH
For the red onions:
1 tsp olive oil
2 red onions, finely sliced
Salt and pepper to season
2 sprigs thyme
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
For the bread:
1kg strong white flour
20g fine sea salt
14g (2 sachets) dried yeast
525ml tepid water
150g blue cheese
For the red onions:
1 Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan on a low heat and add the onions. Season with salt and pepper, add the thyme sprigs and sweat the onions for about five to 10 minutes until soft and translucent.
2 Stir the onions regularly to ensure they don’t catch. Once they are soft add the brown sugar and balsamic vinegar, and continue to cook for another two to three minutes until the sugar has caramelised, the vinegar has reduced and you are left with a sticky, jam-like consistency.
3 Remove and discard the thyme sprigs. Take the onions off the heat and let them cool completely. Chill them until you are ready to make the bread.
For the bread:
1 Sieve the flour into a large bowl, or into a stand mixer if using, and add the salt.
2 Measure the tepid water into a measuring jug and add the yeast. Leave to sit for two to three minutes.
3 If using the stand mixer, attach the dough hook and start to mix the flour and salt. Pour in the water and continue to mix on a low speed for five minutes. Increase to a medium speed and continue to mix for another five minutes.
4 Add the onions, crumble in the cheese and continue to mix for another two to three minutes until smooth, elastic and the cheese and onions are evenly distributed.
5 Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with a clean tea towel. Put the dough in a warm place and leave to rise for an hour or until doubled in size.
6 Scrape the dough out on to a lightly floured work surface and knock the dough a few times with your fist.
7 Preheat the oven to 220 degrees and lightly grease a large, 28cm diameter, deep cake tin. Place another baking tray filled with water in the bottom of the oven. Divide the dough into 10 100g balls and eight 75g balls. Arrange the larger balls around the outside of the tin and place the smaller balls in another circle snugly inside the first. Place a ring cutter or ramekin in the centre to allow the wreath to hold its shape.
8 Cover with a tea towel and allow to rise for a second time for about 30 minutes.
9 Dust the wreath with flour and bake for 20 minutes, reduce the heat to 200 degrees and bake for a further 30 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.