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Bacon, Onion and Walnut Mini-Breads

Bacon, Onion and Walnut Mini-Breads
These little breads are prepared using a sponge, which helps give yeasted breads a good flavor, light texture and crackly outer crust. The sponge is made by combining yeast with a small amount of the liquid and flour called for in the bread recipe. Then it is allowed to stand and become foamy before being combined with the remaining ingredients. Here, the breads are baked in a silicone baking mold.

Ingredients:

For the sponge:

  • 1 1⁄4 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 2 Tbs. lukewarm milk
  • 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour

For the dough:

  • 2 bacon slices, finely diced
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 1⁄4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more
     as needed
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1⁄4 cup milk, at room temperature
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces,
     at room temperature, plus more for brushing
  • 2 Tbs. diced cooked ham
  • 2 Tbs. coarsely minced walnuts
  • 1⁄4 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten with 1 tsp. water

Directions:

To make the sponge, in a bowl, dissolve the yeast in the milk. Stir in the flour, cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place until foamy, about 10 minutes.

To make the dough, in a small nonstick fry pan over medium heat, cook the bacon, stirring often, until evenly browned, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate, leaving the drippings in the pan. Add the onion to the pan and cook, stirring often, until soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. Transfer the onion to the plate with the bacon. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, sugar and salt and beat on low speed until well blended, about 1 minute. With the mixer running, add the egg and milk. Increase the speed to medium and knead for 5 minutes. Add the 3 Tbs. butter and knead for 3 minutes. Stop the mixer and add the sponge. Increase the speed to medium-high and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, 7 to 10 minutes. Add the bacon, onion, ham, walnuts, thyme and parsley and knead until well incorporated, about 2 minutes. Add more flour if the dough is too sticky. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel, set in a warm place and let rise until doubled in volume, about 1 1¿2 hours.

Preheat an oven to 400ºF. Butter a 6-well silicone muffin mold and place on a baking sheet.

Punch down the dough, divide into 6 equal-size balls and place in the prepared molds. Let the dough rise in a warm place for 30 minutes. Brush the tops of the breads with the egg yolk mixture and bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

Immediately invert the mold onto a wire rack and remove the breads, using a toothpick to gently loosen them, if needed. Let cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Makes 6 mini-breads.
Hubert Keller, Chef/Owner, Fleur de Lys Restaurant, San Francisco