Monday, January 30, 2012

Onion Cake


Which is what Dad called it. It's not a cake, it is a giant savory pastry and is amazingly easy to make. I had bought a bag of green onions to make something else that never happened, so I had to use up the lot before they died.

1/2 recipe of the amazingly versatile pizza dough, at least 2 days old
1 large bunch green onions
olive oil

Let the dough sit, covered, somewhere warm, until it has gotten very relaxed and has developed large gas pockets.

Preheat oven to 425.

Slice the green & white parts of the onions thinly and toss with about a half teaspoon of salt. Set aside.

Flour a surface and roll out the dough until it's paper thin. It will be a good 2 feet across. Drizzle generously with oil. Spread the oil over the dough right up to the edges and sprinkle the sliced onions evenly over it. Roll up the dough tightly, then coil it into a circle. Put it on a greased pan and sort of squish it a little flatter. Turn it over a couple times as you squish, to flatten both sides and to get all the surfaces oily. Bake for 15 minutes, turn it over, and bake for another 20 minutes.


1. Do not knead the dough before rolling it out! You will make it seize back up and it will be hard to roll. This dough is really quite rugged. You can flip it over without tearing holes in it even when it is extremely thin, which makes it easier to roll a nice, even, circle.
2. Use fresh onions. Mine were acceptable, but had gotten rather sharp with age.
3. The thinner you get the dough, the better. It will be more tender that way.
4. Don't skimp on the oil.
5. Or the flour when you roll the dough. A certain amount of loose flour helps maintain the flaky structure, as well as prevent sticking to the rolling surface.

This is one of my most favorite foods, ever. The onions are sweet and salty, the bread is crispy on the outside and soft inside, and the layers are good for peeling and eating one by one or for biting right though together. Dad used to make it for things like potlucks and picnics. Without fail, it gives me a relaxed, special-occasion feeling every time I have it. It has not lost its magic in 30-odd years, even though I make it myself now. I made it the winter after I moved here. I took the dough over to Pete & Cynthia's house, and Jej and her family came down from St. Johns and we made a gigantic recipe of onion cakes. Which was particularly fortunate, because that was the weekend of the blizzard and everybody got housebound and we would have starved and been uncomfortable without the onion cakes.

Traditionally this is made with unyeasted dough made of all purpose flour. I think dad mixed green and white onions, too. I can't see that it makes a difference, though maybe the pastry would be a little more tender if it was made with a lower protein flour. On the other hand, the fermentation time both develops the dough flavors and makes it roll out easier, so it may be a trade off between flavor and texture.

I am reliably informed that this is like a Bulgarian thing called banitsa. Clearly, this requires more investigation.

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