My family calls these my special "French Onion Soup Rolls." It has the same flavors as French Onion Soup, but in an easier to eat bread roll. While caramelizing onions is a lengthly process, the results are well worth it.
Yield: 1 dozen bread rolls
Sprinkle yeast over warm milk. Add 2 tsp of granulated sugar and stir to combine. Let sit for 5-10 minutes to allow mixture to bubble and expand.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a hook attachment, combine dissolved yeast, remaining 2 Tbsp + 1 tsp sugar, melted butter, and whisked eggs. Mix with a whisk to combine.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, black pepper, and thyme. With the mixer on low speed, add flour mixture one cup at a time. Once all the flour has been added, increase mixer speed to medium and knead until dough is smooth and cleans the sides of the bowl. If dough is too sticky, add flour one tablespoon at a time.
Transfer dough to a lightly greased large bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 60-90 minutes until dough has doubled in size. While dough is resting, caramelize onions.
Remove plastic wrap. Punch dough down. Transfer to a lightly floured surface. Roll dough into a 12 x 16 inch rectangle. Spread 2 tablespoons room temperature butter evenly over dough. Spread cooled onion filling evenly over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border around all the sides. Sprinkle 1 1/2 cups shredded gruyere over onion filling.
Roll dough into a tight log, starting at the long side. Once dough is rolled, arrange it so that the seam is at the bottom. Slice the log into 12 equal portions. Place slices in a butter greased, parchment lined 9x13-inch baking sheet with sheet pan extenders. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup of cheese over slices.
Cover with plastic wrap and let the rolls rise for 45- 60 minutes until rolls reach the top of the pan.**
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove plastic wrap and bake rolls for 30-35 minutes until the cheese is golden and the internal temperature of the bread rolls hit 185 degrees F.
Let rolls sit in pan for 5-10 minutes before running a knife or mini offset spatula around the edges to loosen from the pan. Serve warm.
In a large pot, add 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Set over medium heat. Once butter has melted, add all the sliced onions. Stir to coat onions in butter-oil mixture.
Check on the onions every 5-8 minutes to stir the onions. Make sure none of the onions end up burning at the bottom of the pot. Once the onions have reduced by 1/3, add thyme. Stir to combine.
As you cook the onions, they will expel lots of liquids. Continue to cook until all the liquid is gone and the onions are very soft. Eventually after about an hour, the onions will start to caramelize and brown. During the entire cooking process, keep an eye on the onions and stir every 8 minutes or so. Once onions have been cooked down, remove form heat. Add salt to taste (I added 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt.) Cool onions until ready to fill bread rolls.
**If you don't want to bake the rolls right away, you can let the rolls proof overnight in the fridge. After placing the cut rolls in the baking sheet, simply cover it with plastic wrap and let it chill in the fridge overnight. Before baking, let it come to room temperature (about 30-45 minutes) and then bake according to normal instructions.