This is simply beautiful. I could eat, and have eaten, a whole batch of these as soon as they come steaming out of the oven. The amount of rosemary you put in is entirely up to you. You might even prefer to use a different herb; thyme or parsley would work a treat here. But whatever herb you choose, a batch of these with the Christmas cheeseboard brings joy to all. 

Ingredients - makes 4 

  • 1 red onion
  • Knob of salted butter
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 500g white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 10g salt
  • 7g fast-action yeast (1 sachet)
  • 2–3 sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped (or herb of your choice)
  • 350ml tepid water

Essential equipment

  • Dough scraper
  • 4 baking sheets
  • Spray bottle filled with water

Peel and finely slice the onion. Melt the butter in a frying pan over a high heat, then add the onion. Immediately turn the heat down to low-medium and cover the pan with a lid. Allow the onion to cook gently for 15 minutes, then add the vinegar and sugar and cook for a further 5 minutes on a low heat, this time uncovered. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.

To make the dough, place the flour in a mixing bowl and stir the salt through it. Then stir in the yeast and chopped rosemary. Add the water in thirds, and bring the dough together into a sticky mass.

Tip the contents of the bowl out on to the counter top and knead for about 10 minutes. Then incorporate the onions, kneading for a few more minutes until they are evenly distributed and the dough is smooth and elastic. Place in a clean, floured bowl. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rise for 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

Dust 2 of the baking sheets liberally with wholemeal bread flour, and dust your counter top, too. Gently tip the risen dough out on to the counter, using a dough scraper to help remove it from the bowl. When the mound of dough is on the counter, cut it into quarters using a sharp knife or dough scraper. You should then have 4 portions of dough, shaped like rounded triangles or leaves.

Take one portion of dough and, using the thin edge of the dough scraper, cut a line in the middle from the tip of the triangle to the flat edge. You are cutting right through the depth of the dough, but not to each end, because you do not want to cut the dough in half: there needs to be 2cm dough uncut at either end of the line. This line will be like a centre vein on a leaf. Then, on either side of that line, at a 45 degree angle, cut three little ‘veins’ in the same way. Stretch the dough slightly so the holes open up. Repeat with the other 3 pieces of dough. Place 2 leaves on each well-floured baking sheet. Allow to prove for 30 minutes more.

Preheat the oven to 230°C/Gas 8. Place the other 2 baking sheets in to heat up.

Slide the breads on their baking sheets directly on to the hot sheets in the oven, spraying a mist of water inside before you shut the door. Bake for 12–15 minutes.