Baking with Olivia and Caroline


By Published On: March 4th, 2024

Without any fuss or preamble, let’s just jump right in!


4 tbs butter
2 tbs flour
3 lbs (6-8) sweet onions halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
¼ cup red wine, preferably French
6 cups water
4 beef bouillon cubes, or 2 tsp Better Than Bouillon beef base
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
1-3 bay leaves
Dash of Kitchen Bouquet, Gravy Master, or Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1 French baguette
8oz grated Gruyère cheese
Chopped parsley or thyme (optional for garnish – thyme is in the photo)


Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook uncovered, stirring frequently, until very soft and caramelized, about 40-50 minutes. If the onions brown too quickly, reduce the heat. 

Once the onions are caramelized, add the flour and stir constantly for a minute or two.

Add the red wine and be sure to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Turn up heat to medium high and cook until the wine is fully evaporated.

Reduce the heat back to medium and add 6 cups of water and the beef bouillon cubes. *If using Better Than Bouillon beef base, I suggest pre-mixing the paste in boiling or hot water before adding it to the pot. (We prefer using Better Than Bouillon, but my dad uses bouillon cubes).

Add fresh thyme and bay leaf(s), a dash of Gravy Master, Kitchen Bouquet, or Worchestire sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer soup for 30-40 minutes. 

While the soup simmers, preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and slice the baguette into ½” thick slices. Arrange the slices on a baking sheet and cook until the bread is nice, dry, and toasty with golden edges; about 8-10 minutes. Set aside.

Arrange your oven rack about 6” from the broiler. Set the oven to broil. Place oven-safe crocks on a baking sheet and divide the hot soup among them. Top each one with a slice of bread and cover with Gruyère cheese. Broil until the cheese and bubbly and browned around the edges, approximately 3- 5 minutes. Keep a watchful eye, as you don’t want the cheese to burn. Garnish with a bit of chopped parsley or thyme. Enjoy!

A note from Caroline

Being a vegetarian for nearly eight years, I learned some tricks to give vegetarian dishes that would typically have meat in them depth of flavor. If you find that your onion soup is lacking, you can add a bit of liquid smoke or dark soy sauce. Either can really increase that umami flavor you want. Even now that I make it with beef stock instead of vegetable stock I still use this trick, and it makes onion soup that much better. 

A note about Olivia’s dad

Last month, I had the pleasure of making this soup with my dad, who was just about to turn 89! He still loves to cook, mow the lawn, fish, chop and stack wood, and throw a massive Fourth of July party every year.  

When my parents got divorced in the early 70s, my dad literally couldn’t boil water! There had never been time for him to cook as he was busy running three businesses, volunteering as a fireman, involved in the Lion’s Club, and helping raise four kids. Plus, he had my mom who was and still is an incredible cook at 86.

As my dad was learning his way around the kitchen, he had a few mishaps – one quite memorable. He had decided to make homemade tapioca pudding. Unfortunately, he didn’t quite understand the concept of a double boiler. There was a bit of an explosion in the kitchen – it literally sounded like a bomb went off. Hot tapioca went everywhere. I swear, we were finding tapioca balls in the kitchen and dining room for months afterwards. The explosion also happened at the worst possible time: I would go to my dad’s house daily after school, and my mom would pick me up there when she got off of work. So, as my mom was walking in the door into the kitchen, boom! She was covered with hot tapioca. Fortunately, she did not get burned, but I can still see the look on both of my parents’ faces. Let’s just say it wasn’t the best moment in the kitchen. Another mishap was that one time my dad cut his finger chopping something and wound up with stitches, not in his finger, but in his head! And despite the fact that he was a mortician, he did not do well with the sight of his own blood.

My dad had to learn to cook and learn quickly as he had kids that needed to be fed. Once he progressed from making ham steaks on the grill and creamed corn, which to this day I still can’t stomach, he began to be a real pro in the kitchen. Not only were his dinners tasty, but he also enjoyed packing lunch boxes. Every day he added a special treat. To this day he makes his wife dinner just about every night. This Christmas he made a lemon meringue pie with meringue so high that it made me a bit jealous! I hope to share his stew recipe next winter as it is also pretty damn good! •

Olivia and Caroline are enthusiastic foodies and bakers who are constantly in the kitchen, as well as explorers who create their own adventures in our area – and did we mention they are mother and daughter? Follow Olivia on Instagram to see her many creations at @oliviawvalentine.