In a large bowl, or in the bucket of a bread machine, mix together the yeast, lukewarm water, sugar and 1 cup of the flour. Let sit till bubbly, about 30 minutes.
Place all of the remaining dough ingredients into the bowl with the sponge. Mix and knead until you've formed a smooth dough. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover it, and let it rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until it's almost doubled in bul
Place all of the dough ingredients into the pan of your bread machine, along with the sponge; prog the machine for manual or dough, and press Start. Check the dough about 10 minutes before the end of the final kneading cycle; it should be perhaps a bit
While the dough is rising, prepare the onions. Melt the butter in a large frying pan and add the onions. Saute them over low-to-medium heat until they're soft and barely golden, about 20 minutes. Remove them from the heat and set them aside. Stir in 1 tab
Gently deflate the dough, and turn it out onto a lightly floured or oiled work surface. Divide it into eight pieces. Flatten each piece into a rough rectangle approximately 4 inches wide by 7 inches long. Spoon 1/8 of the onion mixture in a strip down the
Place the rolls, about an inch apart, on a lightly greased (or parchment-lined) baking sheet. Set them in a warm place to rise until puffy, about 1 hour.
Preheat your oven to 500°F. Gently brush the rolls with a little melted butter, then sprinkle with poppy seeds, if desired.
Bake the rolls for 10 minutes, or until they're golden brown; this quick baking at a high temperature makes rolls that are golden brown outside, but still very soft inside. Remove the rolls from the oven and cool them completely on a wire rack. Store them
*Traditional onion rolls have a bit of chopped onion sprinkled on top. I don't do this as it's hard to prevent the onion from burning, and burned onion imparts a very bitter taste to the rolls.