As I continue my quest to have homemade breads become a staple in every kitchen, I have another easy recipe for you all: bread bowls.
There’s just something about the way a bread bowl absorbs just the right amount of soup – where you can scrape the inside with your spoon and get the perfect bite of soup and bread together. It’s just heaven.
My love of bread bowls started many, many years ago on a little road trip to San Francisco in college. My best friend and I ended up enjoying the most amazing sourdough bread bowl meals at Boudin‘s. I think we may have had three meals there over the course of our four days in San Fran. It’s been virtually impossible to find its match since.
So, last week, when I was smelling the aroma of my Chicken Corn Chowder, I was taken back to our trip. And I decided right then and there to attempt to make my own bread bowls for us to enjoy.
Now, I knew that sourdough would not be happening since it takes several days to get it going, so I searched for any easy recipe I could make in an afternoon.
Italian Bread Bowls, slightly adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe
(I halved her recipe since we only needed three bowls.)
3/4 T active dry yeast
1 1/4 c warm water
2 t sugar
1 t salt
1 T vegetable oil
3 – 3 1/2 c bread flour
1/2 T cornmeal
In a large bowl (or bowl of an electric mixer), dissolve yeast in warm water and sugar. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
Add salt, oil and 2 cups flour to the yeast mixture; beat well. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well with an electric mixer at medium speed after each addition until a soft but not sticky dough is formed.
When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6 minutes (or let knead in an electric mixer).
Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes. Punch dough down, and divide into 3-4 equal portions. Shape each portion into a round ball. Place loaves on lightly greased baking sheets sprinkled with cornmeal (or use silpat liners or parchment paper). If desired, slash the top surface of the bread bowl several times with a sharp knife or razor. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, until doubled in bulk, about 35 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake in preheated oven for 15-18 minutes until golden brown and baked through.
Now, I know that some of you are intimidated by yeast. (I promise, they’re not scary…but in case you are worried, Mel has a great tutorial on yeast that might ease some of your fears.) The one thing I did add to the recipe is a little sugar. For some reason, my yeast gets a lot happier if I add a touch of sugar to the recipe. I don’t think it does much to the flavor, but it gets those little yeasties bubbling away.
Anyhow, the rest of the bread mixing/kneading was easy. Everything was moving along smoothly until it was time to divide the dough evenly. As I have documented many, many times, I have issues when it comes to math – not numbers math, but shape/size/volume issues. This was no exception.
Here is my post second-rise picture:
No, the first one isn’t bigger because it’s closer to the camera. It’s just bigger in size. And because of the size difference, they rose differently – the two smaller ones rose much higher. Oh, well.
No worries, though. As long as they were big enough to hold some chowder, all was good. And when they came out, the gorgeous color made me happy – as did that warm bread smell.
What I loved about these bread bowls was that the crust was hard enough to hold the thick chowder without getting soggy – while the inside was super soft and soaked the chowder right up. The flavor was great with the chowder or with butter, as we served the middles with some butter on the side.
Again, this was just the exact-right comforting dinner we needed that day.
A home-run of a meal, as Hubs would say.