I don’t care how retro bread bowls are, I love them. I vividly remember the first time I had one, as it’s one of my all-time favorite food memories that needs no airbrushing in my mind to live up to the romance of the reality. Adam and I were in San Fransico in the summer of 1995 on a whirlwind rollercoaster cross-country road trip and on our final leg of the west coast journey, we stopped at the legendary Fisherman’s Wharf on one of the most picturesque days I can ever recall. So completely California at its best with piercingly blue skies and a cooling, gentle breeze. We strolled around hand-in-hand, leisurely perused the shops wares of maritime tchotchkes and bought our lunch from a busy sidewalk vendor – a warm sourdough boule filled with piping hot clam chowder – unbelievably fresh and unbelievably delicious. After I drained all of the nectar from the vessel, the sheer bliss of ripping into my edible, soup-sodden bowl was life-changing.
This recipe ( a riff on one shared with me by a pastry chef/friend many years ago) is a great one if you’re afraid of bread-making and you own a stand mixer since it does the lion’s share of work for you. Although there are several hours “prep time,” almost all of it is hands-off. There’s not any hand kneading involved (just shaping). Simply place some warm water, yeast and sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer and let it get all frothy. Add the combined flour and salt at once. Turn on the mixer and let it do its thing. When the dough is soft, with the mixer running, drizzle in some oil. Tuck it into a ball and let it rise for an hour. Deflate the dough, divide it into four pieces, shape and let rise once more. A quick egg wash over the top and into the oven they go. Bake until golden brown. See? Easy.
The Stock Pot: Homemade Bread Bowls
- 7 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2-1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees)
- 2 (1/4-ounce) envelopes active dry yeast
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 large egg, whisked with 1 tablespoon water
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the water, yeast and sugar. Let stand until frothy, about 5 minutes.
- Dump in the flour mixture and beat until the dough forms. With the mixer running, drizzle in the oil until the bread is well-coated. Shape the dough into a ball in the mixer bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rise until it has doubled in size, 1 hour.
- Gently deflate the dough and divide it into 4 equal pieces. Shape each portion into a round loaf and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Using a sharp knife, score an “X” on the top of each loaf. Brush the egg wash over the loaves and bake until golden brown (the loaves will sound hollow when you tap them), about 40 to 45 minutes. Cool on wire racks. When ready to serve, cut a circle around the top of the bread and scoop out some of the insides – reserve for another use.
…from the Picture-Perfect kitchen:
Planning: Keep the scooped out bread in a freezer bag to use for fresh bread crumbs.
Product Purity: Make sure your water is not too hot or it will kill the yeast and your bread won’t rise. If you’re new to yeast, use an instant-read thermometer to accurately measure the water’s temperature.
Presentation: You can make smaller loaves for more servings or as appetizer bowls for dips and spreads. Or make one giant bread bowl for a stunning vessel for appetizers or soup for a crowd.