No doubt about it: Chilis, soups, and stews are better served in a bread bowl. But don’t be tempted to assume these starchy crocks are restaurant-only fare. Use our top five tips for baking a perfect bread bowl at home every time.
Whether you’re a chili champion or professional soup slur-per, we bet you love your hot, brothy meals served up in a doughy bread bowl. Who wouldn’t? And while you can buy pre-made bread bowls at a grocery store, they’re never the same as the freshly baked ones.
Baking bread isn’t all that hard, and a bread bowl is no exception. Any basic bread dough recipe will work to create one, but there are a few universal best practices to keep in mind. So, we’ve put together our top five tips to make sure your bowls turn out flawless every time.
The Flour You Use Counts
Any recipe for a crusty or artisan-style loaf will work to make bread bowls. However, to ensure you end up with a crusty loaf rather than a soft and pillowy one, bread flour is vital. Bread flour has a higher gluten content than all-purpose flour. This means your bread will have a stronger structure, which is necessary for a bread bowl.
While all-purpose flour is excellent at giving a fluffy and tender result, as you’d want in a hamburger bun or cinnamon rolls, it’s not so great when you’re trying to build a liquid-tight vessel. Bread flour will give you the rougher, heartier crumb needed to hold soups, stews, and chilis. And, it should be available in the baking section of your local supermarket.
Customize Basic Bread Dough with Seasonings and Spices
Freshly baked bread is hard to beat, but if you really want to impress your friends and family, consider adding in seasonings and spices. Depending on what type of soup, stew, chili, or dip you plan to serve in the final bowls, you can add up to a tablespoon of garlic powder, onion powder, or dried Italian seasoning.
You can also add garnishes to your bread bowl. Again, this will depend on the final use for the starchy containers, but adding seeds like sesame or flax, to the top of your bread can be gorgeous and flavorful. Just imagine a curried butternut soup served up in a crusty bread bowl adorned with roasted pumpkin seeds. Sounds pretty perfect to us!
Don’t Forget an Egg Wash
Key to any beautiful, crusty loaf is an egg wash. An egg wash will accomplish two goals. First and foremost, it will give you a shiny, golden crust. Aa a bonus, it acts as glue for any seed-filled topping you might want to add.
An egg wash should be painted on using a pastry brush right before baking. To make one, whisk together one egg white with 2 tablespoons of water.
Let Them Rest and Use a Sharp Serrated Knife
After you’ve baked your bread, it’s essential to let them rest for 15-20 minutes. After that, use a good-quality serrated knife to cut out your bowls. Nothing’s worse than using a dull knife here. You’ll end up smashing the bread, which makes filling them with liquid a challenge.
Make sure you cut away from you, and deep enough to give lots of room for filling. After you cut the bowls, you can put them back in an oven at 350 F for about ten minutes to toast the insides if you so desire.
Prep Dough in Advance and Freeze
The nicest thing about bread dough is its propensity for freezing. There’s no need to go through the process of kneading and rising every time you want a bread bowl. Instead, make a big batch of dough once every couple months to have on hand whenever the craving hits.
To do so, knead the dough as you usually would. Let it go through the first rise, and then punch it down. Wrap it up tightly, and freeze it for up to two months.
When you’re ready to use it, allow it to thaw overnight in the fridge, and then divide the dough and shape the bowls. Once you’ve shaped them, the recipe will probably call for a second, shorter rise (usually no more than thirty minutes), which is just enough time to pre-heat the oven for baking. If you did the math, that means you have freshly baked bread bowls in under an hour, any day of the week.
Comforting chili, slurp-worthy soup, and savory stews are all screaming for bread bowls. Don’t settle for ceramic when an edible option is at your fingertips. Armed with our arsenal of bread-bowl-making tips, we’re sure you’ll be enjoying this carb-loaded container on the regular. After all, isn’t everything better in a bread bowl?