Around here, we like our soup during the winter months. We also like dipping homemade bread into our soup. What better way to combine great bread with a wonderful soup than by serving the soup in a homemade bread bowl! I have made bread bowls from a few different recipes through out my life, but this Italian bread is my favorite. The crust sets up nicely (and holds the soup in) and the bread itself is so soft and yummy!
So how does one make these culinary cups of soup love? Easily! No, really, this recipe uses simple ingredients you most likely already have in your cabinets and doesn't take a master baker to complete! So let’s get some in the oven, shall we?
A packages active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
A pinch of sugar
I start by putting the flour in a large bowl and use the bottom of the measuring cup to make a little well for my water. I then pour my yeast in the water and add just a pinch of sugar. You don’t want this bread to be sweet, but the sugar feeds the yeast, waking it up, and gets it going. This is called proofing your yeast and this is what it should look like after sitting about 5 minutes.
Next, grab a spatula (or dig in with your hands if you feel adventurous) and get the ingredients mushed together. Once the majority of you flour is in the dough, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Make sure you pour any unincorporated flour out of the bowl with the dough….. it will all get worked in while you knead the dough.
Now it’s time to work your arm and shoulder muscles. You need to knead the dough till it is smooth and elastic, which will take about 5 minutes of aggressive kneading. Get in there and work out any frustrations you may have! Now place you dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover it and let it rise in a warm place till it doubles it size, about 40 minutes.
Once the bread has risen, you are going to punch it down. Again with the aggression towards bread! I flattened the dough a bit with my hands and used a knife to cut portions. The recipe above makes 4 bread bowls, but since we were having both broccoli cheese and chicken and wild rice soups this week, I made a double batch, thus the eight portions. Once you have your portions shaped into round loaves, place them on a greased cookie sheet. At this point, you can lightly sprinkle the loaves with cornmeal if you like. I was out of cornmeal and they were just as yummy without it. Now let them rise for another 40 minutes.
Bake the bread bowls in a preheat 400 degree oven for 25 minutes. Let the loaves cool before cutting to allow the crust to completely firm up. Once your loaves are cooled, carefully use a knife to cut around the bowl (like when you make the lid on a Jack-o-lantern.) Make sure you do NOT poke through the bottom! Now use your fingers to wiggle down the side and work out the bread plug. Don’t worry if you leave “too” much bread in the bowl, the soup will soak into it and it is so yummy to scoop out during the meal. It is better to leave a little then take too much and get a hole in your bowl!
Now just fill your bowl with your favorite soup and serve! I promise, it will not only visually impress your family, but their taste buds will thank you too!