Thursday, January 19, 2012

Homemade Bread Bowls

I love making homemade bread bowls to serve with soups.  I've made them a lot for my family and a couple of times for the teachers at our elementary school for their dinner during Parent/Teacher Conferences.

EVERYONE loves them!  Call me old-fashioned, but I think there is something special about homemade bread.  I grew up with a mother and grandmother that made bread all the time.  I remember coming home to fresh bread and jam.  I remember LOVING my grandmother's WHITE homemade bread...she always offered us a slice when we visited her.  And NOTHING compares to the smell of bread baking in the oven.  I love it and I wish I took the time to do it more often!

I make these bread bowls out of my regular bread recipe that I've always used in my Betty Crocker Cookbook.

I always start my breads by warming the water in a bowl in the microwave.  Then I test it to make sure it is just between warm and hot.  Then I stir in the yeast and sprinkle the sugar over the top and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.  This is called "sponging".  It just lets you know that the yeast is working.  That way, if nothing happens (like if your water was too hot and kills the yeast) you can just start over and you've only wasted a little yeast.

Start with:

2 1/4 cup very warm water    ( Heat in pan or microwave.)
2 packages regular or quick acting dry yeast  (I just use 2 T)
3 T sugar

Let sit for 10 minutes.

In large mixing bowl:

3 1/2 cups flour
1 T salt
2 T shortening

Stir and then add yeast mixture.  Add more flour one cup at a time (about 3-3 1/2 cups more) until the dough is SOFT but not terribly sticky.  It has become my opinion (especially when working with whole wheat dough) that softer is always better.  You can always add more flour in the kneading or rolling process...but you cannot take it out!

This is what my dough looks like just after I've mixed it:

Grease a large bowl and place dough in it. Cover with towel or saran wrap and place in a warm area for 40-60 minutes.  And if you are in a rush...30 minutes.

It should look something like this when it is ready:

Now you will form the bread bowls.  I don't bother making huge bread bowls like you get at a restaurant because all that means is a lot of wasted bread!  If you gently cup your hands and then touch your fingertips together--that is the size of dough that I use to make a bread bowl.  (Hope that makes sense! ; )
I do slightly smaller if it is going to be for young children.

I also make them smaller with the understanding that we will re-fill the bowl with a second serving.  So it doesn't have to be huge.

I like to sprinkle cornmeal on my cookie sheet and then place the balls evenly spread out so they have room to rise without touching.

Now, cover these with a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for 40-45 minutes.  Sometimes, if I am in a rush, they only get about 30 minutes...and it turns out fine too.

They should look like this when they are ready to be cooked:

I bake them at 375* for 20-25 minutes, just until they are golden brown.

Let them cool slightly after you take them out of the oven and then take a small knife and cut a hole in the center of the bowl.

Gently pull out the "lid" with your fingers and pull out as much bread as you want.  (When I do this for company, I pre-cut the holes, but let each guest dig out their own top.)  Fill with whatever delicious soup you desire!  Cream soups work the best since they don't make the bread all soggy with broth.  Cream of Broccoli is the most common one that I serve this way.

So the next time you are making soup, plan a little extra time and make it extra special with some homemade bread bowls.  Your family will love it!!

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