Welcome to 2018!! I’m not really sure where 2017 went, but I know where 2018 is going: BREAD. Or at least that’s where January’s headed. This is the 1st baking challenge of the year and I hope you’re just as excited as I am.
Tie on your aprons, gather your determination, and heat up that creamy soup. Let’s dive right into 2018 with homemade bread bowls!
Breadmaking probably seems impossible, but think of it this way: it’s one of the most basic foods. Just simple ingredients mixed together, left alone to work some magic, shaped, and baked. That’s the process and it’s 100% something you can handle.
Today I’m going to talk about the dough itself, convince you there’s nothing to fear, share the recipe, then walk you through step-by-step pictures so you can see the bread bowls come together. This is a priceless recipe that you can and will master.
Basic Bread Dough
These homemade bread bowls start with an ordinary bread dough. Dissolve the yeast in warm water to get things going. No need to activate the yeast– which is when you add a pinch of sugar to the warm liquid/yeast to ensure that the yeast is active or not. Modern yeast is most likely active and ready to go. Just check the expiration date on the package. (You’ll still use a bit of sugar in the dough itself, though… more on that next.) I highly recommend using a quality yeast like Red Star Yeast— it’s always my go-to brand for the best tasting breads!
Just 4 more ingredients: salt and olive oil for flavor, a bit of sugar to “feed” the yeast which creates carbon dioxide bubbles and allows the dough to rise, and bread flour. Bread flour contains a lot of protein which helps form a chewier, more dense, and, well, more bread-like… bread. (Technical terms!!) We want a strong and crusty bread for our bread bowls and bread flour will help us achieve that.
To give you the full picture, I use all-purpose flour when I’m making richer, softer, and more fluffy bread. Things like cinnamon rolls, butter rolls, doughnuts, and monkey bread. I typically use milk instead of water and I add additional fat like eggs and/or butter. More fat usually means the dough takes longer to rise. Today’s bread bowls are a particularly “lean” dough, so the rise time is quicker.
If yeast terrifies you, don’t hide your eyes! It’s just another ingredient added to the dough. We’re not doing anything special with it. We’re just mixing it with water. The magic happens during hands-off time. So kick up your feet and get your soup ready.
Pictured inside my bread bowls? Lightened-up creamy chicken noodle soup!
Use This Dough for Anything
After the dough rises, which I chat about in the step-by-step pictures below, you’ll shape the dough into 6 balls and bake them. You’re not limited to bread bowls though! This dough can easily turn into a couple pans of traditional dinner rolls, crusty loaves of bread, or even a few pizza doughs. You can add seasonings like garlic powder (my suggestion!), Italian seasoning, onion power, rosemary, etc. So many ways we can enjoy fresh bread with this simple and versatile recipe.
What’s more? We all lead busy lives, so make things easy on yourself by prepping the dough ahead of time and freezing it. See my make ahead tip.
Kevin, my in-house bread critic, had a lot to say about the bread bowls.
- Big fan of the X score on top. If not eating as a bread bowl, the X makes it easy to tear into pieces. Ease of breaking apart is crucial in a bread lover’s world. More on the X below the recipe!
- The edges are the right amount of crisp. Two thumbs up.
- How do you make them so shiny? (egg wash! remember from our November Baking Challenge?)
- When can you make them again?
If you’re not into this recipe, here is the alternate January Baking Challenge:
After you make the baking challenge recipe or alternative, share your photos throughout this month using #sallysbakingchallenge on Instagram or email me, tweet me, or upload a photo of your recipe to my Facebook page or Facebook group.
- 2 packets Red Star® Active Dry Yeast (4 and 1/2 teaspoons)
- 2 and 1/4 cups (540ml) warm water (110°F – 115°F)
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 Tablespoons (30ml) olive oil
- 6 cups (780g) bread flour, plus more for hands and surface*
- egg wash: 1 large egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon milk
- Pour the warm water over yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Or, if you don’t have a stand mixer, a regular large mixing bowl. Whisk together and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Cover the bowl with a towel. The mixture should be frothy and foamy after 5 minutes.
- If you do not have a mixer, you can mix by hand in this step. With the stand mixer running on low speed, add the sugar, salt, olive oil, 4 cups of bread flour, and seasonings (if using, see recipe note). Beat on low speed for 1 minute, then add remaining 2 cups of flour. Beat on low speed for 5-6 minutes. The dough should be thick, yet soft. And only slightly sticky. It should pull away from the sides of the bowl as it mixes. If it’s too sticky, add more flour, 1 Tablespoon at a time, until it pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
- Form dough into a ball and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. And place into a large greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. (I just use the same mixing bowl– remove the dough, grease it with nonstick spray or olive oil, put the dough back in.) Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a warm environment to rise until doubled, about 90 minutes. For this warm environment, I preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C) then turn the oven off and place the bowl inside the warm-ish oven. Leave the oven door cracked a bit.
- Once doubled in size, punch down the dough to release any air bubbles. Remove dough from the bowl and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Punch down again to release any more air bubbles if needed.
- Using a sharp knife or dough scraper, cut into 6 even pieces. Form each into a large ball.
- Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Place 3 dough balls onto each. Cover lightly and set aside to rest for 20 minutes as the oven preheats.
- Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C). Brush each dough ball with egg wash and, using a sharp knife, score an X into the tops of each.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool until ready to handle. The longer you cool, the easier they are to cut open!
- For serving, cut a large round out of the top of each bread bowl. Scoop out the center (save the center to dunk into soup!) and fill with soup.
- Cover and store leftover bread bowls at room temperature for a couple days or in the refrigerator for 1 week. You can also freeze the baked bread bowls for up to 3 months, then thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Make ahead tip/overnight: After dough has risen two hours in step 3, punch down the dough inside the mixing bowl and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight or for up to 2 days, then remove from the refrigerator and continue with step 4. OR freeze for up to 2 months, then allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator and continue with step 4.
*I haven’t tried this dough with whole wheat flour, but I expect it to taste a little dry. You may have to add a little more water.
*You can halve this recipe to make only 3 bread bowls. Or make the dough as written and freeze half for later use (see make ahead tip).
*I love adding a little flavor to the bread dough. I tested the recipe with a couple teaspoons of garlic powder and could hardly taste it. (Though I could certainly smell it!) I increased to 1.5 Tablespoons and it left a light and lovely garlic flavor. Adding garlic powder is optional, but tastes wonderful in the bread. If it pairs nicely with your soup of choice, definitely add it! You can also add 1-2 Tablespoons Italian seasoning or rosemary, or a Tablespoon of onion powder.
Dinner rolls: Makes 24 rolls, which is likely more than you need, but you can freeze half of the dough for later. Prepare dough through step 4. Instead of forming into 6 balls in step 5, divide the dough in half. Freeze half of the dough for later use (see make ahead tip) and form the other half into 12 balls. Place balls in a greased 9×13 baking pan. Cover lightly and set aside to rest for 20 minutes. Brush with egg wash, score with an X if desired (not necessary) and bake at 350°F (177°C) for 25-28 minutes or until the tops and edges are golden brown.
Pizza dough: Makes 4 12-inch pizza crusts, which is likely more than you need, but you can freeze half of the dough for later. Prepare dough through step 4. Instead of forming into 6 balls in step 5, divide the dough in half. Freeze half of the dough for later use (see make ahead tip) and form the other half into 2 large balls. Cover lightly and set aside to rest for 20 minutes. Flatten each ball of dough 1 at a time on a lightly floured surface or on a silicone baking mat. You could also do this directly on your greased pizza pan. Flatten and stretch into a 12-inch round circle. Brush with a little olive oil (no need for egg wash). Add toppings and bake in a super hot oven at 475°F (246°C). Pizzas typically take 12-15 minutes.
Crusty bread loaves: Makes about 3 loaves of crusty bread. Prepare dough through step 4. Instead of forming into 6 balls in step 5, divide the dough into 3 pieces. You can freeze 1 or 2 pieces for later use (see make ahead tip). Round into a ball as best you can and place onto a lined baking sheet. Cover lightly and set aside to rest for 30 minutes. The dough will spread out a bit. Brush with egg wash, score with an X, and bake at 400°F (204°C) for 30 minutes or until the tops and edges are golden brown.
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Begin with quality yeast. 🙂
Pour warm water on top, give it a minute to combine and froth up, then add the rest of the dough ingredients. You know the dough is ready when it no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl.
Let it rise in a warm environment until (roughly) doubled in size, about 90ish minutes. I use my oven. Preheat it to 200°F (93°C) then turn the oven off and place the bowl inside the warm-ish oven. Leave the oven door slightly cracked open. I placed the bowl on top of a baking sheet because the bottom of the mixer bowl is plastic.
The dough will be voluptuous! And filled with air. Punch the dough down to release those air bubbles. You’ll be left with a super soft dough. ↓
Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces, about the size of a softball, and round them into balls as best you can.
Use 2 baking sheets. Place 3 balls on each.
Cover lightly with a tea towel, plastic wrap, aluminum foil, etc. Let the dough rest for 20ish minutes. How cute is this towel!!!
Brush with egg wash. The egg wash helps create a crisp golden brown crust.
Score an X on the top of the unbaked rolls. This helps the rolls expand.
Bake until golden brown. Gorgeous!!
Carve out a deep hole in the bread. Doesn’t need to be perfect. Just use a knife.
Add your soup. Dive in!
SHOP THE RECIPE
Here are some items I used to make today’s recipe.