Round Thirty Nine — Bread Bowls
I am noticing that I talk about the weather a lot — most people do, I guess. It’s the quintessential ice breaker. I admit I’m one of those people who, when uninspired with anything to say, fills the dead air with talk of the weather. I can’t help it, though. It’s not just that it’s a wonderful conversation filler with a stranger during one of those awkward moments — though that’s nice. It’s that I feel my life revolves around the weather, so it’s often at the forefront of my mind.
Today, and yesterday (aka all freaking weekend long) it’s been crappy outside. When it’s not pouring rain, it’s misting. When it’s not cloudy, it’s extra cloudy (or nighttime). I feel like we’re living next to Niagara Falls (minus the beautiful view and the roaring sound of the water). And because of this not-so-gorgeous weather, I haven’t been able to ride my bike, like I wanted to. I haven’t been able to stroll through farmers markets and art/craft festivals, or go to the park like I wanted to. I haven’t been able to go to the apple orchard, like I wanted to. It’s made for a pretty cranky me.
But I guess there’s always an upside to rainy days (I’m trying to be optimistic here, so bear with me). Rainy days make it easier for me to stay inside doing laundry or cleaning all day, because I don’t feel that longing to be outside. Rainy days are also perfect for sipping warm tea and catching up on episodes of “Mad Men” (my new obsession) and “Modern Family” (our new obsession). I’ve also had time to paint my nails. It’s also the perfect kind of day for soup, which is why we made this delightful carrot and cilantro soup. And what’s better for a thick, warm soup than a bread bowl, which I also had time to make? Nothing, I tell you. Nothing is better.
Don’t expect much with these bread bowls, at least in the size department. They’re not your gigantic Panera bread bowls. They’re the perfect size for a cup of soup (and I can attest they hold up nicely for refills). But what they lack in size they make up for in taste. The addition of semolina makes the dough soft and flavorful, and if you’re patient enough with the process of hardening the crust, these bowls will reward you with their deliciously crunchy exteriors. You can use the insides for bread crumbs or croutons, or just use them as extra dipping devices (as the husband did… I don’t think he ever used a spoon).
Either way, they make rainy days like yesterday and today a little brighter.
Debrief: The only difficulty I had in making these bowls was kneading the extremely tough dough (I added a little water to it to make it workable) and shaping each piece into a round ball. In shaping the bowls, I used my hands to pull the sides of the dough down and tuck them under, pinching the ends at the bottom together so the top was tight and round. The underside will eventually flatten and come together through the baking process.
Courtesy of King Arthur Flour
Yields 5 bowls
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup semolina
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast (or 2 3/4 tsp active dry yeast, as I used)
1 tbsp non-diastatic malt or 2 tsp sugar (as I used)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups warm water
Combine all of the dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix them together with a dough hook. Once the dough has just come together, pour the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for about 8-10 minutes, or until soft and smooth (the dough will be kind of a pain to mix, and if it’s just too dry, add 1 tsp water to the dough at a time until it’s more manageable). Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.
Divide the risen dough into five pieces and form each piece into a round (not flattened) ball. Place each ball on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and cover lightly with greased plastic wrap or a tea towel (something that’s not heavy). Let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.
Uncover the balls and let them sit for 10-15 minutes to develop a tough skin. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Before placing the balls in the oven, mist them heavily with water. Bake the bread bowls for 18-22 minutes or until they’re a deep, golden brown. Turn off the oven and prop open the door a bit, leaving the bread bowls inside for 15 minutes to develop a thick, tough crust. Remove the bread bowls from the oven and let cool completely on a cooling rack before cutting. Cut off the tops and remove the insides, leaving about a 1/4-inch thickness all around the inside. Fill the bowls with your favorite hearty soup or chili. Enjoy the rain.