Saturday, July 11, 2015

Baker's Corner: Quick and Easy Bread Bowls

I am all fired up about this recipe because it was one of those kitchen experiments that I thought would end in disaster but then unexpectedly turned out fabulous! I just love when that happens, don't you?  

I never thought I would make bread bowls at home....like never ever. Who does that anyway? Well clearly, this post indicates otherwise but it was never my intent in the first place. It all started when I was browsing through my recipe index and discovered that I'd never featured a soup on my blog. The horror! I am an ardent soup lover (always have been) and although I don't make soup regularly at home, I do order soup, first thing at any restaurant without fail. I mean, give me a nice big bowl of thick creamy soup and I wouldn't want anything else. That is my meal right there. I prefer cream-based soups over the clear kind (no surprises there!) with cream of mushroom soup topping the list for me. Note to self: the next soup on the blog has to be just that. 

Anyway, during the time I stayed in the US for two months, we used to frequent the popular cafe-restaurant chain Panera Bread. It was there that I tried their famed cheddar broccoli soup served in crusty bread bowls and fell in love with instantly. The luscious soup had chopped broccoli, shredded carrots and select seasonings simmered in a velvety smooth cheese sauce. Served within the crusty sourdough bread that was the perfect vehicle to soak up all that lovely hot soup....aah! it was heaven in a bite! The portion was ginormous but I would manage not only to gobble up all that soup but also demolish that insanely large bread bowl as well (and after that feel like a complete pig!). I probably had eaten broccoli soup before that (or maybe not I really don't remember) but never like the one I had at Panera Bread. That soup left such a lasting mark on my tastebuds that the next time I went to the US which was more than a year later, I made sure I stopped by Panera Bread to get my soup fix!

So, getting back to the point, I was browsing the internet for some tried and tested soup recipes to feature on my blog and I came across a 'Panera Bread Cheddar Broccoli Soup Copycat recipe'. That sure did pique my interest as you can imagine. I checked out the recipe and instinctively felt that it would be a winner. It was there that I saw the recipe for the bread bowls which looked fairly easy so I thought why not be all fancy and serve the soup in a homemade bread bowl rather than a plain old boring soup bowl. I'm so glad I decided to do that!

So, the reason I said that I thought the recipe would end in disaster was because my dough ended up being quite sticky even though I followed the instructions precisely. I didn't add in any extra flour.....I just greased my palms with olive oil and kneaded the dough like the recipe said while simultaneously saying a silent little prayer. The dough did rise which was very reassuring but I didn't manage to get the kind of smooth finish on the buns that was in the original source of the recipe. Well, never mind! The bread bowls turned out great anyway. They were crusty on the outside; soft and fluffy on the inside. They held the soup exceptionally well too.

I will be featuring the Panera Bread Cheddar Broccoli Soup Copycat recipe next on the blog so stay tuned. This is one hearty comfort meal that you have to treat your family to because it is just that good  


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Quick and Easy Bread Bowls 

Preparation time: 45 min
Baking time: 20 min
Total time: ~1 hour
Recipe Level: Easy
Makes: 3 big bowls (but I would recommend you make 4 medium-sized bowls)
Recipe source: Adapted from here

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups warm water (Between 105ºF and 115ºF, warm enough to dip your finger in comfortably)
2 tablespoons instant dry yeast
1 tablespoon white sugar
3 1/2 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
A spray bottle of water 
Panera Bread Copycat Broccoli Cheese Soup - to fill them with (Recipe here)

Method:

1. Combine the water and yeast and let sit for a couple minutes (don't expect the mixture to start bubbling because it won't). 

2. Add the sugar and flour and knead for 10 minutes by hand or with stand mixer with dough hook attachment. I used my hands because I prefer to get the feel of the dough while making bread (although I kneaded for like 5 mins and not the recommended 10). Now add the salt and knead a little more. You can grease your palms with a little oil to help you with the kneading.

Like I said, at this stage my dough was rather sticky and I was sure that I had done everything wrong but I continued anyway (thank heavens for that!).


3. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place for about half and hour. 


4. Preheat the oven to 260ºC / 500ºF. Divide the dough into three (or four) lumps. Stretch each one into a tight ball, pinching the bottom with your fingers and sealing it off by twisting it on the counter. If you don't understand these instructions, you can see the pictures in the link provided above in the recipe source. I'm not so sure I did it right myself so I didn't provide the pictures...haha!


5. Place on a greased baking sheet. Score the top with a sharp knife and sprinkle with some salt (I didn't do this). Spray with a spray bottle of water and allow to rise 15 more minutes. 


6. Place in the oven. After 2 minutes, open the oven, spray the bread bowls with the spray bottle and turn the heat to 220ºC / 425ºF. Continue to bake 18 more minutes or until done.



7. To cut the bread bowls, use a knife to cut a circle directly downwards, then pull it out. 


8. Fill the bread bowls with a thick creamy soup of your choice and dig in! I overfilled mine not because I am a slob but intentionally so it'll look all the more appetizing! 



Notes:

  • Do not use water that is too hot to add the yeast into because it can kill the yeast. The water should be lukewarm
  • You can use active dry yeast in this recipe as a substitute for instant yeast
  • Spritzing the dough balls with water is super important because keeping the dough moist helps it rise to its full potential to give you nice tall bowls


Cheers,


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