Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Bread Bowl Rolls

Baking bread at home is something I rarely do. I have several lovely bakeries nearby and my local market does a really good baguette and ciabatta and Italian loaf, I live a quite spoiled carbohydrate loving life. Despite this abundance of bread at my feet, I couldn't find a decent loaf suited for making a decent sized bread bowl. One option I had was a gigantic sourdough boule but yeah, that's like, 17 servings. My other option was to buy pathetically small baby dinner rolls, but that's like, 0.0004 servings.

Alas, what else could I do but make my own? I tinkered and experimented and came up with something in between my recipe for homemade buns and homemade baguettes. I wanted a hybrid of density; hearty like the baguette but light and fluffy like the buns. And I wanted it to be really lovely and chewy on the inside with a crunchy, crusty exterior. You know what happened? I came up with a crazy delicious recipe and after the first bite, I decided that this is the only bread recipe that I ever want to make ever again. Okay, not true, but I do want to make this again and again and not just in a bread bowl shape. I think that's when you know that a recipe is a winner; you've already decided to make it again before you've even finished the batch.
Ingredients [makes 4 bread bowl rolls]:
3 to 3½ cups bread flour (start with 3 cups, you may need more depending on the humidity)
1 teaspoon salt
1¼ cups warm water (cooler than 110F)
1 package instant yeast (approximately 2¼ teaspoons)
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon + ½ teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 egg
Start by blooming the yeast. Grab a little cup of warm water, stir in the honey until it dissolves. Then, chuck in the packet of yeast, give it a quick whisk, and then leave alone for about 5 minutes until frothy.
I don't know if you can tell the difference between the two, but the one on the left is just bubbly from having been whisked and the one on the right is foamy from all of the yeast burps. The foam should resemble the head on a pint of Guinness.
In a large bowl, stir up the flour and salt with a fork. If you don't have bread flour, you can certainly use all purpose. However, bread flour has a higher gluten/protein content so it results in a much chewier, heartier bread.
Pour the yeast mixture into the center of the well and then drizzle in about 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Stir the well around, incorporating more and more flour as you go.
Once the fork has become pretty useless, go for it with your hands.
Dump the dough onto a clean work surface and knead the heck out of it until it's smooth and gorgeous.
Drizzle the dough with a little olive oil, cover it, and then set it in a warm place to rise for about one hour.
This is the dough once it's doubled. It might not look much bigger than the photo above, but keep in mind that the camera is a bit farther away. You can tell by how much of the bowl is shown in the photo.
Punch down the dough and then divide it into four pieces and roll them into balls.
Place the dough balls onto a cornmeal-sprinkled pan. I also lined my pan with a piece of (rather wrinkly) parchment, just for clean up's sake.
Cut an 'X' into the top of each dough ball, cover with a tea towel, and leave to rise in a warm place for another hour.
Beat an egg furiously and then coat the tops of each dough ball with a generous amount of egg wash. The egg will promote browning and also create a lovely shiny surface.
Bake these cuties in a 400F oven for 20 to 25 minutes. You'll know when they're ready because the house will smell like a bakery and the bread will be golden and lovely and perfect.
I mean, isn't that just one of the loveliest things you've ever seen?
Admire your handiwork and then get really excited because you're about to dive into one of the tastiest homemade breads you've ever had. When you rip it open, you'll discover its fluffy but simultaneously chewy interior. Meanwhile, the crust is crisp and delicious. It's good. It's really good.
I have two recipes, yes two, to share that made great use of these bread bowls so come back for those!
Here's the recipe page:

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