It’s not too big a stretch to say my existence is build on bread and soup. Bread is sustenance, to be sure; it’s the staff of life. It’s also one of the foods that provides unending inspiration to me. I got so caught up yesterday with some bread I was working on that I lost track of time and ended up running my youngest to his tap lessons with my hair pulled back into a messy wad with an orange hair tie, no make-up on, mud-covered brown boots, wearing cuffed jeans and a parka. It didn’t matter, though, because the bread turned out great. I might look like a hot mess, but my bread is always well put together.
Forget matching shoes and belts and accessories and outfits, I like to match my bread to my meal. That’s my kind of accessorizing. For instance, I knew I was going to make fish chowder with that lovely Alaskan Cod I received a couple weeks ago. What do you serve with chowder or any soup, for that matter? Bread, of course. Since I knew the flavours of my chowder, I decided to echo them with the bread bowls I intended to use to hold the chowder. Is there anything more fun than a bowl you can eat and dunk into it’s own contents? Perhaps riding a unicorn over the rainbow might top the experience, but until that happens, I’m sticking with the far more achievable amusement of eating the bowl in which my soup was served.
In my mind, the perfect fish chowder starts with finely diced onions softened in butter, then moves onto both diced and grated potatoes simmering in white wine, and clam juice, and milk, then big pieces of cod and heavy cream cooked in the thick broth just until the fish is done. A big handful of chopped fresh dill is stirred in at the very end. That makes me sigh many happy, deep sighs.
Just about any bread is going to be grand with that, but adding onion, dill, and sour cream to the bread dough and making it into mini boule loaves (translation: little round loaves) that can either function as individual loaves or the actual vessels for the soup? Shoot. That’s enough to make me giddy. Granted, I don’t get out much, but still… I take joy where I can find it.
And I take massive joy in this bread. It is done in one hour from start to finish. ONE HOUR! This bread is no stress bread. It’s bread that beginning or fearful bakers can make easily. OH what a payoff!
Tender but chewy, studded with fragrant dill and onion, with a drizzle of olive oil and some coarse sea salt flakes on top, this bread is hard to beat as an edible vessel for fish, potato, or corn chowder, clam chowder, or potato leek soup. It’s also wonderful when sliced and buttered or toasted and served with eggs.
- In the recipe, I specify using 3 cups each of all-purpose and bread flour. While I prefer the loft the bread achieves with this mixture, you can substitute all of one or the other, depending on what is available to you. If you’re a beginning baker, I would like to point out that I do not recommending subbing in other varieties of flour in this recipe (whole wheat, pastry, self-rising, clear, spelt, etc…)
- This recipe can also be made in 2 large loaves rather than the 4 small ones as directed in the recipe.
- Because of the salt on the crust, I do not recommend storing the bread in plastic bags. They’re best stored at room temperature wrapped in a clean towel.
- The bread is best eaten the day it’s made, of course, but is also great for serving soups/chowders/stews for 48 hours after being made. If you’re going to slice and toast the bread, the window of quality is a day or two longer.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 cups bread flour
- 1½ cups warm water
- ¾ cup sour cream (do not use no-fat sour cream)
- 3 tablespoons dried onion flakes
- 2 tablespoons instant yeast
- 2 tablespoons sucanat or regular granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon dried dill weed
- 1½ teaspoons dried dill seed
- ½ teaspoon granulated garlic
- extra virgin olive oil
- coarse sea salt flakes (I prefer Maldon)
- Combine flour, instant yeast, sugar, salt, dill weed, dill seed, onion flakes, and granulated garlic in the bowl of the stand mixer that has been fitted with a dough hook. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds.
- With mixer running, slowly pour in the water and sour cream at the same time. Continue mixing on low until the dough comes together and becomes smooth, about 4 minutes. Remove bowl from the stand mixer, scraping any dough that remains on the dough hook into the bowl. Pull dough from bowl with your hands and form a smooth dough ball. Replace in bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and let rise in a warm place for 15 minutes.
- Combine flour, instant yeast, sugar, salt, dill weed, dill seed, onion flakes, and granulated garlic in the bowl of a food processor that has been fitted with a blade or dough blade. Pulse 10 times. With the food processer running, pour the water and sour cream into the feed chute. Continue processing until the dough forms a cohesive ball. Spin the dough ball 20 times and shut off the food processor. Remove the dough, form a smooth dough ball and place in a lightly oiled mixing bowl. Cover with a clean tea towel and let rise in a warm place for 15 minutes.
- Combine flour, instant yeast, sugar, salt, dill weed, dill seed, onion flakes and granulated garlic with a whisk or fork in a large mixing bowl. Pour the warm water and sour cream into the flour mixture and use a sturdy spoon to combine into a shaggy dough. Use your hands to knead for 8 minutes*. After kneading for 8 minutes, cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and let rise in a warm place for 15 minutes.
- *If you find it difficult to knead in the bowl, you can turn the dough out onto a clean surface to knead it. After kneading, just return the dough to the bowl and allow it to rise as instructed above.
- Turn dough out onto a clean surface and divide into 4 equal pieces. Form each half into a ball and place 5-6 inches apart on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or a silpat, or has been lightly greased. Drizzle the top of each dough ball with about a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil, then sprinkle with coarse sea salt flakes. Use a sharp knife to slash the top of the loaf about ¼ of an inch deep. This allows the steam to escape the baking loaf without the loaf tearing.
- Arrange the racks in your cold oven so that one rack is on the very bottom and one is positioned in the center of the oven. Place the baking sheet with the loaves on the center rack and a bread or cake pan that is full of very hot tap water on the bottom rack. Close the oven and turn your oven on to 400°F. It is imperative that you start this in a cold oven! Set your timer for 40 minutes. That 40 minutes is all that stands between you and fresh bread.
- The crust should be a deep brown and quite firm when you remove the loaves from the oven. Transfer the loaves to a rack to cool completely before slicing.
- Use a sharp knife to cut a circle about ¾ of the way deep into the top of the bread loaf, leaving an edge or rim of about ¾-inch all the way around. Use your fingers to pry out the center plug of bread, keeping as much of it intact as possible so you can butter it, toast it, and use it as a crouton. Heat the bread bowl in the oven as you toast the crouton. Serve and enjoy!