As we dive headlong into soup season, one way we can enjoy it is in bread bowls.

If you have a mixer, although you can do it by hand, and a couple of ingredients, they are easy to make. Then choose your soup and have a great meal that requires little cleanup. The combinations of these two favorites will create the ultimate comfort food.

When choosing your soup, you would want to look at making a thicker style soup. Chowders, stews and thicker pureed soups are best. A thin soup like a consommé or broth soup may find its way through the bread bowl. Using an egg wash or steam to crust your bread will make for a better bread bowl.

An egg wash will create a hard shell finish while keeping the moisture in. You can use the whole egg to make the wash, or just the yolk or just the white. Whisk with a little water and brush on the bread when putting in the oven and then once again 15 minutes or so into the baking process. Whole egg washes create a shiny, golden-brown appearance. Washes created using only the yolk result in a rich, brown crust, and using only the egg white creates a shiny coating. An egg wash will also serve as a glue if you are planning on topping your bread with seeds, etc.

Using steam while baking your bread bowls will create crusty bread with more volume. There are many methods out there for adding steam to your oven or bread while baking, so choose what works best for you. You can brush bread with water before baking. You can spritz with a water spritzer every 10 minutes. Or, you can put ice cubes or water in pans on the oven floor to create steam. You can even spritz the walls and floor and ceiling of the oven to create steam (be careful if you have a ceramic oven, it can crack. Also watch glass oven doors and oven lights as water directly on them when hot may cause breakage). Once the bread is done, it will be crusty, so do not overhandle.

Leave your bread bowls out until ready to use. Putting in plastic will soften the crust and soup may seep through. This will not be a problem if you eat your soup fast, though. Cut the top ¼ of your bread bowl and pull bread out of the inside, to create your bowl. Keep bread for croutons or dipping into your soup.

Pour your soup in and enjoy.

Bread Bowls

2 packets or 2 tablespoons active dry yeast

2 2/3 cups warm water

1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for brushing

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon honey

2 teaspoons salt

6-7 cups flour

In a mixing bowl, mix yeast, oil, water and sugar. Mix and then let sit 5-10 minutes to activate yeast. Mix in salt and flour until incorporated. It may be a little sticky. The drier the air, the more flour you will need. If it is humid, you will need less. Then knead dough by hand or with a mixer for 6 or so minutes. It will be elastic and a little shiny. Put in a bowl coated with some oil and brush top of dough with a light covering of oil. Cover and let rise 45 minutes to an hour in a warm place. Punch down and cut into 4-6 portions, depending on size of bowls you’d like. Roll into balls and place on baking sheet lined with parchment. Let rise until double in size; around 20 minutes. Cut a shallow x on the top of each round of bread. Bake in a preheated 425-degree oven for 25-30 minutes. You can test by thumping bread or using a thermometer (a temperature of 190 degrees is ideal). Let sit for 15 minutes before cutting for bowls.

Corn and Bacon Chowder

5 slices bacon, chopped

1/3 cup flour

2 tablespoons butter

1 medium onion, small dice

1 stalk celery, diced

3 ears of corn (2 cups canned or frozen)

2 cups of milk

2 cups vegetable or chicken stock

2 potatoes, peeled and cubed

Salt and pepper

Render bacon until crispy, set aside. In bacon grease and butter, sweat onions and celery. When almost soft, add flour and cook a minute. Add corn, stock, milk and potatoes. Simmer for 40 minutes, until potatoes are cooked and soup it at desired thickness. Adjust taste with salt and pepper.

Winter Squash Soup

2½ pounds winter squash

1 medium onion, diced

2 medium carrots, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1 clove garlic

3 tablespoons butter

2 quarts vegetable or chicken stock

½ teaspoon nutmeg or all spice

Salt and pepper to taste

Peel, de-seed and dice squash. Sweat vegetables in butter until slightly caramelized. Add stock. Simmer for 30 minutes. Carefully puree soup in blender, processor or with immersion stick. Add spices and adjust taste. Garnish with sliced apple

English Beef Stew

2 pounds beef – chuck is best, cut in cubes

½ cup flour

2-3 tablespoons of oil

1 large onion

1/4 cup butter

½ cup dry red wine

1½ quart of beef stock

3 medium carrots, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

2 potatoes, diced

1 cup peas or lima beans

1 teaspoon dry thyme

Salt and pepper

Heat oil and dredge beef in flour. Brown beef in oil then set aside.

Add the onion and sweat until caramelized. Add the butter and flour left over from dredging. Cook a minute then add the red wine. Scrape the bottom of the pot. Add the beef stock, thyme, vegetables and potatoes. Simmer for 40 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Adjust taste with salt and pepper.

Chef Joe Carei has been an award-winning chef in Fayette County nearly half of his life. The former PA Restaurateur of the Year now operates Ellie Mae’s Catering and Food Clubs. He can be reached at joe@elliemaescatering .com.

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