Strictly speaking, you don’t cook bread bowl soup. You cook soup and serve it in a bread bowl. The bread bowl is any crusty round bread that had been hollowed out. The soup can be any soup although I find that the thick ones make a better filling for bread bowls.
So, let’s make a bread bowl soup. What do I mean by “thick” soups that make great filling for bread bowls? By “thick” soups, I mean soups that have thickened broth. Thickened by what? It can be flour or it can be pureed vegetables. Why won’t soups with plain clear broths work? Because they’re too thin and they will make the bread soggy too fast. And that brings me to what this bread bowl soup is all about. The idea is to have this pretty-yet-rustic soup presentation although, essentially, you’re just serving your soup with bread. But for the presentation to work, both the soup and the bread must be good independently of each other.
In short, while the soup is being eaten, you want the bread to look, taste and feel like bread instead of one soggy, disintegrating mass. One factor to successfully achieve that is to fill the bread bowl with thick rather than thin soup.
The second factor is choosing the right bread. You want a really crusty bread which means the outside looks and feels solid and opaque rather than porous. To help the bread retain its shape and texture even better after the soup is poured in, it is best to toast the bread.
The third factor is to pull out as much of the soft center of the bread without puncturing the crust. Remember that the crust will take longer to turn soggy than the soft center so you want to retain only that part of the bread that will “remain standing”, so to speak, despite the assault of the hot soup.
In procedural terms then, let’s make a bread bowl soup.
1. Buy (or bake) a good crusty bread.
2. Make a thick soup. I’ve explained what “thick” means; here are a few ideas.
3. Cut about an inch off the top of the bread to expose the soft center.
4. Pull out as much of the soft center of the bread as you can, leaving only about a quarter inch of the soft white center attached to the crust.
5. Place the hollowed out bread (and the top, if serving it) on a baking tray, pop into a preheated 400F and allow to toast for about eight to 10 minutes.
6. Take the bread out of the oven and transfer to a shallow bowl. Fill with soup. Serve.