Baking bread brings me such a simple pleasure. It is the complex dance of gluten, yeast, and oven spring mixed with that burst of delight that hits your nose when your rip into a still-warm loaf. Some days your bread won’t rise or the texture will be off. But it still tastes good with a little bit of Jam and Nutella. My friend Leo messaged me the other day asking me for a how-to on how to make bread bowls. Specifically, because he has a great need for carbs and doesn’t want to pay Panera Prices. He also sent me a picture of baked mac and cheese in a bread bowl. (Pictured Below.) We agreed that it looks like a Pretzel Bowl. Lucky for me, these Perfect Pretzel Buns and Bowls are one of my favorites!
So I started googling around a bunch of different recipes and tried to figure out how to make a recipe that tastes as good as it looks and the soup doesn’t spill through. Deliciously Cooking is where this recipe started, and they used a copy cat Auntie Ann’s recipe. I didn’t like their process, so I decided to trust my bread making process and rework it a little.
A side note, Sorry for the delay in this post. I managed to sprain my ankle pretty bad while helping my friend Gabe at his farm. Farm accidents happen, but at least it amused my chiropractor who said I make life interesting.
Process Notes- Trust the Process
This can be done by hand, or with a mixer. I did a combination because I was going to do it by hand but then I remember my shoulder hurt. When doing the initial mix of ingredients, you can use a wooden spoon or a Danish Bread Whisk. What I like about the bread whisk is that it helps scrape the bowl and mix things together a little quicker than a basic wooden spoon.
To give pretzels their trademark dark brown exterior and fluffy soft inside, you have to dip them in a baking soda solution before scoring them and baking them. Traditionally they are dunked in a solution of Caustic Soda but I’m using Baking Soda today. I go into detail about this in my Sourdough Soft Pretzels post on what Caustic Soda is and how to use it. You can use this same process. You can add some dark beer to the Baking Soda to help with the browning, but it’s not necessary. Just make sure you leave it in the solution for about 30 seconds to a minute.
Before dunking them in the solution, let them relax a few minutes on the counter. This let me get a light skin on them so they held their shape well when submerged.
Before baking, make sure to score the top of the bread bowls. Scoring will give steam a place to escape. I use a bread Lame that my fiance bought me but in that Danish Bread Whisk set I linked above there is also a Bread Lame. You can also use a sharp knife or a razor blade. You can be fancy in your designs or you can just make a little square or X like I did. BreadGeek gives a great tutorial on different designs and ways to score your bread. Scorning- Not just for Sourdough!
Possible Problems with your Perfect Pretzel Buns and Bowls
The Pretzel Buns and Bowls split along the bottom– So one problem you might run into is that your bowls might split across the bottom after you bake it. I found it did this if I skipped the second Proof. Make sure you take the time to proof the dough a second time to prevent this problem.
The dough snagged while scoring- You have to score with purpose. Like Liquid Eyeliner, your dough can sense your fear of scoring. Move quickly and decisively. If you snag, it is fine. Just keep going. You can clean up the scores if you really want to. But you can just move on. You’re aiming to score about 1/4 inch deep into the roll. If your dough is too wet, then your knife will snag. Be sure to allow your dough to form a skin before slicing into it.
I don’t have Baking Soda- That’s fine. Just bake them without dunking them. You won’t get the dark pretzel color. But you’ll still have a delicious roll. Additionally, remember, don’t rush that Baking Soda Bath. The rolls/bowls need to stay in the bath for at a bare minimum of 30 seconds, but a minute is ideal. You can have multiple rolls in the bath at once. Otherwise, you won’t get that golden brown pretzel color. (See image above when I rushed the baking soda bath).
Fine Tune your Process
How do I get a nice crusty outside? Steam is your friend. to create a crusty outside and fluffy inside you need to create steam while baking. There are three ways to do this.
- Ice Cubes- Toss 8-12 ice cubes into the bottom of the oven at the start of baking. They will melt and steam the oven.
- Spray into the oven with a clean water spritzer– 4 or 5 full spritzes in the oven after you put the rolls in
- Put a pie plate with water at the bottom of your oven.
I keep going back and forth on when the right time to butter these rolls are. Do I butter them when they come out of the oven to give them a nice shine, or do I butter them before going into the oven to bake in that flavor. I settled on doing it after only because the salt sticks better that way. Baking it with flaky salt is fine, but I just like the flavor of it being added after
Does Bun Size Matter
Size matters. When making Pretzel Buns and Bowls you need to decide what your end goal is. Do you want to pour hot soup into a carby bowl, or do you want to make something that will make a burger so good, your friends won’t stop talking about it? This recipe makes 3 Large pretzel bowls, 4 small pretzel bowls, or 8 perfect sized burger buns. You can stretch this to make 14 slider buns. Know what your end goal is before you start portioning. Remember, regardless of what size you made, bowls and buns are done when an instant-read thermometer reads 195-205 internal temperature.
Perfect Pretzel Buns and Bowls
- 2 cups warm water
- 1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast 2 packets
- 6 tablespoons brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons butter melted
- 3-4 cups flour
- 1-2 Cups Bread Flour
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 2/3 cup baking soda
- 4 cups warm water
- Coarse salt
- 3 tablespoons butter melted
Making the Dough
- Stir the yeast in 2 cups of warm water with 1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar and let it sit for about 3 minutes until frothy.
- In the mixing bowl combine salt, brown sugar, melted butter, and 2 cups of flour. Mix together by hand. Add yeast mixture and mix together. Add remaining flour 1 cup at a time. Mix completely before adding the next cup, you're looking for a smooth looking dough that is slightly tacky to the touch.
- Knead for about 10 minutes with a stand mixer, or by hand.
- Put it in a greased bowl, spray with 1 spray of water and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 1 hour to 1 and a half hours in a moist, warm place until doubled in size.
- Punch down dough and divide it into 4 to 8 pieces and shape into balls. 8 pieces will be perfect size for hamburger rolls. 4 pieces will be perfect for bread bowls. Roll each into a smooth ball.
- Combine the warm water and baking soda in a small pot. Dip each ball in the baking soda water. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Let rise for a second time for about 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 475F.
- Score rolls with a sharp knife or lame to create 1/4 inch slits along the top.
- Bake for two minutes at 475ºF then reduce temperature to 375º and continue baking for about 17 minutes for large bowls and about 12 minutes for smaller bowls until golden brown. Bread is ready to come out of the oven with an internal temp around 195
- Brush with melted butter immediately after removing from the oven and sprinkle with course salt.
- To cut the bread into bowls, use a knife to cut a circle along the top of the loaf. Pull the circle out and remove as much insides as you deem fit to fill with soup or chili.
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