Rye Bread Bowl and Spread

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Rye Bread Bowl and Spread

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Published prior to 2008

Here's a revelrous appetizer, a hearty loaf of pumpernickel bread hollowed out to become a bowl for the spread you eat it with. And when you're done, you can rip up the bowl itself and eat it!

The Bread

It's best to make this ahead of time so the day of your gathering, all you have to do is hollow it out and scoop in the spread mixture. You can even make it way ahead of time and freeze it.

3 cups warm water
2 tablespoons molasses OR malted barley syrup
2 packets or 1 rounded tablespoon active dry yeast
4 cups pumpernickel flour
3 tablespoons dill seed (or 1 1/2 tablespoons dill weed)
5 to 5 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
4 to 5 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons olive or other vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion (optional but good)
cornmeal

Pour the water into a large mixing bowl and stir in the molasses and then the yeast. Blend in thoroughly the pumpernickel flour, 1 cup of the unbleached all-purpose flour, and the dill seed. Cover the bowl and let this sponge work for a couple of hours (or all day if you have something else to do).

About two hours before you want your bread to be baked, blend in the rest of the ingredients (except for the cornmeal) until you have a fairly stiff dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 3 or 4 minutes.

Since rye dough tends to be sticky, keep your hands and the board well floured while you knead it. Even when it's thoroughly kneaded, it will still be a bit sticky. Don't try to get rid of the stickiness by continuing to add flour. You can't, and if you try you'll have a rye door stop. (We have one of these in our office which we use just for that purpose! Waste not, want not, we always say. We can always find a use -- door stops, birds, bread crumbs, bread pudding, etc. -- for whatever we bake, no matter how disastrous it initially seems.)

After 3 or 4 minutes, give the dough a rest while you prepare two baking sheets. You can either grease them and then sprinkle them with cornmeal; or you can use parchment paper and sprinkle cornmeal on that.

Go back to your dough and knead another 3 or 4 minutes. Divide the dough into thirds; shape one piece into a nice ball and place it on one baking sheet. Cover it with a damp towel and put it someplace cozy to rise for about an hour. Take the remaining two pieces of dough and shape them into one large loaf.

Note: If you have a large commercial oven that will hold two baking sheets, by all means let your loaves rise and bake at the same time. The baking time for the larger loaf is longer; see baking directions below.

If you have a traditional oven that can hold only one baking sheet at a time, take the large loaf and place it back in your bowl, cover it and let the dough rest for about 20 minutes. (We've done it this way so the second loaf should be ready to go into the oven when the first loaf comes out.)

After 20 minutes, take the large loaf, reshape it a bit and place it on the second baking sheet. Cover it with a damp towel and let it rise for about an hour.

Fifteen minutes before you want your first loaf to go in the oven, preheat the oven to 400°F. Just before your loaf goes in, gently slash the top once with a serrated knife. Don't press down; saw gently back and forth. Brush the top with a bit of cold water and place the baking sheet in the oven.

After 20 minutes, turn the heat down to 350°F and continue baking for a further 20 to 25 minutes.

Take the first loaf from the oven and give the bottom a tap. If it sounds hollow (no wet dough inside), it's done. If you want to be absolutely sure, use an instant-read thermometer; bread is done when the interior has reached 190°F.

Now slash the top of the second loaf, brush with cold water and place it in the oven. Turn the temperature back up to 400°F and let this one bake for 20 minutes. Then turn the temperature down to 350°F and let it continue baking for 30 to 35 minutes. If the top seems to be getting too brown, turn the temperature down to 325°F for the last 10 to 15 minutes of baking time.

Make sure both loaves are completely cool before you start cutting them up.

The Spread

This can either be rich and revelrous or slim and still revelrous. We'll give you the options and you can make the choices. Any way you do it, you'll have enough for both loaves or one big loaf. Make it ahead of time as well so it's ready for you when you want it. If you're feeling frantic, a guest would love to put this together.

    2 cups sour cream, light sour cream or yogurt
    2 cups mayonnaise, light mayonnaise or low-fat cottage cheese you've puréed in a blender
    1 to 2 cups chopped onion (depending on how oniony you like things)
    2 to 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley or 2 to 3 teaspoons dried
    2 teaspoons dill weed
    1 teaspoon celery seed or 1 tablespoon minced celery leaves
    1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste; you can also use an herb salt if you like)
    1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional but it, like salt, helps bring out flavor)
Mix this all up in a bowl and give the flavors a chance to develop and blend before you decide to adjust the seasonings. You can add other vegetables if you wish, or use a favorite spread of your own.

The Bread & Spread

Place the larger cooled loaf of bread on a large plate or platter. Take a sharp knife and cut through the bread crust where you'd like the edge of your bowl to be. Use the knife to peel off the "lid." Then use a fork and your fingers to pull out the rest of the interior of the loaf. Break up the lid, the interior of the loaf and the smaller loaf into manageable pieces and place them on the plate around the large loaf. Scoop the spread into the "bowl."

When you and your guests have finished all the bread pieces and you're left with an "empty bowl," take the lead and start breaking up the bowl itself. Since it has soaked up some of the spread, it is delicious as is. Since this smacks of doing something a little racy, you won't have much trouble convincing your guests to dig in.

This recipe reprinted from The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. III, No. 2, December 1991 issue.