How To Make Sourdough Bread Bowls


I think I’m going to start annoying people this fall.

Have you ever had a friend “discover” some wonderful new plan for their life and couldn’t wait to tell everyone about it? I’m that person now. I’ve had a conversion.

I make bread now.

And I’m going to tell everyone allllllll about it.


3 cups flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup sourdough starter
1/2 cup lukewarm water (over 100掳)


I love fresh-baked bread. I love the way it makes the house smell. But since I didn’t know how to make it, every now and then I’d buy one of those packs that had five frozen loaves, ready to thaw and bake.

But you had to remember to take the loaf out several hours before you wanted to bake it. It needed to thaw and rise. And it was okay, but not that great, and your choice of flavors is limited.

Starting this week, if I’m going to start several hours out, I’m making it from scratch. It’s dead easy, and the sense of accomplishment is way out of proportion to the amount of work.

The sourdough I’m doing today actually takes a couple of days of lead time. You need to give the starter time to ferment.

Yeah, that doesn’t look so appealing. But give it a quick stir and it’s all good. We’ll come back to that.

Start by combining the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and making a well in the center.

I’m actually doing a double recipe here, so yours might look a lot less full than this.

Give the starter a good stir. After a couple of days of sitting to ferment, it will separate and the flour will settle to the bottom.

A single batch of starter is good for three cups, so unless you’re doing a triple batch you’ll need to scoop some out. I’m going to look for a mixing bowl with a good spout to keep my starter in from now on.

Add the starter and water to the flour, and stir until it forms a rough dough.

If you’re not using all the starter, add a handful of flour and a little warm water to it and stir. By “feeding” the starter, you can keep it going indefinitely. There are bakeries in San Francisco who claim they’ve been feeding the same starter for over a century.

The dough won’t come together just using a spoon. Use your hands to work the dough in the bowl until it comes together into a ball.

Make sure you have a spotlessly clean work surface. Anything on it will get picked up by the dough. Throw down a handful of flour and roll the dough in it.

Kneading dough isn’t just about getting all the ingredients combined. You’re also stretching out the gluten. Start by pushing the dough away from you with the heel of your hand. Fold the end back towards you, and repeat. Keep doing this until the dough is smooth and elastic. This clip shows the last stages of the kneading.

You’re done when the dough is smooth and satiny.

Place the dough in a lightly-oiled bowl to rise. If you’ve got an antique bread bowl you can get away without oiling it.

NOTE: Don’t use a stainless steel mixing bowl for this unless you’ve got a very warm place to put it. The metal will draw all the heat out of the dough. Even if you don’t kill your yeast, it will take forever to rist.

Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel and place it in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size — about two hours. It was cold in my house so, while I was mixing and kneading the dough, I set my oven on the lowest setting. I turned it off when I put the bowl in.

Unless your house is really cold, you shouldn’t need to do this, except to speed up the process. But it is possible to kill the yeast if it’s too cold. Mine was ready just a little short of two hours.

Remove the dough from the bowl and punch it down. You want to knock most of the volume out of it.

Then knead the bread briefly, just to get it back into a nice ball shape.

If you’re making a loaf, this is when you put it in the pan. Since I was making bread bowls I cut the dough in half, then in half again.

Then kneaded each of the pieces just until it was round again.

Form each piece of dough into a ball, and tuck any loose edges or seams underneath.

Place the dough on a baking sheet — ungreased — as far apart as you can.

Put the baking sheet somewhere warm so the dough can rise a second time. (Yes, I put it back in the still-warm oven.) Let the dough double in size. It should take about an hour-and-a-half.

Bake at 425掳 for 15 minutes, then 375掳 for another 30 minutes. They are done when they make a hollow sound when you thump them.

Slice a loaf while it’s still warm and serve with butter.

But the title of this post is “How To Make Sourdough Bread Bowls“. That first loaf was just to keep the family out of the kitchen long enough for me to prepare the bowls. I’ve learned to have the camera set up before I take food out of the oven or someone will eat it before I can take the shot.

Using a serrated knife, cut off the top of the loaf, about a third of the way from the top.

With a paring knife, make a cut straight down just inside the edge, nearly down to the bottom but not all the way through.

Reach into the cut with your fingers, and pry the center plug of bread out of the center.

And that’s it.

Okay, that’s not completely it. You just know I’ve got to put something in that bowl, right?

Sign up using the form at the right to make sure you see the conclusion tomorrow.

I can guarantee I’ll be making these bowls several more times this fall, each time with something else to go in it. And I’m going to tell you all about it. Again.

UPDATE: Take a look down in the comments for Musky Bob’s chowder recipe.


  1. Nice, I love bread bowls. Those look really good. Heh, I’ve recently started making bread too, it’s a good time. Yesterday I made challah, it came out awesome. Oh and your antique bowl rules.

  2. I’m on day 3 of my starter and I cant wait to make bread. My hubby has been asking for clam chowder in a bread bowl! I’m bookmarking!!!

  3. Bob, what kinds have you made so far? This sourdough was my first, and I’ve got a sourdough garlic loaf sitting at home waiting for some tortellini tonight.

    Megan, will you be posting the clam chowder recipe? I need a list of things to put in these bowls. 馃榾

  4. They LOOK pretty, but . . . sourdough is not for me. I just can’t get into it. When we lived in Alaska, it was like some kind of state law that all bread must be sourdough. It was a long three years.

  5. northside food says:

    When I make sourdough starter at home, I keep it in a pitcher with a lid. Its super easy to pour that way.

    I lust after your antique bowl.

  6. Kristin, how about if I put some sun-dried tomatoes in it?

    Jennifer, a pitcher, that’s it! Got to stop at the thrift shop next Monday (it’s half-price day) and see what theyve got.

  7. NOOOOOO. I can’t stand sun-dried tomatoes. That would just make it worse. But luckily, you are not cooking for me.

  8. Hah! That was a “tomato panic” joke more than a real suggestion. But I like that reaction better.

  9. Snap Drew, nice crumb in that sourdough. I’m going to have to try out your recipe for starter.

    Just out of curiosity, how sour was your sourdough? I like them with a little pucker power…

  10. Not very sour, actually. I got a tip from a friend to feed the starter with flat beer next time for more flavor. I’ll givt it a try.

  11. WishTrish says:

    Hi! I am making sourdough bowls today and found your blog while some of mine were rising. I decided to make my next batch by your recipe. They are rising now. :) However, mine are very small (and I used about 2 1/2 cups flour because I’m in the arid desert and it just couldn’t handle more). Can you give me rough dimensions of the size your bowls turned out? Thanks!

    P.S. I have some sourdough posts on my family blog as well. :)

  12. They were about 6 inches across.

    Just checked your blog. Holy cow, that’s a lot of sourdough starter. Did you read a recipe wrong or something?

  13. WishTrish says:

    Nope. I’m making A LOT of bread bowls and rolls as a favor to a friend of mine… special event…

    It was completely intentional. After a full day of baking, I now have about 1/3 less. Been on my feet with the smell of bread ALL DAY. 馃槈

    My bowls from your recipe came out delicious and perfect, except they are abou 3-4″ across. :( And I let them rise for like 7 hours. They just didn’t rise as much as yours did. Perhaps it’s a different stater. I didn’t read yours.

  14. Ok, Drew, I made some rolls with your sourdough starter and recipe (I decided to go with rolls rather than bread bowls). I just had one now and since it was pretty hot out of the oven what I mostly tasted was melted butter. 馃槈 I think they’re okay, though. They do seem denser than the bread I’ve made before; is that normal with sourdough? Oh, and mine didn’t rise as high as yours (but they weren’t hard as rock, as I feared, so I’m eatin’ ’em anyway).

  15. Melissa, I haven’t been baking yeast breads long enough to have made a whole lot of mistakes yet. (And that’s how I usually learn.) My sourdough was definitely denser than most white breads, but that’s what you need for bread bowls.

    The trick for a really light bread seems to be getting it into the oven after the second rising without deflating it. I’ve seen some of mine go down as I transferred them from the cutting board they were rising on to the pan I’m cooking them on.

    When you’re doing dinner rolls or a loaf, the second rise can happen in the same pan you’re going to bake in. If you have to transfer it, make sure you use way more corn meal on the board than you think you need. If it sticks even a little to the board it’s rising on, you’ll deflate it when you try to slide it off.

  16. Drew, I tried one today and I’m happy with it. :) I see what you mean with sturdier, and I do like the texture. Now that I know how it tastes, I will definitely make some bread bowls with them, and I think I’ll also make a loaf of bread and try some grilled cheese with ’em (and mustard pickles, MMMMM).

    I always put them on the sheet I’ll bake with for the second rise. I am lazy, and I don’t want to have to clean two pans. 馃槈 I line all my pans with parchment paper, too – so easy to clean up, and nothing burns with it!

    Thanks again for the recipe. I really enjoyed it. :)

  17. Thanks for the tip. I’ll have to get some parchment paper.

  18. I placed my bread bowls back in the oven as well for the second rise, thinking it would make them rise quicker. But then I thought….maybe just a *bit* hotter would be better and so I flipped on the oven to the lowest setting for a few minutes again. My bowls didn't rise at all. Did I kill em with too much heat?

  19. Nivera, I'm pretty sure that's exactly what happened. I thought the same thing once, and came out with totally flat dinner rolls. The lowest setting on my stove is 170掳, and anything above about 120掳-125掳 will kill it. I've even tried turning it on for two minutes then shutting it off before adding the bread. No luck.

    With bread, we just have to learn patience.

  20. Another attempt tonight at the bowls. It rose, but barely. Definitely not enough for a bread bowl. But the family said my "bread hunks" were good. :) My starter is bubbling so I'm pretty sure that's not the problem. I am planning another attempt for Monday. To go along with the French Onion soup recipe you put up. I'll let ya know if it's successful.

  21. I really wish I could be more helpful. That's why I don't mind the times something doesn't come out the way I planned. When you get it right the first time, you don't know how to troubleshoot the problems.

    You might want to check out Knead To Be Loaved, a blog that is just about bread.

  22. Sucess! YAY!! I started WAY early in the day so it could have tons of sitting time to rise. And I made 2 batches so if one didn't go well, maybe the other would. One is better then the other, but both look great. Thank you!

  23. Woo-hoo! That's the thing with yeast. You just can't rush it. It's ready when it wants to be ready.

  24. Yoga Fitness says:

    Thank you so much for writing this post. I'm making bread bowls with broccoli and cheddar soup. It's the perfect weather for them now.

    You did a fantastic job, with the pictures and instructions, thanks again!

  25. Hi Drew,
    thanks for a lovely blog, I really enjoy reading it!
    Since I live in Sweden, I suppose our flours differ a bit. When I used your recipe, my dough turned out very tough, I had to put in a lot of effort when getting it together. Seems like the rising takes a lot of time aswell so it remains to be told if I succeed this first time :)
    Did you use all-purpose flour for these bread bowls? I used a flour which is a bit “enforced” to make it rise better. Maybe that was where it went wrong. Well, I’ll let it sit there and see what happens. Maybe we’ll have soup tomorrow instead!
    Again, I will continue browsing your blog for some more recipes. Since my husbands work brings him to the US every now and then, and we like to spend our holidays there aswell, it’s nice finding such an informative blog where we can check out our new favorite food!

  26. Mia,

    I haven’t heard the term “enforced” for flour. Maybe “enriched”? What I used was all-purpose flour, which has less gluten than bread flour, but more than cake flour.

    This dough was fairly stiff, and today I probably would have added a little more water when kneading it. I’ve done a lot more yeast breads since then, and now I prefer a softer, stickier dough than when I started.

  27. just so you know im twelve
    I tryed this recipe over the weekend i decided to make the loaf because my mom wasnt making any soups and im not gonna put canned soup in a homemade soup bowl, it defeated the purpose to me. so anyways the first time i made this the first time i let the dough rise it just hardened and it was a warm area. I kneaded it and all the hard pieces crumbled but kneaded in. the dough after the first kneading looked just like the picture above. so i shaped the loaf but it didnt rise and i didnt want the yeast to go bad so i went ahead and baked it, and it didnt expand it was rock hard. So today im baking a new batch rightnow and im in the process of the first rise so i hope it rises.
    And can i store the starter in an airtight container in the fridge?
    ps i let the dough ferment for three days before my first try

  28. Sabrina,

    I would suggest going with a simpler bread recipe before going for sourdough. Try the crusty Italian bread recipe, and just form it into the right shapes. It might be better to get used to making bread before trying something that takes three days before you find out if it worked.

  29. You have recipe for sourdough bread bowls, and in describing the process of making them, you said something about how you were doubling the recipe. I was wondering how many bread bowl the actual recipe makes. I can not wait to make them. I have my starter in the process of bubbling right now and will let it set for three days. Thank you so much.

  30. Janet, the recipe as written is enough for two good-size bowls. You could probably get three out of it, but four would be a bit small.

    • Drew – I made this recipe tonight, but did 1.5 times hoping I’d get 6 bread bowls. My bowls are small but everything worked otherwise.

      I too was wondering how many the 3-cups flour bowls made and see now it’s 2 bowls. Is it possible to edit the recipe up above to note that?

      Thanks for the great recipe!

  31. I’ve been making sourdough for several months now and wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned, mostly thanks to the website over at King Arthur Flour (KAF).

    1. If tended, starter will keep forever! You do not want to put it in an airtight container because it needs room to breathe. Plus, since it produces gasses, it could blow a seal, and you’ll have a mess in your fridge.

    2. Use wooden utensils to stir your starter, not metal. In fact, keep metal far away until you’re actually using it. Not sure why, but that’s what I’ve read. I think I heard something about exposure to metal hurts yeast.

    3. To create a warm proofer: Turn your oven to 400F for one minute. Turn off the oven. Put the dough in to rise, close the oven door, and walk away. Works like a charm every time. It also helps to cover the dough with a damp cloth so it doesn’t dry out in the warm air at first. While you’re shaping the dough for the second rise, turn on the oven again for a minute to warm it up again.

    4. Spraying the top of your loaves before baking and placing a baking container of boiling water on the rack under the bread while it’s baking will give it a crusty/crunchy crust.

    5. Naming your starter helps you to think of it as a pet and thus remember to feed it. My starter is Herman. He lives on the counter during the winter since our apartment isn’t much warmer than the inside of the fridge. If you live in warmer climes, make sure you allow your starter to get to room temp before feeding it and cooking with it.

    6. For a really sour loaf, courtesy of KAF, mix up your dough with about half the flour, put it in the fridge overnight, then add the rest of the flour and make your loaves the next day. The cold rise forces more creation of lactic acid (I think that’s the one), which makes it sour.

    Question, Drew:
    When making small bread bowls, how do you adjust the baking times?

  32. Oh, I wanted to add a reminder not to add the salt to the yeast too early. Salt will slow the yeast’s rise.

    (Sorry for the double post. Please delete the first one.)

  33. I hadn’t heard about the cold rise, that’s a good one. As for baking time, I’ve seen some bakers that are as insistent on digital thermometers as I am when cooking a roast. Check here for the correct internal temperature for baking bread.

  34. Hi! I was reading about your sourdough starter and then some comments and noted someone asked about how sour it turned out. How Drew made his sourdough starter is new to me. I made it the same way for the start but everything else was different. I put mine in a glass canning jar and set it on top of my fridge and fed it every day. I let it sit there for a good week to ten days to really get a strong sour flavor and when the brine rose to the top, I popped a small hole in the lid and put it in the fridge, feeding it once a week and stirring the brine back into it. My sourdough starter now smells very sour and beer-like and makes an amazing hunk of bread. Just an idea for people that want more of a punch to their sourdough. I’m going to try this recipe for the bread as the one I use is different! Clam chowder tonight.

  35. The bread using this recipe turned out pretty darned good! Except – the recipe calls for 1 TABLESPOON of salt. I made a double batch (2 TABLESPOONS) and I overdosed on salt. Did you mean TEASPOON or TABLESPOON? I think teaspoon because that is approximate to other breads I make. Thanks for the info.

  36. Rick, that was a tablespoon I used. One possibility is the salt you used packed tighter. I’ve seen conversion tables that show different brands and styles of salt — kosher, flake, granulated, etc. — can be off by up to 50% by weight when you measure by volume.

  37. SO excited about this!! I love your intro, you could annoy me anytime!!

  38. I made the bowls. Using your instructions and they came out small. I assumed the pictures only were doubled. Obviously mine came out small, also they spread out insted of rising up they just got bigger around. Do I need to incorporate more flour into the dough?

    • Did you pre-heat the oven? Normally bread will spring up for the first 5-10 minutes in the oven as the moisture and trapped gases expand. If that didn’t happen, all I can think is that the oven wasn’t hot enough when it went in.

  39. I make sour dough bread all the time. Love it. I really like your website. Thankyou. As the weather gets colder I make alot of soups and I will have to make your bread bowls. The family will love them.

  40. I’ve noticed that several people have commented on the bread not rising as much as they had hoped. If your starter is bubbly on top, it might be too thin to get a good rise. If your starter has lots of bubbles scattered throughout, then it should be thick enough to give you a good rise.
    Coincidentally(?) someone had mentioned naming their starter “Herman.” Herman is a thinner and sweeter type of sourdough starter that is sometimes called “Amish Friendship Starter.” If this is the type of starter you have, it is great for pancakes or sweeter breads. To make the bread bowls, take a cup of your Herman and stir in a couple tablespoons of flour twice a day until it is thick (but not too thick to stir) and the bubbles are all through it, not just on top.

  41. jacqueline says:

    hello iv never made sourdough bread befor but is it really that much salt? My husband loves sourdough bread and he comes home from Afganistan soon and i was just trying to find a good sourdough bread that dosnt look hard like this one but just looking at the salt makes me think is that to much salt?

  42. Trying your recipe today. I’m an avid home baker and have had a sourdough starter for a long time. My current starter is two years old. I’ve made many things from it, like chocolate cake, pancakes, biscuits, loaves, and many more. I love crisp sourdough waffles!
    Tips for readers: true sourdough needs no commercial yeast. If your starter is not as mature or has become less active from lack of use, (you have trouble getting it to raise bread) continue to feed it regularly every two to three days, using or tossing some each time. The longer you have a starter the more distinct of a tase your bread will have, and the better/quicker it will raise bread. Mature starter will have a more sour flavor it will also have enough power on its own to raise breads with the beautiful open crumb characteristic of sourdough. Starter should be stored at room temp., not refrigerated. It should be stored in glass or ceramic containers, as it is acidic and can corrode metal or give it a metalic taste. If it turns pink or orange throw it out it has spoiled. Happy baking and keep your sourdough happy and fed! Thanks for the recipe!

    • Thanks for the tips on the color change. I’ve seen bread do that, so it doesn’t surprise me that a starter would do the same thing.

  43. Hello!!My name is David I’m from Armenia I have one question.Can I put sourdough starter in the fridge????
    Thank you!!!!!!!

    • David, if you do it will slow down the growth of the yeast. When you’re ready to use some, take it out with enough time for it to warm up and make sure it’s still active. Mix in a little flour and make sure it’s bubbling before using it.

  44. I tried your bread recipe & filled the bowls with my chowder. Fantastic is all I can say. Thought I’d share my chowder recipe.
    PS: I don’t have a cookbook yet, but I’m trying to put it together.

    Adirondack Salmon Chowder
    From My Adirondack Way of Cooking by Musky Bob

    If this doesn芒鈧劉t make your mouth water in anticipation on those cool Fall or Winter days nothing will. I use salmon mostly, but you can substitute or add most any type of seafood.
    脗路 陆 stick butter
    脗路 录 cup flour
    脗路 陆 cup chopped onion
    脗路 6 slices bacon, diced
    脗路 陆 cup diced celery
    脗路 1陆 teaspoons garlic powder not garlic salt
    脗路 1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
    脗路 1 陆 cup diced potatoes
    脗路 陆 bag baby carrots, cut bite size
    脗路 1 cup chicken broth
    脗路 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
    脗路 1 teaspoon salt
    脗路 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
    脗路 1 teaspoon parsley
    脗路 2 bay leaves
    脗路 陆 teaspoon thyme
    脗路 陆 teaspoon dried dill weed
    脗路 2 6芒鈧 salmon fillets, cubed 1芒鈧
    脗路 1 qt. milk
    脗路 1 (15 ounce) can creamed corn
    脗路 1 teaspoon cornstarch
    脗路 1 12 oz. pkg. Cream cheese
    1. Saut茅 bacon, then add butter, onion, broth, celery, and garlic powder & cook until onions, carrots, and celery are tender. Stir in potatoes, old bay seasoning, parsley, bay leaves, salt, pepper, and dill.
    2. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat. Cover, and simmer 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
    3. Stir in salmon, milk, creamed corn, flour, cornstarch, and cream cheese. Cook on medium, stirring frequently until heated through and cream cheese is melted.
    4. Serve steaming hot with oyster crackers.

    I’m sure you will like it. It芒鈧劉s one of my favorites.

    • Bob, that looks tasty. I just can’t do chowder when it’s warm, though, so this might have to wait for next fall.

    • I may want to try that book if you ever get it finished and published. I live in the Adirondacks region and do quite a bit of cooking and baking myself.

  45. Everything was going great with this recipe for me until the bread needed to rise. I make french bread quite often and never have any problems… I did learn the hard way about not using stainless steal bowls but after that everything has gone great until now. Its been more then 2 and a half hours in the oven with the light on and nothing… I’m about to give up but i have noticed usually around this time of lack patience I’ll check one last time and BAM overflowing. Hopefully ill be able to post a comment and say how wonderful the bread tasted with some broccoli/cheese soup but until then its back to the kitchen!

  46. I made these today and while they taste really good and rise perfectly, next time i wont leave them in the oven so long. (The shells were really hard but the inside was perfect). Also, next time i will not add so much salt. All in all the recipe was great i just need to change a couple things next time. Thanks :)

  47. Just a quick question…I’m hoping to make these bread bowls for a school function and was wondering how many bowls a single recipe yields.

    • This made the four that you see in the photos above. You could go a little smaller and get five, or maybe even six if you give them more time on the second rise. They’d be less dense that way, which would still be fine for something thick like chili.

  48. Thanks for the recipe! I am having a little party tomorrow evening and this recipe was very handy. The starter has been doing it’s thing for the past couple days and I can’t wait to get up early tomorrow finish!

  49. I leave a response each time I appreciate a post on a site or I have something to add to the discussion.
    It’s triggered by the passion displayed in the post I browsed. And after this article How To Make Sourdough Bread Bowls | How To Cook Like Your Grandmother. I was actually moved enough to post a comment :-) I do have 2 questions for you if you usually do not mind. Could it be just me or does it seem like a few of the comments look like they are written by brain dead visitors? 馃槢 And, if you are writing on other sites, I would like to follow you. Would you list the complete urls of all your communal pages like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed?


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