Italian Bread Bowls
*Note: as with all yeast doughs, I never use the flour amount called for in the recipe as a hard fast rule (unless a weight measure is given and then I pull out my kitchen scale). Because humidity, temperature, altitude and a multitude of other factors can impact how much flour you need in your yeast doughs, I always judge when to quit adding flour by the texture and look and feel of the dough rather than how much flour I've added compared to the recipe. This tutorial on yeast may help identify how a perfectly floured dough should be.
*Makes 6-8 bread bowls
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast (use 1 tablespoon instant yeast)
2 1/2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
7 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornmeal
In a large bowl (or bowl of an electric mixer), dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. (You can omit this step if using instant yeast.)
Add salt, oil and 4 cups flour to the yeast mixture; beat well. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well with an electric mixer at medium speed after each addition until a soft but not sticky dough is formed (you may not need to use all 7 cups). This bread bowl dough needs to be a bit firmer than a roll/bread dough so that the bread bowls rise up instead of out.
When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6 minutes (or let knead in an electric mixer). Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes. Punch dough down, and divide into 6-8 equal portions. Shape each portion into a round ball. Place loaves on lightly greased baking sheets sprinkled with cornmeal (or use silpat liners or parchment paper). If desired, slash the top surface of the bread bowl several times with a sharp knife or razor. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, until doubled in bulk, about 35 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake in preheated oven for 15-18 minutes until golden brown and baked through.