Easy Recipe: French Onion Soup in Bread Bowls

10 Jan

Soup in a bread bowl is a simple but elegant way to warm up on a cold evening.

Gracie’s hippie sister here, using a cold day as an excuse to make one of the warmest of winter dishes.

When I lived in the St. Louis area, my office was just a few blocks from a St. Louis Bread Company restaurant. One of my favorite lunchtime treats was to go to the Bread Company (known outside the St. Louis area as Panera) and have some of their famous onion soup in a bread bowl.

The Panera/SLBC version involved an oversized sourdough roll with a cylinder cut out of the middle to hold the soup.

It was nice, but I think my simple homemade version — which is a lot faster to make than sourdough — is even better, and it really isn’t difficult to make at all.

 The Soup Part
To make the soup, start by chopping up four big yellow onions. In a wok or large frying pan, saute them lightly with half a stick of butter.

Add a can of beer and simmer gently until onions are soft. While the onions are cooking, throw in five beef bouillon cubes and let them dissolve, stirring to mix in the flavor.

Add a little pepper.

Sprinkle mixture with a little black pepper and simmer for a few minutes. At this point, you can dump the soup into a Crock-Pot, a rice cooker, or a small stock pot, add about a pint of water, and continue simmering gently until onions are soft. (I used my rice cooker because the Crock-Pot was in the dishwasher, and also because I thought it would amuse my husband, who wants to be like Roger Ebert when he grows up, and who has become inexplicably obsessed with an article he read about how Ebert uses his rice cooker to make things other than rice.)

 

 
 

Flour + baking powder + beer + honey = bread.

 

The Bread Part
This part is so ridiculously easy that you’ll want to make it even when you aren’t having French onion soup for dinner.

While your soup is simmering, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and coat two large, oven-safe mugs or cereal bowls with cooking spray. Those big Corelle mugs that come with vented lids for microwaving leftovers are perfect for this purpose, but a couple of Pyrex bowls will work fine, too.

Corelle mugs make perfect bread pans.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together three cups of all-purpose flour and three tablespoons of baking powder. (If you want, you can sift them together, but stirring thoroughly with a fork works just fine.)

Add a can of cheap beer — believe it or not, The Beast is excellent for this purpose — and three tablespoons of honey. Mix thoroughly, divide in half, and tuck each half into one of the prepared mugs or bowls. Bake until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean (about 45 minutes in my oven, but your mileage may vary, so keep an eye on it), and butter the tops as soon as they come out of the oven.

Butter the top of the bread while it's still hot.

Some Assembly Required
Let the bread rest until it’s cool enough to handle, then cut a big cone-shaped piece out of the middle of each little loaf to make a well for holding soup. Eat the cones warm, with lots of butter melting on them. (They look nice if you serve them alongside the soup, but as the cook, you are also within your rights to eat them yourself as payment for going to the trouble of making dinner.)

Fill the wells with the hot soup, sprinkle with plenty of grated Parmesan cheese, and serve to people who deserve something nice to warm their bellies on a cold winter night.

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5 Responses to “Easy Recipe: French Onion Soup in Bread Bowls”

  1. Sara January 10, 2011 at 2:56 PM #

    This looks excellent. I want to make it tonight (or at least this week)! Can you give me an estimate for how long the onions simmer in the Crock-Pot, rice cooker, etc.? I want to make sure I allow enough time and don’t have to wait until midnight to eat dinner.

  2. redforkhippie January 10, 2011 at 6:52 PM #

    The time will depend on what you’re using; a rice cooker will cook much faster than a Crock-pot. Because you’re sauteeing the onions first, they will already be soft by the time you put them in the cooker. The longer the soup goes, the more it will cook down and the richer the flavor will be. You could probably put the whole mess in a tureen or stock pot in the oven and let it simmer while the bread bakes, and it would taste just fine.

  3. Lis January 11, 2011 at 2:08 PM #

    “…but as the cook, you are also within your rights to eat them yourself as payment for going to the trouble of making dinner.”

    YES. And again – YES.

    BTW – bookmarking this for dinner later in the week. It looks amazing!

  4. Casey January 11, 2011 at 2:46 PM #

    Definitely making this for dinner tonight! Yum. I don’t have any small oven safe containers or even a bread pan so I’ll have to get creative. Thanks!

  5. Laura February 10, 2011 at 6:01 PM #

    Made this tonight and my husband loved it.Thanks!!

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