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Hungarian Bread Bowl for San Francisco Clam Chowder

Hungarian Bread Bowl for San Francisco Clam Chowder

It is cold winter where I live in New England.  Wherever it’s cold, people turn to comfort food – like a hearty soup—that warms up many a heart. Hungarians go for Goulash; Americans crave a Clam Chowder. The French choose Onion Soup, and so on.

In San Francisco, the ‘City by the Bay’, clam chowder is the comfort food and it is served in signature Sourdough French bread bowls. So I went to The Old Clam House, a legendary seafood spot, established in 1861, that is actually the longest  operating restaurant in The City.  First the waitress brings a short glass of claim broth as an appetizer. Then I was served a rich clam chowder in House-Made Crispy Kettle Bread. The chef slices off the top and attached bread with some kindof a saw.  Then I ate my chowder and my bowl all the way to the end! 

I always told my husband about a 15th-century Hungarian king who used bread as a soup spoon. King Matthias was a great king, a just and a Renaissance man. According to tales, he secretly dressed up as a pauper and traveled throughout his realm to learn firsthand the problems of the poor. One time a poor host served him soup without a spoon. The clever Matthias carved out a roll and used his bread as a bowl, so the legend goes.

I just checked for this recipe the Web,and found that the Irish claim to be first using bread as a bowl. An Irishman wanted to impress a British Duke. The Duke so admired the innovation that he gave the Irishman seed money to open a bread-bowl shop in Dublin. – Hard to believe.I thought Irish and British did not agree with each other much…I let you decide which tale is true.

Hungarian Bread Bowl (“Cipó“), to Serve Soup

For the dough:

  • 225 g unbleached flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 150 ml water
  • 2 tsp olive oil

To brush:

  • Egg yolk


  1. In a large bowl whisk together flour and salt.
  2. Measure 150 ml water in a measuring cup.  Take 50 ml of the water in a small bowl, warm it up. Stir sugar and yeast into the bowl of water. Let it rise till foams.
  3. Mix yeast water with the rest of the warm water, add oil.
  4. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients. Mix well by hand, then kneed dough for 6-10 minutes.
  5. Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface. Shape it into 4 balls.
  6. Cover balls with a towel. Let it rise for 2 hours in a warm draft-free place until double.
  7. After 2 hours punch down balls, then repeat rising process for 1 hour.
  8. Then punch down balls again, and shape the balls again. Place them on a paper-covered baking sheet. Cover ball with a damp towel. Let it rise fo ranother 30 min until double.
  9. Heat oven to 180 C (350 F).
  10. In the meantime whisk briefly yolk. Brush dough with yolk.  Cut the top 3 times.
  11. Bake ball still golden, about 20 – 30 min. (If halfway the top of bread is too brown,cover dough with foil.)
  12. If the top burns to early, cover with aluminum foil.
  13. Transfer loaves from pan to wire racks. Cool completely.
  14. Cut off top, and carve out enough cavity for soup.

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