Cast iron skillets, wooden spoons and mason jars are still quite popular in modern American kitchens. But, a lesser known American classic, the wooden dough bowl, is making a resurgence. Nothing harkens warm fuzzy feelings like the smell of fresh baked bread.
A dough bowl was a standard feature in most early American kitchens. What made it an asset then remains valid today; it is still an excellent way to make and serve homemade yeast breads. Bread (or pasta) ingredients can be kneaded in the oblong bowl while keeping the kitchen counter free from the typical mess of breadmaking. After kneading, the dough is covered with a cloth and left to rise in the bowl. The heat generated by the yeast is locked in by the thick wood and results in an even rise. After the bread is baked, the bowl also comes in handy as a serving tray. The thick wood helps to retain the heat.
Most of the classic dough bowls found in kitchens today are antiques that have been passed down from generation to generation. A good bowl was handed down through a family, passing along the memory of Mother and the wealth of experiences that make a kitchen the heart of a home. Each descendant added her own mark to this history written in wood until she, in turn, bequeathed her dough bowl to her children.
But those who pioneered America weren’t just sentimental: they valued a good dough bowl because they were practical, too. Wooden bowls have always been the preferred choice for bread-making because the heat generated by the yeast is retained in the wood, giving the dough an even rise—and because the bowl’s high sides protect the dough from drafts.
If you, like myself, weren’t fortunate enough to inherit one of these dough bowls, Happy Zen Mama has several different shapes and sizes of hand crafted, hard wood dough bowls. It’s never too late to start your own tradition!
Like other wooden utensils, the appearance of the dough bowl is enhanced with age, usage and seasoning. Its large, interesting shape makes it handy for other uses too: centerpieces, fruit, salad, etc.
Tips for caring for the bowl (and other wooden kitchen utensils):
-- The dough bowl should be seasoned with light mineral or vegetable oil before each use until the bowl is sealed.
-- Do not use lacquers or wood fillers.
-- Do not immerse in water. Clean by wiping with a damp cloth.
-- If the bowl has a scratch, dent or nick, a medium piece of sandpaper may be used to remove it.