Baking Cleanup Tips: The Bowl (with Video)

IMG_1900Over at Orthonomics, Sephardi Lady gave her recipe for 15-minute challah. Readers were appreciative, but complained that they dreaded making challah because cleaning out the bowl was her least favorite job. One reader mentioned not  having room for a bowl of soapy water on her counter.

I was mystified. Cleaning the bread dough bowl takes two or three minutes, perhaps only one. Is the problem that too much dough is left in the bowl after the challah has been shaped? If your bowl is full of dough, it’s messy to clean. The dough gets into the sink and has to be fished out of the drain, too. That would make anyone want to avoid baking.

When I knead dough,  the dough naturally separates from the bowl. It’s been a while since I used a mixer or food processor for kneading—I do it by hand because I bake in large quantities. But either way, it’s worth the minimal effort to collect the leftover dough and add it to your loaf. It doesn’t matter if the dough has dried out a little bit.

If you’ve already shaped the dough, stick what you’ve gathered on the bottom of your loaf, or in some other unobtrusive place. An inexpensive plastic spatula helps a lot. With experience, you will naturally start add dough from the sides as you are emptying the bowl.

Washing the bowl

Once you’ve scraped out most of the dough, washing is a breeze. The remaining bits will already be starting to dry out, and that’s good. Don’t fill the bowl with water. The bits of dough will crumble, and you can use your hand to scrape them into the garbage. What’s left comes off easily with a slightly soapy sponge.

Am I missing something obvious.  Is there another reason that bread dough bowls are challenging to clean?


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  1. Thanks for posting this, and for posting the link to the 15 minute recipe. I’m always interested in seeing different recipes for challah, although for the past 10 years or so I’ve usually stuck to my two favorites and rarely vary.

    I never have a problem cleaning the bowl. I let the dough rise in the mixer bowl itself if it can. If I need the mixer and bowl for something else while the dough is rising I just transfer it to another, plastic bowl. After I punch down the dough and remove it to the table for rolling and braiding, I find there is very little dough left “lingering” in the bowl, and that is easily removed by hand or scraper. Maybe it’s because I have a high volume of oil in my dough? I use 1/2 cup per kilo of flour.

  2. We bake almost exclusively with sourdough so maybe it’s more/less sticky (though from what I remember of our commercial yeast days I don’t think it is) but I find that soaking the bowl immediately is a lot easier, otherwise the bits of dough that have stuck on dry into something most closely resembling cement. Yes, the wet dough is a bit gooey but it comes right off and is no big deal in the sink if you have a strainer (reshet, I’m apparently losing my English) in the drain.

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    • Thanks, Robin. I haven’t noticed a difference in the bowl when using sourdough or commercial yeast, and I don’t have the cement problem either–if so I just dump it into the garbage. In other words, it doesn’t stick. Are you using a metal or glass bowl? I usually use plastic.

  3. Well, the bread I made last night had only a few tablespoons of oil per kilo.

  4. At last,something I have experience with (I don’t cook much at home, but I make challah dough every week in the gan where I work). Our dough also has about 1/2 cup oil for 1 kg and I let it rise in the bowl I use. Never had any trouble cleaning it. I normally put some soapy water in it and then it cleans easily.

  5. Ms. Krieger says

    Hm. I sometimes have messy bread bowls…depends very much on the recipe.

    Someone once told me that in Europe, the custom used to be to knead the bread right in the flour barrel – you just added the amount of liquid you needed for the amount of bread you were making, and it would natural pick up the right amount of flour.

    I have never been able to try this technique, and it seems a bit impracticable for the modern age, where most people don’t have flour barrels.

    But it could solve the problem of cleaning the bowl quite neatly 🙂 .

  6. nice video 🙂 what kind of bread did you make?

  7. The best trick I have learned is that you should never soak the bowl in hot water. It causes the dough to expand and get stickier. I soak my bowl in cold soapy water for a few minutes and then cleanup is a snap.
    Great post topic. Thanks!
    — Rivki @ Kosher Cooking for Ordinary People

  8. Orthonomics says

    I don’t have much of a problem. The dough forms into a ball and it takes a few seconds to get most of it out. Then a little water and a small scrub.

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