Sourdough Corn Bread

For Christmas Eve dinner I made chili and corn bread. Because we were ten people and I thought to save a little time on after-dinner clean-up, I made sourdough corn bread bowls to hold the chili. I mixed the dough at about 7 a.m. and the bowls were baked, cooled, and hollowed out just in time for dinner at 6 p.m. Uh huh, it was such a time-saver over washing ten dishes.

OK, so I may not win the Ms. Efficiency title this year, but everyone said these bowls were good. So good, in fact, that they ate them before going back for seconds on the chili, so we still ended up with a bunch of dishes to wash. But isn’t that, after all, what the holidays are about — baking and cleaning?

Sourdough Corn Bread

Yield: 1500 g (6 small boules for bowls)

Approximate Time:

  • Mix: 10 minutes
  • First fermentation : 2.5 hours with folds at 50 and 100 minutes
  • Preshape, rest, and shape: 40 minutes
  • Proof: 2 hours
  • Bake: 30 minutes

Desired dough temperature: 75F


  • 429 g flour
  • 291 g corn flour
  • 46 g coarse corn meal
  • about 406 g water
  • 18 g (1 T.) salt
  • 4 g butter at room temperature
  • 307 g mature 100%-hydration sourdough starter


  1. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine all of the final dough ingredients, holding back a small amount of water. Mix on low speed until the ingredients are incorporated, about 5 minutes. Adjust the water as needed to achieve a medium-consistency dough.
  2. Continue mixing in low or medium speed to a medium level of gluten development.
  3. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled container. Cover and ferment for 2.5 hours, with folds at 50 and 100 minutes.
  4. Turn the dough into a lightly floured counter. Divide it into 6 pieces of approximately 250 grams each. Preshape them into balls and let rest, covered, for 30 minutes.
  5. Shape the dough into balls and place them, seam-side-up, into small floured, linen-lined bowls or baskets. (Fairly deep soup bowls — like those you might use for chili — serve well. Imagine that.)
  6. Proof, covered, at room temperature for about 2 hours, or until a finger pressed into the dough leaves an indentation that recovers very slowly. If your oven is not large enough to accommodate all the loaves at once, proof for about an hour and a half before placing them in the refrigerator until ready to bake.
  7. Meanwhile, preheat the oven, with baking stone, to 475F. You will also need steam during the initial phase of baking, so prepare for this now.
  8. Just before baking, slash the loaves with a single circular slash around the circumference near the top. (This will make it easy to slice the tops off for hollowing.)
  9. Once the loaves are in the oven, reduce the temperature to 450F. Bake for 5 minutes with steam, and another 20 minutes or so without steam. Then turn off the oven and leave the loaves in for another 5 minutes, with the door ajar.
  10. Cool completely on a wire rack.
  11. For bowls, slice the tops off at the score, then use a spoon to hollow out, leaving a half-inch shell.

CommentsLeave a comment

  1. @ccziv says

    My Serbian-born husband was shocked and horrified to discover that cornbread is sweet here (at least in the South). This recipe looks very promising!

  2. Lilli says

    This recipe looks really promising! I do have a question, though: is it really only 4 g of butter? That seems to be an awfully small amount that would not make much of a difference to a recipe…

  3. says

    I have always wanted to serve a stew of some kind in bread bowls – in Brazil there is a very traditional dish made with shrimp in a coconut sauce, that is served inside a large squash.

    If I feel very brave one of these days, I’ll try to adapt it for a bread bowl, and in that case will use your recipe for the bowls.

    Beautiful presentation!

  4. says

    These bowls look lovely and delicious, Susan! Isn’t that a funny coincidence that we both posted bread bowls the same week? I’ll try yours as soon as I get a chance. I love the chili/corn bread association.

  5. says

    I’ve been into making cornbread this past week. I bought three kinds of freshly ground corn meal from my farmer, blue, white, yellow. Wow, the flavor. What is corn flour? How could I make that?

    BTW, these bowls are fabulous. I would have eaten every bite and had no room for Christmas cookies.

  6. says

    I was just clicking all of your recipes last night, and printed out the 4S bread. Now, I am debating myself wether I should try on this recipe, or the 4S.

  7. Lisa says

    I can’t wait to try these. They look like they will be a nice change from the corn muffins that I always make when I make chili!
    One question – Do you have a formula for the 100% hydration starter?

  8. says

    Mmmm – these look terrific. I love the non-sweet cornbread approach. I’ve been thinking of brewing up a pot of chili, this is just the push I need to do it.

  9. says

    I too have the tradition of serving chili at the holidays. We typically enjoy it the night that our out-of-town relatives arrive for Christmas because chili can simmer on the stove until everyone has arrived and settled in. Serving the chili in homemade bread bowls would put a gourmet twist on this simple meal. Thanks for the idea.

  10. Robert N says

    The comment about sweet cornbread brought me out of the woodwork. Traditional Southern cornbread is not sweet. Sweet cornbread used to be referred to in the South as “Yankee cornbread”. As you can imagine, this was not a compliment.

    What passes now for cornbread should really be called corncake. It uses degerminated cornmeal or, worse, corn flour and is heavy on the sweeteners. Cornbread made with whole germ corn, preferably white corn, needs no sweeteners. White cornmeal makes a much more delicate cornbread than does yellow cornmeal. Alas, good traditional cornbread is not to be found in many places now, even in the South.

    I used to buy ground white non-degerminated cornmeal at the Food Mill in Oakland but it’s a bit of a trek. I don’t know if they have it anymore. Because of the germ, it has to be kept refrigerated and, even then, doesn’t keep all that well. This cornmeal makes a terrific traditional spoonbread, a kind of cornmeal souffle for those not familiar with it. Ahh. Maybe I’ll make that trek after all!

    Thank you for a terrific site — one of the best.

  11. luv2cknbk says

    I’ve got to make these this weekend. Our weather forecast just calls out for a nice pot of chlli. Is corn flour cornstarch or just very finely ground corn meal?? Thanks so much for the inspiration.

  12. says

    Fabulous! I was just thinking that I wanted to make bread bowls but wasn’t sure about sizing, etc, and I never would have thought to do the circular slash.

  13. Janie says

    Susan, I always get a thrill of surprise when I visit here. What a great idea, and so unexpected! I love the idea and will try it soon.

  14. says

    Even though it seems that Mimi beat me to it I’ve given you an award. (some blog posts take longer to write than you’ve intended to.. ;) ) Maybe you want to come around and collect the award.

  15. says

    Those bowls look fabulous, Susan. And so does the chili (love that idea to have chili for Christmas Eve dinner)!

    Did you use the bread that you removed for stuffing the turkey the next day?

  16. says

    Oh that would be me… sadly enough haha.. Love love the look of the loaves! And I do have a starter ready for baking. The only thing is it’s 2 in the afternoon eh oops? Going to try anyway, thanks forthe recipe

  17. says

    This is the third bread I have baked with my first sourdough starter, and it beats the rest by far. My mom allways likes her diner ‘packed’, so I had a good guess she would love this. But they were even better than that. Both taste and structure turned out very, very good! I filled them with a tomato-butternut stew with grilled sardines. The bowls could handle the wet filling without difficulties. And because I don’t have a good knife for slashing, I gave each bowl 5 cuts with a scissor, in a circular pattern. Luckily this also worked fine for the cutting later, and gave the caps a very festive look.

    I have learned so much from your site. Thank you for all the information, and this wonderful recipe!

  18. Tara says

    Ok, maybe it’s just me..but how does this woman figure she saved herself time??? As she stated, she still ended up washing dishes after dinner, and she spent 9 hours baking these bread bowls. Although I’m sure the bowls were delicious, for me it would have been a no-brainer. Put the effort into cooking a REAL Thanksgiving dinner..would amount to about the same amount of time as making the bowls anyhow, and wash up afterwards. Maybe I’m being a bit pessimistic, but Thanksgiving to me is a Tradition, and not just chili served in a bowl, no matter how fancy it is done up.

  19. Lisa says

    Hi I made the corn bread bowls today- how wide are they supposed to be after proofing and baking? Mine are about 4 inches wide? My starter was not in tiptop shape and the dough I thought was rather dry or not as wet as a no knead sour dough. Looking forward to your thoughts! Anyway they smell delicious, are hollow sounding but heavy.

  20. Rachael says

    This is such a great blog!!! Really makes me hungry just reading and looking at the pictures : ) I recently baked my first loaf of bread and it was incredible!!! I used a starter my friend told me about. It’s from Sourdough’s International and now I have to spread the word! I loved it. Definitely going to order more when it comes the time.

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    Insert the free HP Photo Editor available to download here which makes it really easy
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  22. Sylvia says

    Hi, These look delicious and I would really like to bake them but I only have a 100% hydration rye starter. Will I have to make a wheat starter or can I just use my Rye starter?


  23. Shelley says

    Making my second batch of this today! :) I bake this in two boules, about 750 g each. This is a beautiful bread, both in taste and colour. It is very much like Pao de Milho, but with a lighter texture and crumb. The perfect bread for soup! I used 200g white whole wheat flour with the white bread flour, just to add a like wholesome goodness. :)


  1. [...] I can finally make bread!!!! We, no I, have all but finished our stash of frozen bread so I got to bake bread again. There’s an Italian maize bread in Dan Lepard’s Handmade Loaf that made me buy maize flour from Italy, but it doesn’t use leaven and I was too lazy to do the conversion, so I went with Susan’s sourdough corn bread.  [...]

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