Cut a thin, about 1 inch thick, oval slice off the top of the loaf of French bread leaving a couple of inch perimeter. Set aside top. Remove most of the soft part of the bread, leaving a sturdy portion on the sides and bottom. You can save the soft bread to use later with the dip if desired.
In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese (8 ounces) for 2 minutes with a handheld mixer until light and fluffy. Add the next 7 ingredients to cream cheese and mix until well combined. Spoon the mixture into hollowed bread bowl. Place the saved bread top on top of the loaf.
Wrap the entire loaf in a double thickness of heavy-duty aluminum foil and bake in preheated oven for 1 hour. Serve with reserved bread or crackers.
French bread is not included in the nutrition facts.
Hand Blender: I like to use a hand blender to mix the ingredient to add some air and lighten it up to make it more deliciously "scoopable"!
Cheese: Can I use pre-shredded bagged cheese? Of course! I prefer to shred my own because the stuff you buy in the bag is coated with wood pulp or a heavy coating of potato starch and isn't as creamy or gooey when it melts. I love convenience foods, but this is one I use very selectively.
Bacon? Swap the ham for bacon bits! I love the real bacon bits available already cooked and chopped from most markets. This is a convenience food I use All The Time!
Skip The Bread Boat: The recipe couldn’t be easier the only minor effort required is carving out a loaf of unsliced French bread to create an edible vessel to heat the dip up in. If for some dippers reason you want to skip this step, no worries. This dip alone is more than delicious enough to simply heat up in a baking dish.
You can use sliced deli ham, chopped, or if you happen to have any leftover baked ham use that of course!
Crockpot: If you're planning to serve this for an extended time period, skip the bread bowl for serving and keep it warm and serve it out of a small crockpot.