Post by Alison Hein.
Some of you may recall Flowerpot Bread as a 70s fad, and right you would be. Baking with terra cotta, however, is an ancient process. The Greeks prized this method for its even heat and durability. Once you go through the fuss of seasoning your flowerpots, you can pull out this fun party trick anytime.
In this version, I’ve brushed the simple white bread loaves with a light egg wash and dotted them with poppy seeds. Any bread dough will work – just remember to fill up the pots only halfway at the first rise, and don’t let them get too tall at the second rise or they may topple over in the oven. The terra cotta holds a steady temperature, which helps keep even heat during baking, and also gives the rising a little boost.
Try it out on a lazy weekend – for a breakfast in bed packed full of surprise and delight.
3 new 4-inch terra cotta flowerpots
Vegetable oil for treating pots
A few days before baking bread, rub flowerpots all over with oil. Heat oven to 300°. Place oiled flowerpots on a baking tray, and bake in the oven for a few hours to seal and season. Let cool before using. Repeat process after use as needed to retain smooth oiled surface.
½ cup tepid water
1 tablespoon (2 packets) dry yeast
1½ cups milk
¼ cup sunflower oil
¼ cup honey
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 egg, separated
5½ cups white flour
Oil for rising
Flour for kneading and shaping loaves
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
Add water to large food processor, or large bowl. Gently sprinkle yeast on top to cover surface. Set aside until yeast begins to activate, about 10 minutes.
Pour milk into small heavy pot over medium heat. Cook without stirring until the milk is scalded (tiny ripples begin to form across the top of the milk), about 5 minutes. Let cool slightly, then add oil, honey, salt and egg yolk to scalded milk. Retain egg white. When tepid, pour milk mixture into food processor or bowl. Gently pulse on food processor dough setting or stir until mixed in. Add white flour, about a cup at a time, until mixed in. If using food processor, gently pulse until dough is compressed and begins to pull away from side of bowl. Be careful not to over mix or dough will become tough. If making bread by hand, turn out onto floured board and knead gently for about five minutes. Add about ½ teaspoon oil to large bowl. Place dough in bowl. Turn and flip so oiled side faces up. Cover with light tea towel and set in warm, non-drafty place to rise. Let dough rise for about one hour, until doubled in size.
Punch down dough. Turn onto floured board and shape into 3 equal-sized balls. Oil flowerpots, and place one ball inside each pot. Dough should fill pot about halfway. Cover loaves with light tea towel and set in warm, non-drafty place to rise. Let loaves rise for about one hour, until dough is one to two inches over the top of the flowerpot.
Preheat oven to 350° about 15 minutes before dough is finished rising. Using a fork, beat egg white with about a teaspoon of water. Gently brush egg wash on top of loaves, then sprinkle each with a teaspoon of poppy seeds.
Place loaves in oven and bake 25 to 30 minutes until browned. Cool for at least 1 hour before removing from pots and slicing.
Makes 3 loaves.