This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Who can resist freshly-baked bread? I certainly can’t – and where I live, there are three top-notch bakeries offering super sourdough and brilliant buns just a doughnut’s throw away. One of them – the Flour Pot Bakery actually looks exactly like the Pudding Lane Bakery I pictured for my novel, A Batch Made in Heaven – even though the bakery only opened last year, and I wrote my book before that!
Despite the amazing array of baked goodies so closeby, I still love to bake bread and cakes: it’s relaxing and therapeutic, especially if the process involves kneading, rising, knocking back and then luxuriating as the smell of baking bread wafts from the oven… the hardest part is resisting eating a whole loaf while it’s still hot.
Which is why I love flowerpot bread so much – each mini-loaf makes a great meal with some soup or cheese and the seeded crust gives it such a crunch. I even built an entire scene around making these little breads in A Batch Made in Heaven and any resemblance to the famous potter’s wheel scene in retro-favourite movie, Ghost, is entirely deliberate. In my scene, temperatures are rising in the kitchen faster than they are in the oven itself…
Yes, this recipe takes time but it’s the perfect pastime for a wintry day, and it’s absolutely worth it. Preparing the flowerpots to avoid breaking is important – or you can make rolls with the same mix, they’re just not quite as cute but just as delicious. And it’s fun to do with a partner – experiment with flavours for Valentine’s Day, enjoy watching strong forearms handling the dough, and then while the bread is baking … well, maybe you’ll have a match and as a batch made in heaven…
Preparing your flowerpots
You need 4 or more 4inch/11cm diameter NEW, terracotta flowerpots (definitely not plastic!)
Wash new terracotta pots in hot water with washing up liquid, then rinse and allow to dry.
Season your pots: You can do this at the same time as making and proving your dough (see below).
Preheat your oven to around 200C/180 fan/Gas Mark 6, and then coat your hands with olive or vegetable oil and rub over the inside and outside of each pot till completely coated.
Place the prepared pots on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 25 minutes. Remove the tray – the pots will be very hot – and allow them to cool. Then repeat the oiling process once the pots are cool: oil and bake again. They’re now ready to use (though it’s a good idea to oil again every few bakes to keep them seasoned).
Making your bread
These quantities make four good-size mini loaves, to fit four 11cm/4 inch flowerpots. Use one of the two options – or just add ingredients you like to the mix, keeping the quantities roughly the same as for the extras listed.Try out finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes, dried herbs, or raisins with a little ground cinnamon for a sweet bread.
For the dough
500g strong wholemeal or white bread flour
7g (1 sachet) easy/quick yeast
1 teaspoon salt
300ml warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
Milk or oil to brush the tops
Greek Salad version
1 red onion, finely sliced
50g crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
Sunny Cheddar version
2 heaped tablespoons sunflowers, pumpkin seeds or a mixture
50g Mature Cheddar cheese, cut into small dice, plus a little for grating
2 teaspoons wholegrain mustard
1 tablespoon sesame or poppy seeds
You’ll also need baking paper to line the pots.
Weigh out and prepare your extra ingredients. If using onions, fry them over a medium heat in a teaspoon of oil for 5 minutes, till they’re brown. Empty onto kitchen roll and dab to remove moisture and oil.
Mix flour, yeast, salt and extra ingredients except mustard in a large bowl: reserve some seeds, onions, crumbs of cheese for topping. Add the honey and oil to the warm water in a jug and mix well.
Make a little well with your fingers in the middle of the dry ingredients then pour half of the water/oil/honey mix into that centre and bring together with a spatula. Add a little more water at a time – the mix will seem dry at first but don’t add too much water. If you’re using mustard, add this before finishing off the water.
Use your hands to gather the last of the flour and then turn onto an oiled (not floured) work surface. Start kneading the bread. Use the flat of your hand to push the dough away from you, then bring it back, turn, reform into a ball, and do the same again. The dough will become springy, with a lovely texture. If it’s too sticky, add a little more flour.
Divide the mix according to the number of pots you’re using. Place back in your bowl (after rinsing and drying it) and then cover with a damp clean towel or oiled cling film. Leave in a warm place for up to an hour, till the yeast and sugar gets to work and the dough has roughly doubled in size.
Prepare your flowerpots: cut strips of baking paper the same width as the height of the flowerpot, and use offcuts for the bases. Lightly oil one side of the strips with olive oil.
If using sesame or poppy seeds, sprinkle these evenly onto the oiled baking paper. Place the rolls in the centre of each sheet and then wrap the paper around the sides, so the seeds or oiled paper presses into the dough, leaving top and bottom clear. Place offcut into the base of the pot and then lift the dough into the pots. Sprinkle the tops with seeds/cheese/onions and then brush with oil or milk,
Cover loosely with cling film and allow to rise for another half an hour. Preheat your oven to 200C/Fan 180/Gas Mark 6.
Remove the clingfilm and place your pots on a baking tray in the centre of the oven. Bake for 25 minutes: check half way through to ensure toppings aren’t burning – if they are, lay a little baking paper loosely on the top.
After 25 minutes, remove and tap the top of the loaves – they’ll feel almost hollow if they’re cooked. If in doubt, give them another 5 minutes.
Remove from oven and place pots on a cooling rack. Wait for at least 10-15 minutes – this is the tricky bit – till the pots are cool enough to handle.
Serve as they are, or pull out the baking paper and leave the loaves. Use a knife to prise your roll out of the pot and enjoy warm, with farmhouse butter, cheese, or soup.
Suggestions: this is perfect freshly baked. Because it’s preservative free, it’ll keep only a couple of days, but slice any remaining bread (if you can resist the whole loaf warm!) for wonderful toast.