Springtime is gardening time, and here's a clever garden-themed repurposing tip: Bake cute, individual servings of fresh bread in clay flowerpots, like those pictured here.
In the interest of full disclosure, this is really a faux repurposing project, since it's advisable to start with new, unused clay flowerpots rather than risk reusing ones that have already contained plants and might be contaminated with garden chemicals or bacteria.
Mind you, when my Mom first made bread like this for us 20 years ago, she reused actual flowerpots from the garden shed that she thoroughly washed and sterilized first. But then again, look how I turned out! Clay flowerpots are cheap and can be found at both garden and craft stores, so it's best to start with new ones that can be saved and then reused for baking for many years to come.
Before you bake in them for the first time, you need to "season" the pots. After washing them and allowing the pots to thoroughly dry, generously rub the pots - inside and out - with vegetable oil, as much as they'll absorb. Then place them in a preheated 450-degree oven for one hour. Again, you only need to do this step the very first time you use the pots.
Virtually any kind of homemade bread dough, can be baked in flowerpots, since the clay provides a perfect, somewhat porous mold that produces super tasty crusts. Since most flowerpots have a hole in the bottom, put a piece of parchment paper or circle of aluminum foil in the bottom of the pot to plug the whole, and lightly oil the entire inside surface of the pot with vegetable oil before adding the dough.
The dough can be allowed to rise in the pots or in a separate bowl. The pots should only be filled about half way up with risen dough, since the clay makes dough expand readily when baking. Baking times and temperatures depend on the dough used and the size of the flowerpot (consult your recipe), but in any case you're looking for a nicely browned crust on top, like in the photo.
Begin a lazy cheapskate, I usually just use store-bought frozen bread dough instead of making my own. Here's how to make flowerpot bread using frozen bread dough:
Flower Pot Bread (makes one loaf per pot)
* Place a slice of frozen bread dough (about the side of a tennis ball) in a seasoned 4 inch flowerpot, oiled and with the hole in the bottom covered, as described above.
* Cover pot loosely with plastic wrap and allow to thaw and rise at room temperature for about five hours. The risen dough should fill about half of the pot. Brush top with melted butter or spray with oil before baking for shinier crust.
* Place pot in on a preheated 375 degree oven, and bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until top crust in browned but not burnt.
Allow to cool slightly, then serve right in the flowerpots on the table for a festive springtime gardening theme. It's particularly delicious when serve with butter blended with honey, chives or other springtime herbs.
Photo courtesy Jeff Yeager
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