It was great fun - although if it's the first time you're using the clay pots they need to be "seasoned" - and that can take a fair amount of time! I did mine whilst my dough was proving, but in hindsight I'd probably do them the day before. For that reason, I'm going to start by telling you how to season your clay pots.
You will need:
5 11cm clay flowerpots
a pastry brush
a LOT of vegetable oil
Preheat the oven to gas mark 3. Brush each clay pot with oil, inside and out, (and paying special care not to miss the rim!) then place your pot in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the oil has baked dry. Carefully remove the pots from the oven and leave until cool enough to handle, then repeat the process 5 or 6 times to create a smooth, non-stick surface.
Once you've used the pots, if they are rinsed with warm water (rather than washed with soapy water) they will retain the "non-stick" layer and can be re-used without seasoning again.
As I was quite new to bread-baking, I turned to Mary Berry's Baking Bible for assistance. The recipe below is based on The White Cottage Loaf recipe on page 285 - I chose this one because it seemed nice and simple, and Mary Berry said it was good.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Proving time: 2-3 hours
Bake time: 20-25 minutes
Makes 5 flowerpot loaves
650g strong white bread flour
1.5 tsp salt
60g melted butter or margarine
450ml warm water
1 large egg (to glaze)
50g poppy seeds
Vegetable oil (to grease the bakeware)
- Measure all of the ingredients into a large mixing bowl, and beat until combined to a sticky-ish dough.
- Tip the dough out onto a well floured surface, and knead for 10-12 minutes until the dough is soft, pliable and still a little sticky. Place the dough in a large oiled bowl and cover tightly with cling film. Leave the dough to rise in a warm place for 1 to 1.5 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size.
- Tip the dough back out onto a well floured surface, and knock it back by hand. Once the dough is smooth split it into 5 equal portions. Tuck the ends of the dough underneath itself and drop each piece into a greased flowerpot.
- Place each flower pot inside a large plastic food bag and seal the end. Put the flowerpots in their bags back into the warm place to rise for around 45 minutes, again until it has doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to gas mark 7. Beat the egg, and brush a little of this over the top of each loaf, then sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown on top and baked through.
- Serve with lots of cheese and red onion marmalade!