14 October 2008

Flower pot bread - UPDATED answers in comments

If you're not already baking your own bread, I want you to think about doing it. Not only is it preservatives-free, it's cheaper, tastes better and it a great skill to have. Bread is one of our staple foods and in days gone past everyone, and I mean everyone, knew how to make it. Bread baking is just one of the skills we've traded for the sake of convenience - we give them our money and our independence, they give us back a loaf of bread (usually inferior to what we'd make) and the convenience of not having the bake the bread ourselves.

I know that many of you don't have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen baking bread. If you are one of those people, I encourage you to buy, barter, or swap your way to a breadmaker. It doesn't have to be new or fancy, it just has to knead the dough for you. Then you shape the loaf and bake it in the regular oven. Making bread this way will take you about 10 minutes in the various stages of putting the ingredients in the machine, shaping the loaf and taking it from the oven. Baking bread using a breadmaker does NOT make you an inferior cook. If using a breadmaker allows you to make your own bread, then go for it. Don't think you HAVE to make the dough by hand, it doesn't matter! The object of the exercise is to produce bread and if using a bread maker is how you do it, so be it.

I did a tutorial for hand making bread
so you can try that if you want to. I added gluten flour to that recipe because it is a beginner's loaf and the gluten flour helps with the rise. You can leave it out if you can't find gluten or if you feel you'll knead the dough well enough without it.

In the posts here and here I'm talking about the cost of bread. If you can find a supplier of good high protein flour - or bakers flour - you will be able to produce loaf after loaf at a fraction of the price of store bought bread. BTW, the protein in bread flour is gluten so if you can't find high protein flour or bakers flours, use your plain all purpose flour and add gluten to it - ratio is one cup of flour to one teaspoon of gluten.

There are two more posts about bread making here and here.

There are thousands of recipes for bread and this is the one I used to make my flower pot loaves last weekend.


First take two teaspoons of dry yeast and a tablespoon of sugar or honey, add to a cup of warm water and stir. Let that sit on the bench to prove (bubble up) while you prepare your other ingredients.

In this order, or the order described in your breadmaker manual, place in your breadmaker:

3 cups bread flour/bakers flour/high protein flour or plain flour with 3 teaspoons of gluten flour added to it. I used soy and linseed flour, you can use white, wholemeal, wholegrain or whatever flour you have.
1 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of milk powder -- if you have no milk powder leave it out

If you have no milk powder, add some milk as part of your liquid component. You've already got a cup of water that the yeast is proving in, when the yeast has bubbled up (therefore you know it's alive and will activate the bread properly) pour the cup of yeast water in the breadmaker on top of the flour. If you didn't add milk powder, add half a cup of milk. If you did add milk powder, add another half cup of water.

Now, here is where you have to use your common sense. Turn on your machine on the "dough" setting and let it mix all the ingredients for a few minutes. Stay at the machine and watch it. You probably need to add more liquid. I can't tell you how much to add because all flour is different and even the humidity in your home will effect the amount of water you'll need to add at this point. If the dough is too dry, start adding water from a cup in very small amounts. Let the machine mix it in well before you judge whether you need more. One of the skills of breadmaking is judging the right amount of water and I always poke my finger in to check it. You're hoping for a moist dough that has mixed in all the ingredients - you don't want dry dough and you don't want sloppy dough. When you're happy that you've got it right, let the machine do it's work. I'll just say that the amount of liquid you'll add will be between 1½ cups and 2 cups. How much of that extra ½ cup you add you'll have to decide.

When the machine is finished, take the dough out, sprinkle a small amount (one tablespoon) of flour on your bench and knead the dough into a smooth ball. You'll notice at this stage, the dough is elastic - if you pull a piece out, it's springy. Shape the loaf, put it in a greased or lined bread tin and let it sit in a warm place until the bread has risen. This will take about 30 minutes in a warm kitchen but up to an hour in a cool one. You could also put your tin on top of a hot water system, or in the sun with a moist tea towel on the top to help it rise. I used three flower pots and divided the dough equally into three portions and added them to the pots.

When the dough is doubled in size and has risen just above the top of the bread tin, place it in a hot oven. Preheat your oven to its highest temperature, then when you put the bread in, lower the temp to 200C (395F). Bake until you smell the delicious smell of bread and the top is golden. It will take between 20 - 30 minutes.

And that's it. Even though there are a lot of instructions above, they have been written for those of us who have little experience. Anyone who has baked before will just need the recipe and will go on with it. As I said, it will only take about 10 minutes in various stages.

The little flower pot loaves were baked in real plant pots, but they need to be seasoned. DON"T BUY CHINESE POTS and don't use old pots that have had plants in them. I think mine were 5 inch pots. Clean them thoroughly with soap and warm water, rinse well and allow to dry for at least 12 hours. Rub cooking oil into the pots and make sure you cover ever part of every pot. The oil will soak into the terracotta. Make sure you apply a good amount of oil. Put the pots into a COLD oven and turn the heat up to 180C (350F). Let the pots cook in the oven for 20 minutes, then turn the heat off. Leave them in the oven, with the door closed, overnight to cool completely. Next day, repeat that process again. When they come out of the oven the second time, they're ready to be used for baking.

You can bake anything in these pots. I have used them in the past for baking little Christmas cakes that I gave as Christmas gifts - still in the pot - and tied with a red ribbon. They were a real hit. But on the weekend I baked bread in them. I lined them with parchment paper, both on the bottom and sides, to make sure the bread didn't stick.

If you're not a baker, or if you're young and new to home cooking, I hope you'll try making bread. It will save you money and it's better for you because there is no preservative in home baked bread. But best of all, it tastes like bread should taste and you'll be gaining back your independence because you'll be able to provide for yourself.

I wonder how many of you are having problems with bread making. Are there many? Read through my tutorial and try the recipe above and see how you go with it. If there are a few still having problems making a decent loaf, I'll do a troubleshooting post in the next week or so and well see if we can work out the problems together.

Happy baking!

Blogger Template by pipdig