Adapted from the master peasant bread recipe in Bread Toast Crumbs.
Flowerpots: I use 6 small flowerpots measuring about 4 inches in diameter at the top opening and a little over 3 inches tall. Are they safe to use? I can’t say for sure. The ones I purchased from a local shop, Faddegan’s, are made in Italy and of terra cotta.
Warm spot to rise: This is how to create a slightly warm spot for your bread to rise: Turn the oven on at any temperature (350ºF or so) for one minute, then turn it off. Note: Do not allow the oven to get up to 300ºF, for example, and then heat at that setting for 1 minute — this will be too hot. Just let the oven preheat for a total of 1 minute — it likely won’t get above 100ºF. The goal is to just create a slightly warm environment for the bread.
- 4 cups (512 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 cups lukewarm water (made by mixing 1 1/2 cups cold water with 1/2 cup boiling water)
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons instant or active-dry yeast
- room temperature butter for greasing the flower pots, plus more, if you wish, for brushing over top
- sea salt for sprinkling
- Mixing the dough: If you are using instant yeast: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, and instant yeast. Add the water. Mix until the flour is absorbed. If you are using active-dry yeast: In a small mixing bowl, dissolve the sugar into the water. Sprinkle the yeast over top. There is no need to stir it up. Let it stand for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the mixture is foamy and/or bubbling just a bit — this step will ensure that the yeast is active. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. When the yeast-water-sugar mixture is foamy, stir it up, and add it to the flour bowl. Mix until the flour is absorbed.
- Cover bowl with a tea towel or plastic wrap and set aside in a warm spot (see notes above) to rise for at least an hour. (In the winter or if you are letting the bread rise in a cool place, it might take as long as two hours to rise.)
- Position an oven rack in the lower third of your oven. Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Grease 6 flowerpots (see notes above) with about a tablespoon of butter each—it is imperative to be generous here. Using two forks, punch down your dough, releasing it from the sides of the bowl, which it will be clinging to. As you release the dough from the sides, pull it towards the center. Then, take your two forks and divide the dough into two equal portions. Use your two forks to break off a third of one of these portions (1/6 of the total amount), and plop it in one of the buttered flowerpots. Repeat until all of the dough has been portioned into the pots—it’s OK if they aren’t evenly portioned out. Place the pots on a rimmed baking sheet.
- Let the dough rise for about 20 to 30 minutes on the countertop near the oven (or near a warm spot) or until it has risen to just below the rim of the pot. Be patient—it may take longer.
- Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375º and make for 15 minutes longer. Remove pan from oven. Brush the loaves with melted butter and sprinkle with sea salt if you wish. Run a knife around the edge of each flowerpot loaf of bread to loosen it from the sides. Turn each one out onto a cooling rack and let cool for 20 minutes or longer. When you’re ready to give the loaf as a gift, return the bread to the pot, wrap a bough around the pot, tuck it in a basket with some more goodies: butter, jam, flowers, etc.