In my home, the Easter basket can be eaten because we make it out of bread. Children enjoy helping with my Easter basket projects.
How you do this is to prepare your favorite homemade bread dough recipe in a proofing basket or bread machine. I have used all kinds of different bread dough recipes over the years, and all seem to work out just fine. Get your dough to the point where you would normally put it in the oven and instead punch it down one more time into a large mixing bowl.
Grease the outside bottom and sides of your medium sized oven-proof stainless steel mixing bowl, or other oven compatible round container. This will be your Easter Basket base mold. Place your greased upside-down oven safe bowl onto a lightly greased cookie sheet. Next, grab a very large handful of your raw bread dough out of the bowl and set it aside.
Now, use your imagination or let your child use their imagination, and pretend that your bowl of raw bread dough is actually a big bowl of Play Doh, and go to work making ropes or other fancy shapes to decorate your upside-down base mold. Remember that this mold is upside down, and that you must put decorations on so that they will be seen in the right direction when the basket base is sitting on the table on Easter morning.
Making a series of ropes piled on top of each other going up the sides of the greased bowl will give the illusion of a woven basket. For a fancier woven basket look, you can lay bread dough ropes in a star-burst pattern on the bowls bottom and weave other ropes between the spokes to act like a real basket.
If you choose, you can cover your bowl with a 1″ thick slab of rolled bread dough so that you have a flat surface to put other decorations on. Cookie cutters will work on bread dough if you push really hard and wiggle until the shape is alone away from all attaching bread dough.
While attaching shapes to your basket base, remember that small bread pieces cook faster than big bread pieces. This means that anything sticking out has a chance of burning. You will need to watch the bread while it is in your oven closely and if you see it starting to burn you will need to quickly create a way to cover that spot with aluminum foil.
I use toothpicks, but you may have a better idea than mine that leaves hole marks.
After you have your Easter Basket base decorated, you will want to brush it with a mixture of 1 egg whipped into 3 tablespoons of water. This mixture is brushed on, or smoothed on with the fingers, and acts to make your finished product shiny on the outside.
Cook your base in an oven heated to 350 degrees until the bread on the top is a pretty golden brown and it makes a done-bread sound when you tap on it with your finger-nail If you don’t make bread often, and do not know what this sound is, don’t worry about it. Pull your basket out when it is a pretty color of brown. If you boo-boo, you’ll know soon enough and can put it back into the oven for a few more minutes.
When your bread base comes out of the oven, let it cool on the bowl until it is safe for you to handle it with your bare hands. Then, remove the bowl from your bread and add a new coating of grease to the bowl.
Take the set-aside dough and roll it into three ropes long enough to lay across the bowl. Braid these ropes together to make your handle. Or, you can make a plain handle by using all of the dough rolled into one long log. Put the handle across your greased bowl that you just made your bread in and smash the ends touching the cookie sheet into a wide flat area.
Brush your handle with the egg water mixture and bake until it is the same shade of golden brown as your basket. Handles bake rather quickly; you will need to keep an eye on it while it is in the oven. To attach your finished handle to your basket, use a few toothpicks on each side.
This baking craft idea is lots of fun for children of all ages. Even grumpy old Dads seem to enjoy playing with your pile of bread Play-Doh while you are working. After you have made a couple of baskets, ideas come very quickly on how to make stunning creations that will super-impress family or friends at an Easter gathering or church function.
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