The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

baking with a "clay pot cooker"

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renpix's picture
renpix

baking with a "clay pot cooker"

Forgive the question if it's already here someplace. I haven't baked fresh bread in 20+ years and crave your indulgence. I'm  housesitting some property for a relative until it is sold and have found an unused, brand new "Rumtorf"' (spelling) clay cooker in the medium size. After reading the instructions ( it says to soak in water for 1/2 hour prior to use and put into a cold oven) for poultry / meat my question is would this be adaptable for baking a loaf  and if anyone has experience with it can you give your insight. Would you still soak it in water? The idea with that is that the steam keeps the meat from drying out. To adapt for bread would you preheat it in the oven dry and then place the raised dough in it? Thanks in advance for your input.--Mary

 

 

Freudenberg's picture
Freudenberg

Hello, Mary,

This is actually my first post since joining "The Fresh Loaf." I have only been baking for about 10 months--I am no expert. I have made some nice, heavy doorstops. But I am doing pretty well now--thanks to my clay baker and the many fine instructions from this site. I learned about clay bakers from the "Breadtopia" site. The moderator there goes into specific instructions, which I have followed with good success. No need to pre-soak. You may place the baker in your oven dry to preheat. If you allow your dough to final rise in the clay baker at room temperature while the oven preheats, I suggest lining the baker with parchment (or other of your choice) or the bread will stick to the baker and damage the final loaf. Be aware, the clay baker will turn very dark after many uses.

Hope this helps,

Harry

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

basic.  DO NOT PREHEAT the oven with or without the clay baker.  ALWAYS soak the top for at least 10 minutes.

I line mine with parchment paper and do the last proof right inside the baker before putting on the top and setting it all into a cold oven.

http://www.romertopfonline.us/How_to_Use_Your_Romertopf_s/1823.htm

Works well every time.

Best,

Anna

 

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

Hi Anna,

I use a similar type roasting pot - not for bread, but for meat, fish and veg. i only soaked it before the very 1st use (that's what the original instructions said. I do however place it into a cold oven every time. Or, well, I sometimes forget and then it goes into a slightly heated oven (but not properly hot). Do you reckon one must soak a clay pot every time? Or would it depend on the make?

UPD oh sorry should've read your comments below...

Claudia71's picture
Claudia71

I use sometimes a clay pott for my bread and what I do is brushing sligltly the bottom with a a bit of oil and then scatter through some breadcrumps, this helps the bread to slide off easily once it is cooled down.

I also  put the loaf in the pott 30/40 minutes before putting it in the oven and  I cover it with a plastic bag. It  helps the dough to settle into the pot and to grow a bit more.

I don't soak mine in my water prior to use but it is a specific one for bread so I'm not sure about yours.

Claudia

 

 

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

clay baker so it gives off steam during baking.  

anna

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

Mary, why is it you want to use the clay pot for baking bread? Is it because of properties of clay, or is it just the best vessel you have at the moment? The reason I'm asking is because these pots should be handled very very carefully, and in my experience, they do need a little TLC before they'll work well. I have a clay pot that's intended for roasting meat, I soaked it in water before 1st use as per instructions but I think that was meant to protect the pot and remove air bubbles, rather than prevent the meat from drying out. It doesn't dry out much anyway, because although breathable, it's still an enclosed space

For the first 8-10 uses, my pot would also give off a strong earthly smell when heated, I didn't find it unpleasant (it's just a clay smell) but my husband did. I'm not sure you want your bread to smell of clay. So you may be better off cooking something fatty in it a few times (fatty foods won't absorb foreign smells as much as bread would) before you use it for bread.

BTW these pots fetch very decent prices on eBay/Amazon, even used ones, I got mine on eBay but it took me aaaaages before I got lucky to get it cheap.

JuRae's picture
JuRae

I use clay Schlemmertopf's and Romertopf's for my sourdough breads - they work amazing!  (I prefer the glazed nature of the schlemmertopf.)  I stumbled across using them for sourdough breads when I came across a website by a man named Joe Jaworski (can't recall the site, sorry).  Anyway, the first time I took the lid off and saw this amazing looking loaf, I knew I conquered the sourdough quest (and I was seriously weeks away from ordering a steam oven).  Two friends now have daughter starters of mine and are baking their own.  I've also tweaked his recipe in order to make sourdough rye and pan de campagna.  Next I'm tweaking it for roasted poblano sourdough.

I'm a fan of them for sourdoughs - they don't do well for non-SD breads.  I do soak both top and bottom when I begin the second rise.  For the final rise of the shaped loaf in the bottom piece, I nest it into the inverted lid soaking in dishpan, taking care that the water level isn't too high.

I wish I knew how to post photo's because seeing the results are convincing.

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

other clay bakers.  I use mine as prescribed, i.e. put into a cold oven after soaking the top for 10 minutes.  I also do the last rise inside the bottom in a nest of parchment paper, I prefer that vs. oiling the bottom to avoid sticking.

I take the top off after 10 to 15 minutes of baking to give the bread a chance to brown nicely and get a crunchy crust.

Glad we have another fan !

Best,

Anna

 

JuRae's picture
JuRae

Yes Anna - I am definitely a fan of clay bakers now!  I was seriously wavering between a KitchenAid Steam-Assist oven and a Gaggenau Steam oven primiarly for the purpose of baking breads.  Getting the results I got actually swayed my decision over to two American Range ovens now.

These days, I am taking the lid off at about the 20 minute mark and giving the loaf an additional five minutes to form a skin before taking it out of the oven.  Once it has cooled, I freeze it.  I finish baking the loaf off at the time we need it.  This approach produces a much crispier as opposed to chewier crust right out of the oven - we love it.  Not to mention it gives a fresh-baked loaf in a pinch.  A fan of blanching the loaf!

I have both a Romertopf and a Schlemmertopf.  The Schlemmertopf is smaller and glazed on the bottom, which works better for us.  I don't mind oiling because I sprinkle a bit of cornmeal down so that the crust gets even crispier.  For sourdough rye loaves, I completely sprinkle the shaped loaf in cornmeal before its final rise.  Terrific crispy crust.

Yeah - I'd say I'm a fan ;)

Linda

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

for a crispy crust. I have to try that.  As for the placement of the Römertopf, I have it sitting on a tile on the second thingie from the bottom.

If the dough was quite hydrated, the sides are sometimes too thin, so I take the loaf out of the baker and return it to the oven for an additional 7 or so minutes.

Looks like you saved yourself quite a bit of money :)

Best,

Anna

 

 

JuRae's picture
JuRae

This is the final shaped rise before baking and just before going into the oven.

JuRae's picture
JuRae

This is the loaf when the top lid of the vessel was taken off after 30 minutes in the oven (from a cold start).  At this point, I knew I had a winner of a loaf.

JuRae's picture
JuRae

This is the loaf out of the oven and browned an additional 20 minutes after the lid came off.  I should mention that the vessel started out in the highest point in the oven it could go.  After the lid came off, I raised the rack an additional level.  I'll try the parchment approach next to see if that helps to keep the bottom from browing too much.

JuRae's picture
JuRae

And this is the crumb - it is awesome! 

(Hopefully the photo's have done a good job of illustrating sourdough loaves cooked in a clay vessel)

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

perfectly !!

 

carefreebaker's picture
carefreebaker

That's how I've been baking Jim Lahey's no knead bread  and Artisian Bread in 5 Minutes a Day for the past year. I put the 2 pieces of my Romertopf on the rack of a cold oven and heat the clay baker while I preheat the oven (25 minutes at 450 degrees). I line a oval wicker basket (purchased for $1.00 at Goodwill) with parchment paper. I lift the parchment paper into the clay baker, put the lid on and bake for 40 minutes and remove the lid and bake another 10 minutes.

I've read not to put a cold clay baker into a hot oven. I have 2 clay bakers so I can bake 2 loaves at a time. I bought one at Goodwill and the other at a local thrift shop.