The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Clay pot cooking

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knit1bake1's picture
knit1bake1

Clay pot cooking

Hi. I'm a new member. I've read previous posts on using clay pots, but thought I'd ask for the most recent advice. I've been making hearth breads using a thick pizza stone, and introducing steam via a preheated cast iron skillet and ice (Rose Levy Beranbaum's method). I keep reading that a cloche makes superior bread, and I already have a large Romertopf that was previously unused. Per instructions regarding the clay pot, I made my last batch letting the dough rise in the bottom half of the pot, then soaked the top half prior to putting it in a cold oven. The results were OK, but I thought they were not as good as with the stone/steam method.  Would it be better to preheat both the bottom and top to 425 or 450, let the dough rise in a different container (possibly my smaller clay pot), and then transfer the dough to the hot clay pot (no soaking involved)?

 I can see how the cold start would be great for the summer, but since it's still cold, if the preheating will give better results, I'd like to do that.

 Or, should I forget about the clay pot altogether, and experiment with dutch ovens?

 Thanks, Beth

 

qahtan's picture
qahtan

 I have and do bake in clay pots. 1 is a very large round flower pot I use on a pizza stone, the other is a La Cloche, instructions with La Cloche say NOTHING about soaking the pot. I treat both the same way.......

 I know and soak my  Romertopf for roasting /cooking dinner, but don't do that much now as I prefer to convect roast......    

 qahtan

One of the earliest ways to bake bread was underneath a curved cover or cooking pot placed over an open hearth. This is such a cooking bell made from hard-fired clay that nests on a lipped baking stone 10" in diameter. Place your bread dough on the pie-shaped base, cover it with the bell, then put it in a preheated oven. A 2-pound loaf fits under the 8 1/2" high dome. The lid traps moisture escaping from the bread to create the steam needed to produce a light, brittle crust. During the last few minutes, remove the cover to lightly brown the crust.

buns of steel's picture
buns of steel

I have a cloche, the oblong one for "french" bread, as sold by KAF...

 

The book The Bread Builders, which is a great book about breads baked in masonry ovens, claims that you can get top results by using a cloche (they say almost as good as a wood fired masonry oven) in this fashion:  you preheat top and bottom in the oven, put loaf in heated base, cover with heated lid, no extra measures to add steam are required as it will trap the steam from the bread.  So no soaking, but pre-heating to high temperatures important.  The top is removed accordingly later in the baking period to brown off the top to even out with the bottom as required.

 

I would say definitely do as you asked, proof in a separate container, then add to preheated cloche and preheated oven when ready to bake.

 

 

qahtan's picture
qahtan

 But if you are going to do as they say heat the top and bottom of the clay baker , then put in your dough which is should be ready to bake or why heat your baker, actually putting your dough onto the hot baker is going to be a major problem, your dough will deflate with your handling it, plus you will will most likely give yourself a nasty burn. 

 Agree the steam from the bread dough is enough to give a good crust.

 I put my dough to rise, at it's leasure in/on the base, leave it on the counter, when  risen and ready to bake, place lid over dough, place in hot oven etc.....qahtan

knit1bake1's picture
knit1bake1

Thanks for advice. At this point I will not be purchasing a cloche, that's why I want to see if I can get the Romertopf to work better. I plan to let the dough rise (perhaps in the smaller Romertopf I have), in a parchment paper sling, and I will transport that to the preheated big Romertopf in the oven. The worst case scenario is that the clay pot breaks. Then I would have room to buy and store a Cloche.

 Also, should I place the Romertopf on a rack or on my big pizza stone. I was thinking of placing it on the stone.

 

Beth

 

 

RFMonaco's picture
RFMonaco

I would be hesitant about putting dough in a pre-heated Romertopf having read that they MAY be prone to crack. Most, if not all of their recipes call for starting in a cold oven.

qahtan's picture
qahtan

Heres a cheap workable cloche, to put your dough in to rise, cover and place in

preheated oven, qahtan

buns of steel's picture
buns of steel

1) qahtan, that is a very cool cloche, and not $50 like the others can be :)

 

QUOTE "actually putting your dough onto the hot baker is going to be a major problem, your dough will deflate with your handling it, plus you will will most likely give yourself a nasty burn"

 

not true if done properly -- they recommend tipping it out of your banneton or proofing basket right into the hot cloche (sprinkle some meal into the bottom of the cloche first).  Shouldn't be much more deflating in a loaf that's not over-proofed than flipping it out onto your peel.  You slash quickly if desired, then put the hot top on and bake.  As for the "nasty burn," there is a danger for sure, I use serious bakers oven gloves that go up to my elbow, highly recommended even if not using a cloche with how high we heat our ovens.

 

The downside I worry most is to crack the cloche with a shock from hot to cold.  I think that's the most dangerous with liquids, but I don't think this method is risk free.  Though The Bread Builders describes the results as "breathtaking."  They also say you can use the cloche at room temperature flipping a proofed loaf into it, or proofing in the cloche, then cover and put in a 500 degree oven.

 

Whatever floats your boat.

 

knit1bake1's picture
knit1bake1

My latest idea is to proof the dough on a parchment sling in my smaller Romertopf, have the larger Romertopf preheating in the oven on top of the pizza stone. When the dough is ready I'll take the romertopf out for a minute, put the dough on the pizza stone, then cover it with the top of the Romertopf. I've read that the bottom part of the Cloche often breaks anyway, so people put the bread on a pizza stone and then cover it with the bell-shaped part. any objections?

 

Beth

 

 

qahtan's picture
qahtan

  As you say what ever floats your boat,,,,,

 This is how I do it, and it works for me,,,,,,,

 I will be interested to see how your idea works,, :-)))) qahtan

jkm's picture
jkm

  My clay pot broke, I get great results with my  covered cast iron pan, I do the final rise in the pan, (coat the inside with crisco). the bread gets a great oven spring inside the pan/roaster.

I do not preheat the pan, just slide into a hot oven.  Give it a try.

 

qahtan's picture
qahtan

 

 I think , but not sure, but the idea of using a clay pot/cloche/cover is so that the steam goes back into the bread to give it the wonderful crust.

 it really isn't much to do with oven spring as you would get that anyway,,

 ;-))))qahtan 

arlenecruises's picture
arlenecruises

Wow, I love this forum.  I just joined, my first comment.  Have baked thousands of loaves of bread, some very good and  some not so good.  Been trying to get San Francisco type bread crust on sour dough for decades.  Can I use a clay tile with a large flower pot "cloche" over it to do it the cheap way.


What is your favorite or best recommended bread cook book?  I have the Village Baker-but I sure do love pictures.


 


 

Papist's picture
Papist

If I understand my instructions correctly I have to soak my pot in cold water before each use.  Is this true?  Seems like a ton of work.  

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

that the top is to be soaked for 10 minutes and that the pot be inserted into a cold oven.

I have done this for a few years and have wonderful results. After the pot sits in the oven I heat it to 465F and after the oven has reached that temperature I remove the top after 10 minutes and turn down the oven to 425F.

Best,

Anna

 

abbygirl's picture
abbygirl

My best sourdough breads have come from using the Romertoph. I preheat top and bottom at 500 degrees and transfer bread that was rising on parchment in another vessel. Transfer is easy. I leave the top on for 15-20 min then uncover with great oven spring and a lovely crumb. Found my Romertoph at an estate sale for 10 bucks..

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

with my,new to me, Romertoph 109 found at Goodwill, is that we have a water softener and RO water in the house.  So inside no easy way to soak the pot.  So I have to go outside with a 5 gal bucket and fill it with the hose used to water plants and lug it back in to soak the pot for 10 minutes.  Makes good bread but not better than any other DO type pot in my book.

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

What is RO water ?  We have a water softener and wash and soak and cook with it, why would soaking a Römertopf lid in this water not work ?  (You only soak the lid, btw.)  Oh and what is a DO-type pot ?  

anna

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I'm wondering too...  I just set both ceramic halves in the sink and pour water over them until they are both holding water.  Give them a little top off after a few minutes and then turn them over to drip after 10 minutes.    Butter and lay in the dough to proof.  Then place the whole thing in the cold oven and turn on the heat, fan at 250°C  until it reaches temp, then turn down to 220°C  and ev 200°C to finish the bake.

The theory is that the wet ceramic heats more evenly (no hot spots) and gives off steam inside the chamber for a good amount of time.  Especially works well in a gas oven.  It is good to let the forms dry out well before putting them away.  I leave them on a rack for a day or two.

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

I got one of my topfs from Germany and the instructions inside said to only soak the lid.  But I like your way. I shall try it.  

Thanks,

anna

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

white clay, glazed on the inside and not the outside.  The lids are glazed on inside and outside with a small hole to let out steam.  The lower pots are soaked in water first before placed on heat.  I tried it a few times and switched to the darker woks for more crust color.

My orange colored clay bread baker is not glazed at all.  

Anna, I would play safe and stick to the manufacturer's suggestion.

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

do you have a large kitchen to do them all justice ? When you mentioned the Chinese white glazed ones, steamed dumplings immediately came to mind, hmmm, I would love some right now.  

Good advice re the clay bakers. I will stick with the suggestions from the manufacturer :)

Best,

anna