The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

COVERED CLAY POT

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Janice Boger's picture
Janice Boger

COVERED CLAY POT

I bought a covered clay pot at Goodwill.  I want to use it correctly.  As I read online it says the pot must go into a COLD  oven.  I like to preheat the oven as you do with dutch oven cookery so you get a good "oven spring".  How do you do this with a clay pot?

carluke's picture
carluke

Hi Janice,
You will get lots of, perhaps, differing advice here, but this is what I do:
I soak my clay pot (top and bottom) in water for about 30 minutes before I am going to preheat. When I am ready to turn on the oven, I tip the water out of the pot and lid, dry them off a bit, put the top onto the pot, and put it into the oven. I then preheat, with the covered pot, for about 30 minutes.
When the preheat time is completed, I take the covered pot out (carefully!), take off the lid, place my dough in, slash the dough, put the lid back on and place back in the oven.
After 30 minutes, I take the lid off and continue baking for about another 10 minutes.
Hope this helps,
Janice!

Janice Boger's picture
Janice Boger

thanks so much for the hint.  I don't have much to lose, I will give it a try.


 


Jan

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Janice I must disagree with the advice to soak the clay pot. Here is a well known web site that has been on the front line of the No Knead Bread method. Eric sells and has many videos where he shows and talks about using a clay or ceramic cooker. He pre heats the cooker first and loads the dough then covers it. That's the way I have always used my cooker and never had a problem.


Eric

Janice Boger's picture
Janice Boger

Eric:


 


I don't want to belabor the point, just want to make a perfect loaf of bread.  Do you use parchment to lift your bread into the pot?  Or how do you do it?  


As I read your article, you don't soak the clay pot at all, just put the risen dough in and cook.  Sounds pretty easy.


 


thanks.    Jan 


 


 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Jan,


I do leave a cut out round of parchment in the bottom but it is so well seasoned that it's probably not necessary if you dust well with bran or some rough flour product. You don't want to put the dough in with out some anti sticking plan.


Eric

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

There is really no need to soak the clay baker.  There is plenty of moisture in the bread to provide the needed steam.  If you are particularly worried, lightly mist the dough right before baking. Be sure no cold water gets on hot clay or you will have an explosion!


I do a hybrid of preheating the clay baker suggested by Rose Levy Beranbaum in the Bread Bible.  It's the easiest and safest way to use the clay baker and IMHO produces superior results:


1)  Put the LID in the oven and preheat it.


2)  Put the raw dough in the UNHEATED base.   You can do the final proof in there if you want.   (If you do something like misting the dough as I mentioned above, make ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that there are no drops of water on the rim that will touch the hot lid!).  I like a piece of parchment cut to fit the base under the dough, to make it easier to remove the finished bread. 


3)  When it's time to bake CAREFULLY place the hot lid on the unheated base and bake for 1/2 of the total baking time.  Then remove the lid and continue baking until your bread is done. 


I think you will be pleased with the results--crisp, crackly crust and amazing oven spring.  Enjoy your thrifty find!

Islandlakebaker's picture
Islandlakebaker

UPS just delivered my Cloche, (covered clay pot), yesterday!  I have ciabatta proofing in front of the fireplace right now.  Here are their instruction in a nut shell:


Avoid exposing your cloche to sudden temerature changes, may cause thermal shock.  Bring the cloche and the oven up to temperature together for best oven spring and crust development, (no pre soaking, the dough privides all the moisture you will need).  Preheating the cloche prior to placing the dough inside eliminates any need to season, (grease) the cloche.  Your dough will not stick in a preheated cloche. When removing the cloche from the oven put on a stove top burner or cooling rack rather than a cold counter top.  Avoid spilling any liquids on a hot cloche, Do not mist the bread while in the cloche.  Do not place very cold or frozen items in a hot cloche as it may cause thermal shock and crack it, (or worse KABOOM!!! My words LOL).  If you use your cloche only for baking bread, there is no reason to wash it.  If you do, never use soap as the clay will absorb it.  Use only water and a scouring pad if necessary!


Using mine for the first time in about 45 minutes!!!


Greg


 

bobkay1022's picture
bobkay1022

Hi Greg


  Good post. I have one about 4 months old. Have done 2-3 ways. Only problem especially with a sloppy Cibatta is be care ful you do not burn your hands.


I find u can use a piece of parchmant paper and do not worry about the burnt hands. Parchment is cheap. I take my cover off last 10-minutes or so if I want a crisp crust.  I have done 3-4 kinds of bread .   I would if cold as I think you said spray with pam or what ever. My first sour dough stuck and ruined 1/2 of the bottom of the loaf when I tried to get it out.  Every thing is a leaqrning experience I find. The clay pots certainly open a lot of baking ideas.  I have enjoyed the bannetons and the nice looks of the loaf when done and so easy to use a small one in a clay baker .


Bob


www.siemann.us


 

Islandlakebaker's picture
Islandlakebaker

Hey Bob!


Just took the ciabatta out of the oven.  Looks great but too hot to cut into.  Like you, I took the cover off for the last 10 minutes.  The bread came out of the cloche with no problems.  I was thinking about doing my sourdough in it and will take your suggestion of the parchment.  Since the sourdough does not have the hydration of the ciabatta there will be less steam and maybe more sticking!


After preheating the cloche I took one out at a time and transfered the ciabatta from the lined proofing baskets, (just a couple of wicker baskets I got from Pier One and some extra large pastry clothes I already had), and transfered the ciabatta to the base of the cloche.  I just about picked up the cover with my bare hands!!!  I problably will get a burn or two before I get use to the routine!  LOL


Thinking about how to use for other bread recipes as well.  Like the idea of clay pot cooking.  The only thing I did not like is my house did not smell of baking bread until I took the covers off!  I must have a good seal on the cloches.


Thx,


Greg

bobkay1022's picture
bobkay1022

Hi G  Always nice feeling to think that you had little input and it worked.  Not always that lucky.  If you let the bread cool before you cut into it I think you will enjoy a better crumb and also a better taste.  I cut mine about 2-3 inches wide and then slice in the middle. Ohhh so good for a sandwich.


Nice for toast also. My K dips it in a good olive oil and ground pepper with a touch of red vinegar. She is 1/2 italian and loved it that way.  I do in a restuarant as I do not have to bake it.


I started my cloche cold with the SD. Next time I will spray with oil. I have 2 proofing now but in a bread pan. The recipe come from.


http://www.sourdoughhome.com/


He is a master. Nice thing he will always email you back with in reason if you have a question. I am going there hopefully in June for 2 weeks and will see how the masters do it. lol.


Good luck. Let me know how you make out G.


Bob


www.siemann.us


 

Islandlakebaker's picture
Islandlakebaker

Hey Bob & K.


Are you baking your bread in your oven on wheels like deplicted on your site?!!?  Wanted to thank you for the link for the traveling Catholic as well.  Have booked marked.  Find myself away from my parish looking in the phone book for a place to have my Sunday Bread...


Thx,


Greg

bobkay1022's picture
bobkay1022

Hi G


No not any more. The micr.convection in the coach will not do good bread. I just put a new stove in my cassita not shown on the link where I park the coach.  I had it set up 3-4 days ago for some guest for dinner. we just use it to entertain with.  When it was built you could not have a stove or sink. One in it is 2 burner ac but no oven. The room nect to it has the stove and a w/e. Works ok for us. Glad you enjoyed my web page.


Bob


www.siemann.us/699

rftsr's picture
rftsr

RE the Rose method above. After putting the hot lid on the room temp cooker with dough do you put it right back in the hot oven? I'm afraid the bottom would shatter from the shock of putting in into a hot oven. Method sounds great but I'm a-scared!

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

Actually, two things scared me:  1)  dropping the dough into a screaming hot clay baker base (somewhere, if you do a search, you will find a description of my "butt crack" bread--it's hard to get the dough positioned and the parchment paper wrinkles and folds on me) and 2)  exploding the clay baker if I tried the "Rose method". 


One day I just decided to go for the Rose method anyway, because I had a very soft dough rising in a banneton and I knew it wasn't going to survive the transfer to a hot clay baker base.  My clay baker is not a Sassafrass Le Cloche--it is a less expensive clay baker.  The lid is more shallow than La Cloche and the base is deeper, making placement of the dough tricky in the oven.  There is about a 3" drop into the base.  My base is also pretty thick clay and it's glazed, but I don't think that makes a difference because RLB describes this method using a Sassafrass La Cloche. 


The "Rose" method worked perfectly, and--IMHO--actually has the best results of all methods I've tried.    I've used that method ever since without a single problem.  No more dropping cold dough in a screaming hot base.


And here's how to do it safely.  I do not want to take the hot lid out of the oven and put it down somewhere, because contact with a cold or wet surface could be a problem.  I pull out the oven shelf, lay the lid on the open oven door, place the unheated base and dough on the shelf and then cover it with the hot lid. 

rftsr's picture
rftsr

Now I know how to use my new, well used re Ebay, clay pot cooker when it arrives next week. Sounds like the perfect plan to get a great rise and crust on my sourdough loaves with risking the clay cracking. Well, I know there's always a risk of that but I'm will to take it in order to get some super crusty, open holed bread...the holey part being what's eluded me so far in my sourdough adventures.


Cheers!


 

Islandlakebaker's picture
Islandlakebaker

Both the top and bottom are put into the oven at time you preheat.  Once all came to temp (450 degrees), I removed both the cover and base and placed on top of my stove, (I have a smooth top).  Took the cover off and placed the dough in the base, replaced the cover and transfered all back into the oven for baking.


Just cut into the ciabatta... by far the best bread I ever made!!!  Yummy!  Perfect crust and crumb, filled with airy holes as it should be!!!


Greg

Broc's picture
Broc

Dear Folks --


I'm not the most knowledgeable baker in the world -- to be sure!  But I've been using cloches now for about three years, and bake for family, small groups and large bashes [like, 900 people]... almost always using the Sassafras cloches.


Gunness -- but these things produce outstanding results!


There's no need to oil, or put anything into the bottom of a pre-heated cloche.  Once the cloche gets heated to 420F or more, dough ain't gonna stickl  If it has "verstucken" in the past [do you like my German- :) ], it's because the cloche probably wasn't properly pre-heated.


I pre-heat to 450F... 30 minues works, but I like to let the oven really heat up [not just the air, but everything in the oven!] for 45 minutes or so.  I use clay tiles in the oven also, to create as much "thermal mass" as possible.


With or without parchment -- plop the dough into the cloche.  Score it!  Put the lid back on, and into the oven. 


Wait two minutes.  Then...


Reduce the temp to 420F for an additional 12 minutes...


Remove the lid, drop the temp to 390F and bake for an additional 12-ish or so minutes, depending on the amount of dough in the cloche.  Then, remove the cloche and the dough, and turn the dough out onto a rack.  Turn it upside down, and take its temperature.


Maybe you have one of those handy-dandy thermometers which can measure the temp and display the readings on your counter top.  I'm a cheapskate... don't.  Would love to have one.


If the internal temp of the bread is less than 190F, put the bread back into the cloche and back into the oven.  Estimate how much time you need to continue to bake it.


You're looking for an internal temp of at least 195F... to 205F.


Be sure to put your temp probe into the bottom of the bread, so that when it goes back into the oven, you don't have a "steam hole."


I have baked many hundreds of loaves with cloches this way, and have never had dough stick.


About parchment paper -- I was one of Peter Reinhart's testers... and learned to have "faith" in higher hydration doughs... so I usually use parchment paper to transfer the proofed dough into the 450F cloche.  I quickly slice away the extra parchment paper before scoring and putting the lid on.  The only reason I use parchment paper is to make it easy to transfer the high hydration dough.


I proof the dough in anything that works... an empty silverware drawer, sheetrock trays... whatever helps keep the shape of the dough, so that the dough easily fits into the cloche.


For those who are still awake and interested, I also bake on a pizza stone over charcoal -- outside in all weather... no cloche...  Different techniques.


~ Best to All --


~ Broc


 


 


 


 


 

bobkay1022's picture
bobkay1022

Very interesting post.  


 My mistake  on the cloche I put my dough in to proof cold. Big mistake and not what the cloche is designed for.    Not sure if spraying the cloche or clay baker with oil would prevent stcking so I probaly should haved stayed mum on that mistake. 


 I have prrofed in another clay baker for yeast bread. I did spray the inside and it seemed to be ok from  a cool start and I covered it after proofing and before baking.


 


I do use  parchment paper to transfer sticky dough is a good way to go nice idea. I have had great luck with cibatta bread that way. Even Jasons which I think close to cow drop. sooooooo hard to work with but makes good bread.  I think I have a post some where on the resulys here.


I have to get some clay tiles.  I blew my pizza stone I hit it with some spray of cool water when I was spraying a loaf of bread for a crust.  I have been letting the oven get to max 535 and then turning the temp down so that when I open the door I have not lost a lot of heat.    I have to move slow and I am always afraid of ??? touching the hot cloche and getting real burns . 


 For all I say thank you for the information it is nice you took the time to create a good post and your experience I am sure is well spoken


Have a good week end


Bob

Islandlakebaker's picture
Islandlakebaker

Broc,


Thanks for your input!  I try to limit my entertaining to 10 or less... uness it is pot luck!!!  Find myself out of control if it gets bigger!  LOL


I accidently, kind of, did as you do with your temperatures with the La Cloche.  My recipe called to bake at 450F.  On the site here I see some folks will preheat their oven and cloches to 500 then lower to 450 once all is in the oven.  Since this was my first attempt, I chickened out to 475 but forgot to lower it to 450 until about 8 minutes into the bake.  My ciabatta was perfect!  Like you say, just because the air in the oven reaches the set temp, the oven itself problably isn't.  I do find my oven will turn back on quickly after reaching the desired temp even if I have opened the door.


Next time I will preheat longer.  Like Bob above, would you use a cooking spray in the cloche if baking at lower temps?  Would like to do my sourdough in the cloche but it does call for a much cooler oven temp.


Thx Greg

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

Unglazed clay is absorbent, and once you spray it with cooking spray it will NEVER come out.  But there's nasty stuff in cooking sprays that burns and carmelizes and it will really ruin your clay.   I wouldn't use oil either, because that will absorb too.   Use parchment or sprinkle with flour or grains instead. 


I really hate cooking sprays, they ruin baking pans IMHO.  They leave a coating that never comes off, it blackens and makes the pans sticky forever.  For things that do need greasing (baking pans, loaf pans, etc.) I either use butter, oil, or Wilton's Cake RElease-- a brush on oil and flour mixture that works great and leaves NO residue. 

Broc's picture
Broc

Every oven is different -- so what I describe [temps-wise] fits my oven well.


I use tiles to create thermal mass, so when the oven is opened, despite losing hot air, the thermal mass compensates and reheats the oven much more quickly.  Thermal mass will also keep your oven from cycling as often... stabilizes temps.


I initially heated the cloche and oven up to 500+F... and had trouble with the breads becoming too burned.  After months of playing and experimenting, I landed on the 450F to 420F to 390F formula for a nice, Baby-Bear-Juuust-Right bake.


The initial sear [dough to cloche] prevents sticking and sets up the bottom crust, then the lower temps reduce chances of burning and help bake through very evenly.


Now -- as I say that, remember I'm also banking of thermal mass... which I never did in the early days.


When baking outside in a ceramic cooker [Big Green Egg or other] right on a pizza stone, I establish the temp at 400F, and hold it there for the duration of the bake.  A ceramic cooker mimics a wood-fired oven -- heat radiates from all directions... and there's lots of thermal mass.


But there needs to be a heat shield on the bottom, as direct heat from the coals will burn the bread.  I put a "stone" in ["plate-setter"] and suspend the pizza stone 3/4" above that shield...  Works like a charm.


I'm not much into sourdough -- simply because I'm much too lazy to maintain, feed, etc., cultures.  But I have baked sourdough in the cloches and on a pizza stone in the Big Green Egg using the same temp formulas -- to wondrous results.


I do nearly all my breads inside these days.  I only use the outdoor Egg occasionally, just to retain the skills and to prove to nay-sayers that it can be done well.  Years ago, our home lost power and heat for ten days, and I started ceramic cooking over lump as a "survival" technique -- to feed my family in emergencies.


Now -- I do all meats in the Egg, as well as vegetables, stews, yada-yada.  Simply because everything tastes better!  And the aromas drive my neighbors nuts!


But, as I mentioned, breads mostly inside.


Your last question... sprays...  I have never used a cooking spray for anything.  Again -- nothing in the cloche... no cornmeal, etc.  Just dough-on-cloche.


OK -- I've rambled enough!  :)


~ Best --


~ Broc


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

Niashi's picture
Niashi

Hmmmm, see this is the type of info I was looking for. I will certainly give it a try, although I may have screwed up my dough for the second batch (I made a huge batch, cut it to 500g bits and then decided that 1000g would be more suiting), I have 2 500g rounds in the fridge and am afraid I'll ruin it if I combine them for shape before cooking.


 


I use a Romertopf 111 which is unglazed. I tried to find info but I didn't find it, so I ended up putting the cloche, with dough in the oven cold and then cooking from there, also it was soaked. The result was an awesome crust, crumb was a bit moist, the scored areas were slightly uncooked and the dough burnt at the bottom and stuck to the cloche. also I was cooking at 500F, so it sounds like I made several mistakes..


I can't find my parchment paper, urgh.


 


Soo, don't soak.. preheat the cloche empty to 450 for 30 minutes, plop in my sourdough (made with 100% hydration starter), and just go with it basically, right?

Janice Boger's picture
Janice Boger

I have never been able to cook in an unglazed clay pot without a lot of sticking.  I would definitely use a piece of parchment and spray the clay pot.  My luck with unglazed clay was not good.  This is differenct than the Sassafras cloche.  The cloche does not stick.


Good luck.


 


Jan


 

Islandlakebaker's picture
Islandlakebaker

I use the La Cloche by Sassafras that is also completely unglazed.  La Cloche states there is no reason to soak the cloche in water as the dough provides all the moisture you need.  They also state to always preheat the cloche and the oven together.  In other words put the cold cloche in the cold oven then turn on the heat. Some here on TFL say if your recipe calls for baking your bread at 450 degrees, preheat your oven and cloche to 500 degrees as you will loose the 50 degrees taking it out of the oven to transfer your dough.  If you do so, just remember to turn your oven down to 450 once you have all back in!! (Forgot that once)


Since every oven is different, and they truly are, you may need to experiment a bit.  Until I have a new recipe down pat, I use an instant read thermometer to make sure the crumb is cooked thru even if the crust looks right. (take a loaf out, insert the themometer into the bottom of the loaf).  There is a discussion on TFL, do a seach for "Internal Temperatures" as to what you should read for both high hydration doughs and others.  If you do not have a thermometer, you will have to do some trial and error loafs.


Using the hot, unsoaked, cloche, I have never had a loaf stick, not ever.  I do not preheat for 30 minutes, rather once the the oven comes to temperature, I leave in for about another 5 minutes and then transfer my dough into the cloche.  For my oven this works well.


I do not use parchment paper for transfering, I use a well floured pastry cloth, (a heavy all cotton sheet), that I put my dough in for the final proof.  Works well for me.  I have found that high hydration breads like ciabatta and pugliese will sometimes stick to the parchment but not to the floured cloth.  Most sourdoughs are lower hydration than the Italian breads I mentioned so you may not have the sticking issue I just stated.


Sorry for my rambling... sooo, yes do not soak, preheat your cloche, plop in your sourdough and go for it!!!  LOL


You will have success!!!


Greg


 

Janice Boger's picture
Janice Boger

Can you really use a heavy floured cloth instead of parchment?  It is okay to place that inside the cloche?  Would love to save on the cost of parchment.


 


Jan

Islandlakebaker's picture
Islandlakebaker

Jan,


Whether I use parchment or a floured cloth, it is only to transfer the dough from the last proof to the hot cloche.  I never leave parchment paper in the cloche, do not leave a cotton cloth in the cloche... it will burn.  A hot clay cloche should have direct contact with the dough. Since I bake mostly high hydration doughs, it is almost impossible to transfer by hand.  The parchment paper or pastry cloth is only used as a lift, if you will, to move your dough to the cloche without deflating it.


Sorry if I confused...


Greg

Niashi's picture
Niashi

Thanks, I'll definitely go for it.


 


Since my dough is stone cold and it'll just go to waste anyway if it doesn't work out, I'll just try and see what I can get out of the dough in the fridge, but waiting for it to come to room temp to prevent shock.


 

Broc's picture
Broc

Using Peter Reinhart's techniques --



  • remove dough from fridge, cut off amount you need

  • rest for about 15 or so minutes

  • shape into loaf [it'll still be really cold]

  • proof [roughly 1-1/2 hours, depending...]


Then, "drop" it into your hot cloche, score and cover -- into the oven.


I have sometimes just picked up the dough and literally plopped it [like a snake] into the cloche.  I use parchment paper now, simply because it's easier, and I'm so lazy!  :)


Experiment with your oven, and you'll discover what temps work best for you.  I preheat to 450F,  Drop temp to 420F with lid on for 14 minutes.  Remove lid, and bake until done at 395F...


I find that lowering the temp doesn't "burn" the crust... staying at 450 [in my oven] burns the crust.


Most breads I target at 200F... 190F for eggey breads, like Challah.


 


 


 


 

Niashi's picture
Niashi

Wonderful, that's great. Thanks a lot. =.) In the process now!

Thomas Mc's picture
Thomas Mc

Why are you so opposed to using a cold start technique? Just because it is new to you?


Try it, the results might surprise you. Slowly heating up the loaf gives you a lot more oven spring.

Broc's picture
Broc

Thanks for the suggestion.  I have never tried a cold start, though my loaves do not need more oven spring.


I'll try it!


~ Best


~ Broc

Niashi's picture
Niashi

I've actually gone through a few loaves with a cold start and had the results I listed above, but if you read it, you'll see it's totally my fault.