The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Christmas Baking and Experiments...

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longhorn's picture
longhorn

Christmas Baking and Experiments...

Well, I finally got to use my new Lodge Combi Cooker... and compared it head to head with my cloches (and tested my steaming too!). I made three breads - Tartine  (my way - with more levain since mine is so mild), my normal sourdough boule, and my take on Eric Kayser's Pain aux Cereales. The three breads are shown in the photograph below in the clockwise order listed from the upper left.



These were actually made from two doughs. The Tartine dough was about 75% hydration and a bit too wet. This loaf was baked in the Combi Cooker on parchment. It is definitely glossier than the other breads suggesting that the Combi Cooker holds humidity better than the cloches or than I get steaming. Unfortunately it is a hair overproofed as I as a bit later getting home from my workout than planned. Still, a nice looking loaf that will taste good. This was the second Tartine loaf baked in the Combi Cooker today. The first was put on semolina and it glued itself to the cooker. It didn't burn but was fairly dark and what a mess. The crumb of the stuck loaf was pretty good though as shown in the photo below. Both loaves baked in the Combi Cooker were started in a cold cooker. Both had bottoms I consider too dark. The sticking was an interesting problem. Parchment worked well but... is a pain IMO. I baked two loaves in the cloche in the same oven and both came out a hair darker but not as glossy. And the bottoms were nicely browned instead of a bit charred. In round one I give the advantage to the cloche but it will take more experiments to make sure it isn't some other variation.



The crumb is coarser than it appears in this photo but was almost certainly affected by sticking to the banneton! My last batch of Tartine was at 72 % hydration and was much more manageable!


The boule to the right is my standard house boule. It is clearly a tad underproofed but has the look I like. It was at 72% hydration and was totally cooperative! It was baked in a cloche heated in a 500 degree oven and set to 450 once the bread was in the cloche. It and the Combi Cooker got 18 minutes closed and 28 minutes uncovered at 450.


The batard in the foreground is the same dough as my boule (but with about three tablespoons of seeds per loaf soaked in water added to the dough at the second folding. The dough is formed to a batard and was baked 12 minutes with steam at 440 F and 20 minutes at 390 with convection. All the loaves showed an internal temperature of 209 F when removed from the oven.


Here is a photo of the Combo Cooker (left) and Cloche (right) boules.



They are pretty similar but the Cloche loaf had slightly greater oven spring and rip.



Now to give them away!


Jay


 


 

Comments

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Great looking loaves!

bill bush's picture
bill bush

Since this post is on using cast iron, I'll give a clue: ALDI grocery store  had  a new flyer out Wednesday, Dec 14, I think, for enameled cast iron 5-quart dutch ovens with lids for $29.99!!!! I got a red one, but the flyer showed blue, too.  There were also rectangular baking dishes, oval dutch ovens (shallower than the round ones), and shallow lidded oval roasters.  Sorry for just dropping this here, but I don't know enough about the site yet to post it more appropriately, so I hope someone will see this and mention it in a more prominent place.  


 


And Jay, those loaves look great!  i have a La Cloche which I have not tried out yet, as I have been using a Lodge chicken fryer (about 3.5 quarts, I think) and getting good results, but the double Lahey recipe I've adapted is touching the lid now whenever I get good oven spring, so I was glad to find the new DO, and will try to post pictures of what I'm getting done.


 

longhorn's picture
longhorn

I have three Cloches (two round, one elongated) and they seem a bit more forgiving than my initial effort with Combi Cookern. The biggest trick with cloches seems to be to get the lid to sit properly - they can easily be canted to the side and leave a gap. That is not a disaster but... Used properly they are really close. The Cloche seems to protect the loaf a bit more from heat (by insulating to some extent) and the DO seems to have a bit more steam/humidity. That said, my cloche loaves somehow showed just a hair more oven spring. They are close IMO and the difference may lie more in fine tuning time/temp than anything else. (But I think it is important to recognize that steam generation can be just as good - just takes more effort to set up the steam rig!)


I look forward to your photos, Bill!


Jay

rayel's picture
rayel

Hi Longhorn, I like your loaves.  Nice job. I have a question that I might have asked someone else, but no answer ensued. My question: Since the cast iron or cloche will take longer to reach bake temp. inside, is it a little a little more difficult to determine the propper proof moment ? My thinking is that the loaf will still be proofing a while longer before the space inside begins to bake, and set the crust. Might that extra proof time be too much? Thanks, Ray

longhorn's picture
longhorn

Hi Ray!


I find that it is better to start a cloche HOT. The proof timing is not that critical for either for the both heat fast enough to begin baking pretty quickly.  The difference is that a cold cloche will never get very hot on the inside so it may benefit from a longer covered period - say 20 to 25 minutes instead of say 15 before uncovering. Once you uncover the bread the oven heat will take over. Cast iron will transfer heat MUCH faster. I would guess it is hot on the inside in five minutes (not to the temp it would be if loaded hot but hot enough that it doesn't make a lot of difference.


I have done cast iron Dutch ovens both ways but it was long ago. I need to do a new experiment before I can compare cold and hot start. I think I favor hot for cast iron also though it certainly makes it harder to load! But I found loading a loaf on parchment by picking it up on a cookie sheet and sliding it onto the cloche/cooker bottom worked well but it would be harder with a true Dutch oven.


Remember... when you put the dough in a hot cloche/cooker and cover it the temp inside the dome will drop significantly as will the temp of the base so. The mass of the cooker will "push" heat into the closed volume but at a rate appropriate to its thermal conductivity. Ceramic transfers heat more slowly than cast iron and has lower heat capacity so hot ceramic heats the loaf more gently than hot cast iron - and probably closer to the rate of oven heating of cold cast iron (and that may well be an argument for loading dough into cold cast iron). 


It isn't like the difference is such that one is a disaster and the other is exceptional. All of the techniques cold/hot, ceramic/cast iron are capable of awesome results but based on my experiment and previous experience, each needs some fine tuning to achieve its best results.


Hope that helps!


Jay

rayel's picture
rayel

Thanks Jay, your answers are thorough, and I can see the advantages of starting a cloche hot. I missed that in your first post.


My friend transfers the loaf to a hot dutch oven by picking up  four corners of nonstick aluminum foil, which the loaf had been proofing on, and lowering it into the pot. This seems to work well for him.


I understand the drop in temp. inside the cooker, or cloche, but am surprised at the difference in recovery from one material to the other. You're saying the ceramic is gentler because it heats the loaf slower than cast iron, seems counter intuitive, given each enclosure was the same temp going in.


Ah yes, the fine tuning is where it is at. You mentioned in your earlier post that you thoughht the cast iron seemed to capture steam better,(not in those words) and I'm wondering if the porosity of the clay plays as much a part as the occasional misfitting of the lid. Just a thought. Thanks again for your response. Ray

longhorn's picture
longhorn

Hi Ray!


Imagine heating a cast iron skillet and a piece of aluminum both to 600 degrees F and putting a steak on each. The skillet would sear the steak and probably cook it thoroughly (on one side) before cooling down excessively. The aluminum foil would probably not affect the steak at all - it would still be red or near red. It is not so much about temperature itself but the ability to transmit heat to the steak (or dough). Cast iron wins (delivers heat faster) over ceramics because it holds more heat (heat capacity) and will transmit heat from the outside (heat conductivity). While the cloche is made from a ceramic that is pretty dense and conducts heat faster than some ceramics, it is worth noting that ceramics are relative to metal insulating - i.e. slow the rate of heat transmission from the outside to the inside (or through the ceramic). That gives the cloche a different temperature profile than a cast iron Dutch oven. If the cloche were made out of the tiles used to insulate the space shuttle it would probably take hours to bake bread.


The differences in result are, I think, more subtle than the material characteristics might seem to suggest. And it isn't that one is necessarily clearly better than the other - more that they are different and therefore benefit from different details of time and temp in the oven.


A second mind experiment that may help would be to envision putting a blowtorch flame against both a cloche and a cast iron pan. Which one would you feel safer touching on the side away from the flame after say 30 seconds??? I suspect you would rather touch the ceramic cloche over the cast iron pan?????


WRT loading the Dutch oven, I think the big advantage of a Combo Cooker is the shallowness of its lid/inverted base which allows easy placing of dough on parchment in the cooker. Real Dutch ovens are much more troublesome due to their depth. The aluminum foil idea sounds like a good solution though it could easily affect the aesthetics of the loaf. 


Thanks!
Jay


 

rayel's picture
rayel

Hi Jay, great analogy. I think I get it. Whether it is density or some other property, I can see now there is a difference in a sustaining heat transfer between materials. I am learning a lot today. I can no longer say, it aint rocket science. A little joke. Wow, it turns out that what I don't know, is staggering. It is always good to know what you don't know. Thanks so much for taking the time to explain.  Ray

longhorn's picture
longhorn

A lot of chemical engineering is about heat transfer so as one I tend to at least think I understsnd that side of the problem. 


While some clever analogies can help demystify the topic it remains challenging until you deal with it a while so don't expect it so suddenly become clear!


It definitely isn't rocket science...but it isn't straightforwardly simple so....


My observations about the cloche and Dutch ovens are informed by a combination of observation of what happens in the various ovens in combination with what I know about materials. But...what I find right for me may not be right for everyone. I like dark, hard finished bread like the country loaf sold at Tartine so I tend to bake hotter and longer than someone who wants a thin, light golden crust. We might arrive at very different interpretation as to which is the better baking container and the proper time and temp.


My net conclusion is that the cast iron Combo Cooker is a bit of a hot rod compared to the cloche - with a much touchier throttle (i.e. more sensitive to oven temp) and requiring tighter controls - with the cloche being more like a family sedan, a bit more easy going and under control. Both will get you there but one demands more attention!


Thanks!


Jay

Breadandwine's picture
Breadandwine


Fascinating thread, guys!


And to think I only clicked on it because I was looking for 'Festive-type' breads – stollens, etc!


My interest comes from the fact that I also use the ‘cloche method’ to bake most of my bread. Only I use a heavy sheet-iron baking sheet and a stainless steel roasting dish.


Since I’m the only one who eats my bread, I make a batch of rolls, huddled together to make a loaf, break them apart when cooled and freeze them.


Here’s the method on my blog:


http://nobreadisanisland.blogspot.com/2010/04/cloche-method-undercover-bread.html


As you can see I’m after a completely different bread to the one you guys make – impressive though they undoubtedly are – it’s just not for me.


I use the ‘undercover’ method for any bread that will fit under the roasting dish – Chelsea buns, Christmas loaves, etc. And only yesterday I used it for a chocolate and banana loaf.


(Loved your little joke, Ray!)


Best wishes, Paul 


 

longhorn's picture
longhorn

I like your cloche rolls a lot! Good idea! I don't do sweet breads or pastries but I may copy your cloche rolls! Another alternative to an epi!


Your iron sheet/metal bowl is more like cast iron than ceramics and transmits heat easily and rapidly but it doesn't have the mass of the cast iron oven to heat up to get to baking temp so starting "cold" is even less of an issue. The rapid heat transfer tends to encourage a cooler oven and at 220C (428F) you are a bit cooler than my normal baking range.


As bakers I think it is important that we should feel free do our own thing! It makes for diversity and hones personal values. Love It!


Thanks!
Jay

Breadandwine's picture
Breadandwine

Thanks. I had the baking sheet made by a local blacksmith to fit my oven shelf. So much space is wasted with conventional oven trays.


I generally let the bread prove covered with the roasting dish - but sometimes I heat the tray up first. Doesn't seem to make any difference.


Completely agree about doing your own thing. I tell my students 'Whatever works for you!'


I used to think there was only one way to make bread. Now I know there's a myriad! And I'm still learning - after 36 years!


Cheers, Paul

highmtnpam's picture
highmtnpam

for posting your results.  


Pam