The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Help with design of earthenware baker ( römertopf, la cloche, dutch oven etc. )

olaugeb's picture

Help with design of earthenware baker ( römertopf, la cloche, dutch oven etc. )

Hey there,

I'm a ceramic student who have chosen one of his favorite hobbies to make a project out of. Baking.

I've had enormous success with an old Römertopf I bought used, both for doing stews but especially baking.
The old Römertopf had some shortcomings though, it was really big, necessitating a rather large bread, or a half used space which is an energy waste I rarely tolerate.
I accidentally broke the lid by putting it on a wet tablecloth, thermal shock of the right kind will make it crack :s

Now I'm in the happy position that my school actually allows me to do a design for the home and I've chosen to do my own closed baking form.
I've decided on earthenware because It's supposedly less prone to cracking from thermal shock. Also to not glaze it as there doesn't 't seem be any point in doing so.
I could do stoneware or porcelain glazed but so far I've seen no evidence as to why that would be preferable. I would get a denser vitrified ceramic body out of it and have a hell of a time getting a glaze that really fitted the claybody just right. But if somebody know something I don't I'd happily hear about it.

I'm intending the baker to be slimmer and longer so that I might place 3 or 4 in the oven at the same time, side by side. I also don't want to make it as high, max 15cm. I'm inclined to make the top and bottom meet at the middle in order for the bread to be easier to get out and to support a more wet dough.

But I'm really keen to know what you people who usually use such a closed form have to say.
What you think would be better about the type you use, what bugs you, and so on.

Warm greetings from the Baltic sea.





AnnaInMD's picture

make sure your creation has a very good handle on the top, something that can easily be grabbed with thick gloves.

Sounds like a fun endeavor. Wish you much success !


olaugeb's picture

I've thought about those top handles and I figured it would be okay to lift the lid from the ends using two hands.My rationale behind this was that either the top handle would stick up and encumber stacking and cleaning or it would have to encroach on the inner space like this:

Römertopf with inset top handle


Do you have any preference either way?

Thanks for the help ;)

AnnaInMD's picture

as in the picture, are ok but with really thick oven gloves they could be a bit more pronounced and a nice handle on top would be wonderful. For stacking purposes, the top could be inverted so that the protruding handle is on the inside. Your idea of handles on the side is very good, but most bakers (imo) would not use both hands just to remove the top. I hope some other members chime in and help you design the perfect baker :)

Best wishes !


olaugeb's picture

I understand, that is a perfectly good idea with the recessed handle, that I havent seen in the clay as yet. I think I will make different versions and try it all in reality. Thanks.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I have tried several clay bakers and casseroles and I would like a pot from the bread's point of view.  I have a:

Which turns out interesting looking loaves.  Note the top and bottom look almost identical and the loaf is easy to remove.  The seam is not a problem in baking and the clay body is unglazed.  There is a nice flange on the rim of the pots to keep them in their places in the oven.  I use two mitts to remove top or whole pot when it's hot.  That said, I'm not so keen on the shape of the loaf, the form looks neat, the loaf  >eh<. 

So....  Here are my thoughts on the subject.  Plan a loaf first, how it should look, what shape it should have.   Then make the form to go with it.  

It would not be too hard to make a clay loaf (add a good 20% increase in size to it) and make a form over the loaf.  Using ceramics, you could come up with a unique shape or a classic.  It could be round, triangular, celebrational, retangular, rounded bottom, square bottomed or have relief inside.  It could have a family crest or a blessing.  It could even be shaped like the star ship Enterprise. (A typical UFO is easily achieved on a stone or in a wok.)   Don't forget to think about how the bread might possibly be cut, torn and eaten.  A shape that might be fun would make dough bowls or dishes for putting other food into -- everything edible!  

Then there are the casserole ideas, and the form is more basic, the bread going in has a basic shape and it bakes up the crust doing its own thing and is not molded.  Important to have some head room inside for the expanding loaf.  No air holes and easy to grab top.  I would have any kind of handles on the outside, more like protruding ridges that make it easy to separate the top from the bottom and secure when heavy mitts are used. The darker the clay body the better I think.  You can also coat the clay with an engobe to make the surface tighter or burnish the inside if it should be smooth.  I like a domed top that allows moisture inside to run to the outside edges and down the sides of the form.

I can't think of anything else that stands out in my mind.  I hope I've given you some ideas.  :)