The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Dutch Oven vs Le Cloche

Janetcook's picture

Dutch Oven vs Le Cloche

Can anybody tell me if there is a difference between using a cast iron dutch oven or a Le Cloche ceramic baker to bake bread?

I have read many threads where people use one or the other and it seems to me that they each achieve the same thing though made out of different materials.

Also, I have read that steaming is used primarily for lean doughs but then I have read threads where people steam all which is it?  Lean doughs only or for any dough?

cranbo's picture

Le Cloche and cast iron dutch oven do the same thing: keep heat in and help create a steamy environment. Dutch oven has the advantage of heating up faster. They are interchangeable otherwise.

Steam during baking is used primarily to create a crispy and/or hard crust, and to help promote oven spring. Without steam, you will likely have a more tender crust.


GAPOMA's picture

but I personally prefer the cloche.  Both do a good job of keeping in the steam.  Both give a lot of oven spring to the loaf.  I find that the loaves cooked in the cast iron may have "straighter" sides (depending on loaf size).  They also seem to come out a darker brown as compared to the more "perfectly" browned loaves from the cloche.

With that said, it may be that the cast iron hold the heat better and I need to shorten the bake time by 5 minutes when using the cast iron.  I haven't experimented with this.

Both work.  As does turning over a large bowl on top of a baking stone.

- Greg

Janetcook's picture

Thank you both for your responses.  My hunch was correct.


jcking's picture

enriched (butter, oil, sugsr) or glazed breads don't need the steam, yet I doubt it would hurt.


Janknitz's picture

In comparing La Cloche to a DO, consider that if you're going to preheat the vessel it's a lot easier to get a loaf into the somewhat flatter La Cloche base than to drop it into a deep and screaming hot DO.  

That said, I have learned that you don't need to preheat the base of La Cloche or the DO, although it helps to preheat the lid.  Proof your dough in the pot or the base of the La Cloche, and when it comes time to bake, cover it with the hot lid in the oven.  It works just as well as preheating the bottom--equally wonderful results.  I was worried at first that the temperature shock would be bad for the clay baker (I don't have La Cloche, I have a less expensive terra cotta baker), but it was just fine (phew!).  I bake this way all the time now.  

Or, if you're on a tight budget, a foil roasting pan turned over the dough on the baking stone works great, too (and can accommodate other shapes and sizes) .  But the La Cloche looks a lot prettier!