Romertopf Experiment: Cold Start SD Rye
So with my "apartment size" oven there is not much room for the 3 1/2 qt Romertopf Clay Baker. On the middle rack, the lid almost grazes the oven roof — not the greatest for circulation. Any rack lower than that, bottom of baker would heat up to much and toughen/burn the underside of the loaf, even at only 350°F. Obviously not a lot of room for a steam setup either. Not to mention, a PITA to load a proofed loaf into a preheated Romertopf. Solution: Cold start in Romertoph on low oven rack, on top of an insulated half sheet: uniform margin around entire baker. Set oven to 350°F, bake for 1hr with lid on. Remove from baker, leave in oven additional fifteen minutes until browned.
Worked surprisingly well, didn't expect to get that much oven spring or decent size holes. Only little problem, proofing inside the open Romertoph within the oven warmed with a tray of boiled water did not keep the skin hydrated enough: started to dry and form a crust before the loaf had risen enough to bake. Brushed with water but was really too late. Also I obviously did not score deeply enough, the cuts melded back together before the oven spring kicked in. Part of the trouble was also that despite seasoning the Romertopf's lid with peanut oil a dozen times prior to this bake, it never formed a decent vapor seal, allowing too much steam to escape once things got hot in there. Dunno what I can do about this, maybe line the inside of the lid with foil? Afraid though that might negatively effect heat transfer. Maybe there is a better oil for seasoning the terra cotta, perhaps sesame? Anyway, next loaf I try, will remember to keep covered with wrap all during the proof.
Incidentally, this is an ~30% Whole Rye, with minced onion, caraway, dill, fennel, and pickling spice. Mixed in a Braun K1000 and left to rest 15 minutes before shaping, rolling in sesame, and proofing for just one single rise before baking from the cold start. Didn't measure any ingredients too precisely, basically did everything by feel.
Okay, second attempt, baking from a cold start in a Pyrex loaf pan. No lid, so had to tent it with Al foil.
A little better top crust because I kept it in a plastic bag while [over]proofing. Still gotta work on my scoring!
The vessel being Pyrex I could have pre-heated the oven this time, but was interested in seeing how a cold start would play out with the same dough when proofed under the right conditions. Funny though how I managed to over proof this loaf, even though I kept it on a cool window ledge rather than in the warmed oven. Siri, for god's sake will you set the timer!
Oh well, both loaves turned out super delicious. Aromatics and seeds definitely retain the most flavor when baked at moderate temperatures.