The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Using a Cloche

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Jim Burgin's picture
Jim Burgin

Using a Cloche

Hi, I just bought a cloche (King Arthur Flour) and find many conflicting instructions on the internet and in the best books (Including Reinhart) about how to use it.   Is there any single source of wisdom out there?

1.  To oil the interior of both parts before EACH use, or not.

2.  To preheat the cloche with the oven and THEN put the bread in, or not.

3.  To preheat ONLY the top part, while the dough rises in the bottom part, or not.

4.  To spray the inside of both parts, and the dough, before each use; or not.

5.  To turn the oven up 50 degrees over usual for the recipe; or not.  (This would yield 500 F. whereas the instructions that came with the cloche said it is only safe up to 450F.

6.  To not preheat the cloche with the oven, or not.  (Some say this will cause the cloche to crack when put in the oven.

7.  To remove the top part after baking 15 minutes; or in the last 3-5 minutes.

8.  Some say a cloche produces a thin crackly crust; some say a thick chewy crust.

HELP!   THANKS!  Jim Burgin

 

geoffreypelkey's picture
geoffreypelkey

I use a modified cloche made from two Lodge cast iron pans. When I bake a loaf using them, I make sure the pans have been seasoned according to the instructions and preheated along with the oven at 500. When I put the loaf in, I turn down the temp to 450 and bake for 20 minutes before removing the top pan.

The crust comes out with about a little less than a quarter inch of toughness before crumb is reached.

Jim Burgin's picture
Jim Burgin

Geoffrey,

Thanks much.  This ability to use this site to get good feedback in great!!!

Jim

AZ Chuck's picture
AZ Chuck

Do it any way you think is right and see if you like the way it comes out. Ever baker has there own idea of what is right to get the bread they are looking for. You just have to find yours. I would start off simple, put the dough in the cloche and let it proof. put it in a 450 deg oven. Remove the top after 15 min. Chang one thing at a time to get what you are happy with. Experiment, that is the fun part of baking your own bread. 

Jim Burgin's picture
Jim Burgin

Thanks much!  Good advice. 

Jim

mini_maggie's picture
mini_maggie

Regarding seasoning/oiling and max temp, I would follow the manufacturers instructions, as it may depend on the cloche. 

The only thing you want to avoid doing for sure IMO, if it's clay or ceramic is subjecting it to heat shock - i.e. you don't want to put a cold cloche in a hot oven (or put a hot cloche on a cold surface) as it may crack or explode with sudden temperature change.  So either preheat the cloche with the oven, and then put the dough into the hot cloche, or put the cool cloche and dough in a cold oven, with the cover on and heat both at the same time.  KA suggests this method for some of its no knead recipes, usually with the lid off for a period at the end.  It works, avoids risks of burning yourself, and in my experience will give you a chewier crust than the preheated cloche method. 

The rest of it is all stuff you can do, or not, and just try it the different ways and see what gives results you like. 

Have fun experimenting :-)

Jim Burgin's picture
Jim Burgin

Thanks mini_maggie,

You warn about putting a cold cloche in a hot oven - A couple of times I have seen people recommend putting the top of the cloche in the oven as it preheats, letting the dough rise in the bottom of the cloche at room temperature, then putting bottom in oven and cover with the preheated top.  Does a room temperature bottom of the cloche represent what you call "cold"?   Or not?   Thanks again.

Jane Dough's picture
Jane Dough

I have a bread dome which is basically the same thing.  I don't do anything to it.  i do preheat top and bottom.  Personally I would not proof in the cloche because I think you need the bottom sizzling hot to set the bottom crust.  And once I realized that my proofed bread dough was really quite hardy it became much easier to get it in the cloche without burning myself.  All in all it is a wonderful baking environment. 

Jim Burgin's picture
Jim Burgin

Jane,

Thanks much.  I'm getting a lot of good feedback.

This a great site and facility for dialogue.

Jim

mini_maggie's picture
mini_maggie

I would still consider that a significant heat shock (you're still talking > 400F difference) - obviously the people who describe doing that have gotten away with it, or presumably they wouldn't still be recommending it, but I would not take the chance.  Why risk it when other easy methods are available?   It's already much easier to transfer dough to a flat cloche base with parchment or an improvised peel than to lower it into a hot dutch oven. 

ETA I don't know how this ended up under Jane Dough's post but it's meant to be a response to the OP's question to me above it!

Antilope's picture
Antilope

 


I have a Sassafras Superstone 14.5" Covered Baker.

http://www.amazon.com/Sassafras-SuperStone-Covered-Baker/dp/B00004S1DW/

It uses about 500g of flour to make a torpedo loaf. Steam comes from moisture in the dough and is trapped in the closed baker. I don't spray the dough with water. I oil the baker interior and apply some cornmeal to avoid having the dough stick. The dough will stick without this coating.
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I let the dough rise in the Sassafras Superstone baker and start it in a cold oven to avoid shocking the ceramic baker. The crust turns out nice and crisp.
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Here's a recipe I developed for the Sassafras Superstone baker.
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French Bread in Covered Baker
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Makes one 2-lb loaf. (I used a Sassafras Superstone 14.5" Covered Baker). The sourdough starter is used to add flavor  (like a pâte fermentée), not sour , with the short rise times in this recipe.
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1 1/3 cups - 10.6 oz (300 g) Warm Water
3/4 cup - 7 oz (200 g) Sourdough Starter - 100% hydration, cold from the fridge   (used like a pâte fermentée) 
2 teaspoons - 0.28 oz (8 g) White Granulated Sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons - 0.25 oz (7 g) Instant Yeast, or 1 packet
2 teaspoons - 0.25 oz (7 g) Diastatic Malted Barley Flour 
2 teaspoons - 0.43 oz (12 g) Table Salt
4 cups - 17 oz (450 g) All Purpose Flour and Bread Flour (2 cups of each)
1/3 cup (50 g) White Whole Wheat Flour
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You may have to adjust the water or flour slightly, depending on the hydration of your starter. I bake by weights (grams), so the volume measurements are a close approximation.
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Attach bowl and whisk attachment to Kitchen-aid mixer.
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Add water to mixing bowl.
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Weigh out starter and add to water in mixer bowl.
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Dissolve yeast in water in mixer bowl. Add sugar.
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Mix on Speed 2 for 1 or 2 minutes until well mixed.
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Remove whisk attachment and add dough hook to mixer.
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Mix table salt into dry flour.
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Add flour to mixer bowl. Turn to Speed 2 and mix about 1 minute, or until well blended.
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Knead on Speed 2 about 4 minutes longer. Dough will be slightly sticky, but the dough should not stick to the bowl, to any great extent.
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Let rest 5 minutes.
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Knead on Speed 2 about 2 minutes longer.
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Remove dough from bowl, form dough into a ball and allow to rest on breadboard 10 minutes.
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Perform stretch and fold on dough. Form a ball. Cover with a bowl and allow to rest 10 minutes.
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Perform second stretch and fold on dough. Cover with a bowl and allow to rest 10 minutes.
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Perform third stretch and fold on dough. Let dough rest 5 minutes.
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Coat inside of covered baker (inside top and inside bottom) with cooking oil. Sprinkle bottom with cornmeal.
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Form dough into long loaf, place in covered baker.
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Cover. Let rise in warm place, like an off oven, about 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.
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With sharp knife, make 3 diagonal cuts on top of loaf, 1/4" deep. Replace lid. Place in oven.
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Start in a cold oven. Set temperature at 425°F and bake, covered, for 40 minutes.
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Remove covered baker lid. Bake, uncovered, 10 more minutes (for a total of 50 minutes) or until golden brown and center of loaf reaches 205°F.
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Remove from oven, remove loaf from covered baker and allow to cool before slicing.

Jim Burgin's picture
Jim Burgin

Thanks much,

This is really helpful.  I will try your recipe one day.

Jim

108 breads's picture
108 breads

I preheat my oven with the top of the la cloche on a baking stone. When I use an oblong la cloche - yes, these produce wonderful results and you will not be able to believe you survived without one - I preheat top and bottom. To avoid burning myself, I let the oblong baguette rise on parchment paper and put the dough on the parchment paper into the bottom of the oblong la cloche. I'm a big parchment paper fan and when making a boule I often transfer the dough on the parchment paper to the baking stone.

I've never tried heating the dough in a la cloche starting in a cold oven. Seems worth trying.

Jim Burgin's picture
Jim Burgin

Thanks much 108,

This was helpful.  I am probably going to get the oblong cloche.

Jim

printemps2014's picture
printemps2014

It's in the oven right now with my second loaf of the day. I love it beyond belief. Basic rules I follow:

  • Thin layer of oil on the bottom before each use (after over a year of use I have a nice patina on it, but since I run soapy water over it after each use I still like to refresh it with a layer oil).
  • Preheat in the oven, otherwise putting it in cold could cause it to crack.
  • Don't heat beyond 450 F. That's what I read was the limit when I bought it, so I haven't been brave enough to try 500 F.

I bake 20 to 25 min with the lid on, then another 15 to 20 min with the lid off. Let me know if you have any questions.

Jim Burgin's picture
Jim Burgin

printemps201

Thanks much for your This helps.  Planning to use it again tomorrow.

Best wishes,

Jim

HPoirot's picture
HPoirot

But i would preheat it along with the oven.

If i were to put it in cold, wouldn't the initial heat required for oven spring be sapped by the cold cloche, and (possibly) being a better thermal conductor than your dough, end up affecting your oven spring?

Of course, my logic could be wrong.

 

Salilah's picture
Salilah

I have a La Cloche - about a year and a half old now

Looks pretty messy (!) but does the job

I don't ever oil it - I just empty the odd bits of crumb / burnt flour and reuse.  Typically I heat it (top and bottom) in the oven at maximum temperature (245C or so on the dial), then move the dough in on a sheet of baking parchment (OK get funny edges sometimes but it saves me from burning or the dough from being flattened!)

30mins at max, then take the lid off and turn down to 200C for 15mins (I like a dark bake) - all for a 750g dough

The instructions said bake from cold - not yet done, I really should try this - I just like the spring from the hot Cloche.  PS in the other place, I use a pyrex combo upside down - this gives probably even more steam, I think the Cloche absorbs some? (is that likely?) - and as before, I do top and base hot, then transfer with baking parchment...

HTH

108 breads's picture
108 breads

I noticed a small hairline crack a few days ago. Now it's grown, going up two-thirds of the way up the bell. It's a hairline crack, but I am afraid it will shatter or explode. I preheat it in the oven before putting the dough in. Not sure, perhaps, with a cold winter kitchen, taking the la cloche out of a hot oven and into the cold air was too much. If I get a new one, I don't want it to last only a couple of years.

Advice or comments?

nmygarden's picture
nmygarden

Sounds like what happened to the base of mine... Had used it many times preheated with the oven, then out to a cold burner grate as I remove the bread to a rack. One day, it split completely right across the middle, nice and clean, and I realized what had happened. I replaced it with a baking stone and still use the cloche top, preheating both, though I still place the top across two burners, so minimal direct contact. So far, so good, but the house is chilly now. I allow the stone to cool in the oven - maybe the cloche should go back in, also.

Will your crack continue? Hard to say. I would doubt it will shatter, the ceramic is very sturdy and it seems the weak spot is already revealed.

You don't soak it, right? Haven't used it after washing until it's thoroughly dry? I don't wash mine, figure 500 F is hot enough to kill off anything that could be lurking...

All the best for a Happy 2015!

Cathy

 

Tommy gram's picture
Tommy gram

A place called Sassafras in chicago sells them - They do the mail order thing- I think you are looking at a 60$ item. 

108 breads's picture
108 breads

This is a sassafras la cloche. Only two years old. I think Cathy is correct that it was the winter cold kitchen shocking the la cloche after being in a 500-degree oven that caused the crack. Perhaps I just did this once to often and a weakness spread and revealed itself. I hardly wash it and then only with a damp paper towel; I don't use it for at least another few days, so it is definitely dry. I will probably use the la cloche, but keep it in the oven after baking for a very slow cooling period.

I have to admit the la cloche does such a good job, I would probably buy a new one - and be more careful - when and if this one can no longer be used.

FYI: Great results using the top of the la cloche with a baking stone underneath.