The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Use of clay cloche

Jim Burgin's picture
Jim Burgin

Use of clay cloche

I have read too much advice about using a clay cloche.  More trusting of the wisdom of TFY practitioners. 

Many writers seem to agree that (whether using cloche or not) early steam benefits oven spring and late steam creates tough thick crust.  I am seeking thin crispy crust.  I am baking high hydration (70-80%) long slow fermentation (12 hours to 4 days) Seeking your opinion about a paragraph in Crust and Crumb (Peter Reinhart,  p. 103)   He says, "I have found my best success when I proofed my loaf directly on the cloche bottom which avoids unnecessary handling  (I LOVE THIS IDEA),  then spritzed the inside dome with water,  placed it over the loaf, and slid the whole unit into a very hot oven.  I turn down the temperature only when I am sure the heat has fully penetrated the cloche."  (NEVER HAVING BEEN INSIDE A CLOCHE IN A VERY HOT OVEN I HAVE NO CLUE WHEN I COULD BE SURE OF THIS - WONDER HOW PETER DOES???)

     So, baking friends:  1. Have you tried his procedure and what do you think of it?    2) How long would it take in a 475 oven for the heat to "fully penetrate the cloche."    3) After how many minutes to remove the top of the cloche so as to avoid late steaming and resulting tough crust?.  4) Then how long to bake before testing internal temperature for loaf doneness?   

All reflections appreciated !   Jim                        . 



bearhunter's picture

look at my recent post   "leave in temp probe to bake, sacrilegious ? "

I did look inside my Emile Henry cloche, sort of ! I have a list there of exactly when certain temps were reached when the lid was on the cloche the whole time.

be happy to answer any questions that I can. 

barryvabeach's picture

Jim,  I can help with some of your questions.  As to when to take off the lid, you are going to have to take notes.  Some say halfway, some say a little longer when using sourdough.  In my experience, the hydration, and the volume of the bread also factor in - If you have a very large loaf, the inside of the cloche will have more moisture than if you have a smaller loaf.  I would start with halfway, then try taking it off 5 minutes earlier the next go round, then 5 minutes later, and keep playing till you get what you want.

Actually, as you get more experience with the Cloche, I doubt you will be using a temp probe to determine doneness -  I used to do it, but now go mostly by looks of the loaf. 

With a cast iron combo, I have read numerous reports that preheating did not make a material difference.  I have a Sassafras clay cloche, but read too many stories of them developing cracks to want to preheat the cloche and then putting a cold loaf on it, and equally fearful of putting a cold cloche into a hot oven.  I have used mine only a few times, and put it in a warm oven - meaning as it started to preheat.



DanAyo's picture

Barry, I also use a Sassafras clay baker. On a number of occasions I have placed retarded doughs in the pre-heated baker will no problem. To tell you the truth, I never thought about the thermal shock.

DanAyo's picture

“Have you tried his procedure and what do you think of it?” I have tried it and the dough stuck badly to the cloche. I ended up using parchment paper to alleviate sticking.

“How long would it take in a 475 oven for the heat to "fully penetrate the cloche."” I have the capability to run thermal data logs. I can say that it will take a very long time for a clay cooker to come up to heat. My testing show that light weight bakeware such as Graniteware will come to heat much quicker (~7-10 minutes) that cast iron or clayware.

Keep in mind, some people advocate baking in a vessel placed in a cold oven and claim to be very successful.



bearhunter's picture

This is with a Émile Henry cloche NOT preheated put into hot oven 450+-f dough weight about 820 gr. multi grain  


SO :  dough temp at 0 minutes      internal temp @ 20min           @ 27 min      @ 32 min

#1          81 f                                             145 f                                 187f                 200f   

#2          72 f                                             117 f                                  178 f               200 f 

#3 lightly misted 70 f                                  120f                                  171  f              200 f 

kind of interesting how the cooler dough at start caught up and finished at the same time.

Emile Henry web site goes to great lengths to assure you that it can handle the heat and thermal shock is not an issue. It seems to be a very well made piece and I have faith ….. so far

I make a circle of parchment paper for underneath and have no problem with sticking.