Clay pot cooking
Hi. I'm a new member. I've read previous posts on using clay pots, but thought I'd ask for the most recent advice. I've been making hearth breads using a thick pizza stone, and introducing steam via a preheated cast iron skillet and ice (Rose Levy Beranbaum's method). I keep reading that a cloche makes superior bread, and I already have a large Romertopf that was previously unused. Per instructions regarding the clay pot, I made my last batch letting the dough rise in the bottom half of the pot, then soaked the top half prior to putting it in a cold oven. The results were OK, but I thought they were not as good as with the stone/steam method. Would it be better to preheat both the bottom and top to 425 or 450, let the dough rise in a different container (possibly my smaller clay pot), and then transfer the dough to the hot clay pot (no soaking involved)?
I can see how the cold start would be great for the summer, but since it's still cold, if the preheating will give better results, I'd like to do that.
Or, should I forget about the clay pot altogether, and experiment with dutch ovens?