My experience with an Emile Henry bread cloche
I wanted to post my experience with using an Emile Henry bread baking cloche.
This one popped up in my facebook adds recently and caught my attention. Thank you facebook for helping me empty my bank account
Compared to the previous iteration of the cloche that had a dome with a little knob on top, this one is a flat plate with a flat domed top and side grips. The idea is that it can be a multi use tool where the dome can be used to mix and proof the dough and the plate portion to bake the bread. The dome then serves a third purpose during the baking as a cloche to capture steam around the baking loaf. One last point that sold me on this one was the price is half that of the older Emile Henry bread cloche priced around $130. This one is priced at around 60 euro and I got it with a discount for 50 euro including shipping making it about $55. Normally I would bake several loaves on a 5 inch thick chamotte stone in my oven, that seals very well. However, the problem with such a thick stone is it takes a long time to come up to a stable temperature, and in the process using a load of energy. Normally I like to bake only once a week, because of this energy use and then I bake off about 6 loaves at a time. I’ve baked in a cast iron pot in the past, but I find the scorched bottoms to be unsightly and the flavor to be ruined by the scorch. Plus, I’ve gotten so accustomed to being able to slide 3 loaves onto my stone at one timel, that the thought of going back to dropping delicate loaves into a scorching hot cast iron pot to be very off putting. So, back to the facebook add..I looked around and this is apparently a newer design and aside from the multi use of it, it’s also something I can take with me on holiday and still bake a decent loaf in an oven that may be less than ideal.
The instructions in the booklet recommend flouring the plate side generously the first few times to prevent sticking. I floured it the first time I used it and found the extra flour so horrible that I decided to use a piece of reusable ptfe baking mat.
My basic weekly bake is this to make 600g of pre-baked dough:
20% Liquide levain (1:2:2)
10% mixed seeds that have been soaked and then drained.
This introduces about 5-8% extra water to the dough which
brings the total hydration to about 73%
Here is an example of this recipe that I baked on my stone last week. I wanted to see if there'd be any difference with baking in a cloche.
If I’d be doing a 6 loaf bake, I’d mix it in my Kitchenaid but with a small amount of dough to dial in the use of this cloche, I didn’t want to have a lot of extra dough to deal with.
At this point, I’ve just finished mixing and will let it rest and then do a couple of folds. No need for a windowpane test, the dough did it it’s own windowpane.
My total bulk was about 5 hours with 2 folds later in the bulk. A preshape, 20 minute rest, final shape and then a 45 minute proof before an overnight chill. It was near midnight when I did my final shape, so I forgot to take pics with it going into the banneton with it's sesame and poppy seed crust.
This morning I turned the oven on to preheat with the cloche in the oven. Took the dog out for her morning walk and them came back and baked. The oven was at approximately 250C/480F and in went the bread for 30 minutes. This is the third bake I’ve done in cloche.
The first I kind of followed my standard procedure I'd follow with the baking stone, which was to remove the cloche to let the bread dry out at around 15-20 minutes. On that occasion, the bread was very pale and oven spring was awful. However, the weather on the day I was mixing was very very hot and humid and I struggled to keep the bulk temps stable. Ultimately it got a little proofy, combined with a very busy schedule and it all went a bit wonky resulting in a poor end result. The second time I used the cloche, I forgot to turn the oven from my preheat setting (which can reach 500F ) to my normal bake setting and after I removed the cloche at 30 minutes the bread was way way to dark (to my taste) Again, the oven spring wasn’t ideal, but I believe because the temp was so high and it baked so fast, it’s max height couldn’t be achieved. The crust was also a bit chewier than I like. This morning was then my third bake in it and I think it’s just about right. 250C/480F for 30 minutes, then removed the top for 15 minutes more.
If I’d have been baking on the stone, the time would be reversed. 15 minutes with steam, then crack the door open to release steam and finish the bake for 30 more minutes.
I’m very satisfied with todays results (most important part, it’s delicious!) and now I have a more energy efficient single loaf baking method, which allows me to test out some other single loaf recipes.