The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Using a clay baker

Traveler's picture

Using a clay baker


I am in need of some advice on using my oblong clay baker when baking my Italian style loaf.

I recently changed ovens and I never had a problem before , BUT now using the exact same recipe and exact same baking times and temps , my loaf burns slightly on the BOTTOM.  I don't understand what could be going wrong.

Times and temps.

Shaped loaf is proofed in the clay baker. Meanwhile, I preheat oven to 425 F. When loaf is ready to bake, I slash it, spritz it , and load it in the hot oven, on a center rack. 

Bake for 23 minutes. 

Remove top lid and continue to bake for 13 minutes.

Remove loaf from clay baker and place on center rack to finish baking for 5 minutes, and to develop a crackly crust.

As I said above, i never had a problem with this method until I changed ovens.

Does anyone have any suggestions on why the bottom burns slightly and what can I do about it ?



happycat's picture

Did you ever check the oven temperature in both ovens at the rack/baking position you are baking at? 

idaveindy's picture

Welcome to TFL ! It's good to have you aboard.


".. i never had a problem with this method until I changed ovens."

That means it's the oven.  How are the ovens different? What about the ovens changed?  

Knowing the differences in the ovens will help to make the adjustments to come out with a better loaf.

Please describe the old oven.

And please describe the new oven.

Gas, electric, convection, placement of heating elements (upper heating element, lower element, or heating element on the back wall).

Was and is the lower heating element "hidden" (covered) on either the old or the new oven?

Have the "baking modes" changed?  That is ... are the upper and lower heating elements being used in the same way?  

Did/does one have convection and the other not?  If both have convection did/does one force the convection always on, and the other let/lets you keep it off?


My first guess is that it's as simple as Happycat implied:  the old oven baked cooler than the indicated temperature, and/or the new oven bakes hotter than the indicated temperature.

naturaleigh's picture

Hi Traveler!  If I'm reading your post correctly, I think you are quite lucky that you haven't had a mishap with your clay baker yet.  You are always supposed to place those in a cold oven then pre-heat so that it can warm up slowly.  Taking a room temp baker and popping it into a 425 degree oven could be problematic (not that this addresses your question exactly)...just a comment/concern for future reference.

I almost exclusively use clay bakers (including the oblong one you mention) for baking and pre-heat them up to 500 before I take the proofed dough out of the banneton, place onto parchment, slash then put it into the pre-heated clay baker.  I don't have issues with the bottom of my loaves burning this way.  I also don't typically take the loaf out of the baker for any portion of the bake.  The bottom gets nice and brown in the baker (25 mins with lid/20 mins without, for @ 1000g loaf).  

It's my understanding that if you are doing your final proof in the clay baker (rather than some kind of banneton) you should put the whole thing in a cold oven for the pre-heat and (adjusted) bake...there are links on this site for that method.

Traveler's picture

Both old and new ovens are/were the same … gas, with a heating element ONLY on the lower portion. Yes, there is a metal covering the bottom, between the oven and the heating element. Neither oven is a convection oven.

Yes, I always check the temp prior to putting the clay baker in the oven. I use an after market thermometer that hangs from the rack.  

For my next bake I'll try putting the clay baker AND the fully proofed loaf into a cold oven and try to adjust the bake time to suit a "newer' method. 


Naturaleigh, I have looked all over this forum and I can't locate anything that talks about times and temps to bake an oblong loaf (weight of aprox 725 gram, 26 ounces) USING MY OBLONG CLAY BAKER, OF COURSE. Even the general idea would be of a big help.



Benito's picture

I’ve noticed that many bakers over at use a clay baking vessel and if advice on using it is what you’re looking for, you’ll be able to get it there.  That being said, what I’ve read about it matches what naturaleigh has posted above.

If you’re getting burning where you didn’t before, the simple answer to that is to shield the bottom of the oblong clay baker by placing a cookie tray on the rack below so that it isn’t getting direct heat from the bottom element.


idaveindy's picture

My guess is that the burner (heating element) of the new oven is more powerful/hotter than the old oven. It gets things up to temp faster.

(BTW, does the new oven take less time to pre-heat than the old? That would tend to confirm my hypothesis.)

If so... then during that final 5 minutes, the bare loaf is getting more intense direct "radiant" heat, while the oven re-heats the air after you opened the door to remove the loaf from the clay baker.

Benny's suggestion to use a shield on a lower rack should work. 

Also possible might be to reduce that final 5 minutes to 2 or 3. 

Good luck, and bon appétit.