rye bread baked in cloche

Cloche, French for "bell," is an unglazed roasting container. It often refers to a hat. The roasting bells come with a loose fitting lid. I have two others purchased on eBay a different shape intended for roasting chicken. They have a chicken design molded into them. One of these days I will use it for that. The chicken cloches have ridges on the bottom portion to elevate the chicken somewhat from the bottom and I suppose keep it from sticking. I do not know. For bread, I use those chicken cloches upside down to avail the lid's smooth inner surface. They have no handle on the lid as this one does.  

A large clay pot upturned on a pizza stone will do the same thing.

The cloche is preheated to maximum hotness, as far as the oven will go. 

Now, this is living dangerously. There is too much room for self harm. Especially for a such a klutz as myself. I'm a bit terrorized each time I do this, and that terror that strikes my heart is what has kept me safe from being burned. 

So far. 

Because the cloche is so impossibly hot, it draws moisture out of the dough and that prevents the loaf from sticking inside. Counterintuitive, I know, but still, the loaves fall right out. Jump right out actually to get away from their hellish prison. 

It is an oven within an oven. The cloche allows the exceedingly wet dough to stay moist long enough to expand like a ballon, like thousands of tiny balloons, before the surface turns crisp.

This loaf is prepared the NYT no-knead method where scant commercial yeast 1/4 teaspoon is carelessly mixed with flour and water and salt and held overnight for eight to twelve hours. The conceit is that time is also a form of kneading. The technique is about extended time and that is why so little yeast is used. The yeast multiplies in there by itself given enough time, and it spreads around by itself asexually by budding extending into new areas of dough. When dumped out onto a work surface the wet dough is pulled and the stretched part folded over onto itself, all the corners are stretched this way redistributing the yeast inside. Left alone for another twenty minutes or so the freshly redistributed yeast goes crazy reproducing their secondary way, sexually and not merely by budding. It is quite astonishing how fast this happens. 

In the case of this dough, 1/3 rye flour, 2/3 all purpose flour, the dough did not rise so much as expected overnight. And the dough was also too stiff. Too dry. Insufficiently sticky. Not nearly wet enough for this technique. So tap water is added by stretching the dough and patting with wet hands, then folding, stretching, patting, folding, stretching, patting, folding, stretching, patting, folding, stretching, patting, folding, totally reworking the dough until the dough became a lot more wet, and all that is a form of kneading until the dough is floppy and wet and nearly unmanageable blob.

Now the watery work surface is towel dried and replaced with oil. The bench scraper dried and oiled. The dough blob stretched until it attains a decent shape. Covered and left alone for twenty minutes or so, and BLAM the dough is ready to go. 

I have a new way to place the dough into the fiery hot cloche. I roll it onto the edge of an oiled cutting board and use the board to tip the shaped blob into the cloche. This is one of my nicer looking loaves. Now would be the time to score the surface but I did not do that. My loaves usually come out a bit ugly. 

Amazon [clay cloche
Google Images [clay roasting cloche]

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