Two of my favorite gifts this Christmas came from my Mum. She knows how much I have been baking bread and really getting into new types of artisan bread and these two things couldn’t have been more perfect for me, especially right now.
The first is this beautiful book, simply called Crusts. If you love crusts, pastries, breads and the like, you may want to look this one up. It’s a monster of a book and it’s gorgeous. It’s a history of bread, a trip around the world of all different techniques and different types of grains and ingredients and methods, and the photographs and stories of people and bakeries are wonderful.
This is a sample of the inside. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in this sort of a read/cookbook. It’s going to take me a long time to really get through it and read it all, but I’m slowly pouring over it and I love every page.
This ties together with the other thing. A bread cloche. I had never heard of this before! I had to google it to understand what it is, how it’s made, and how to use it.
It was designed by a Frenchman to create the most perfect baking condition for artisan bread. It works by trapping moisture that evaporates from the dough as it bakes, keeping that moisture inside the cloche and turning it into steam, which keeps the dough/bread moist during baking. It’s kind of like creating a really old fashioned 500 year old wood fired bread oven inside your modern day stove.
Some of these are glazed to prevent scratching and marking, but this one is not. So you may be able to see in the photo that there are marks on mine already. Every time I use this it seems to sort of discolor in random areas. At first I was confused, but I actually love this. It is sort of seasoning itself with every bake and it will eventually turn dark (from what I’ve read anyway) and look really old. I like the idea of this. So a glazed version will always stay pretty for you (and come in various colors), but this version will look like it’s a hundred years old and made in a different era. For this type of bread baking, that’s right up my alley.
I have made a few loaves of what I considered to be pretty good artisan type breads, but once I figured out how to use this properly, oh boy, I was sold. It’s not fancy and doesn’t look like it’s going to do a whole lot of different baking, but it really does. The design is genius and I have been baking artisan bread like a mad woman to try all sorts of new types of bread. The crust it produces is hard, crackly and crispy. And then the inside, ohhhh, the inside….is so incredibly light and moist and airy. It’s almost sponge-like without feeling soggy. It’s so beautiful.
Basically, you are following the recipe instructions like you normally would with whatever bread you are making. I line it with parchment parchment paper because you aren’t supposed to grease this or wash it like a normal baking dish, but a sticky dough will stick to it and burn on. So easy care as long as you are kind to it!
Then you put your dough in (I was making two demi loaves so I put a small piece of parchment between the two), put the lid back on and put it in the oven at the normal baking temperature.
I found that I needed an extra 10-15 minutes on each loaf I’ve made so far. I am guessing there’s a small amount of time in the beginning that the cloche needs to bring itself up to oven temperature. Once it does, it stays at an even temperature the whole time, unlike your oven in most cases.
In playing with it to figure it out, I lifted the lid during baking a couple of times to see what was happening in there. Was it burning? Was it working? I didn’t know….so I defeated the purpose and let all the steam out, I know, but it was in the name of science. I had to know what was happening. Now I let it do it’s thing and trust the process. Don’t open it up!
I can’t say enough about the quality of bread this produces.
Look at that beautiful inside goodness in that loaf. If you love artisan bread as much as I do, you will know what I’m talking about and will be able to taste this in your head. It’s pure magic.
You don’t need a bread cloche to make good artisan bread, but I have to say, owning one of these has really upped the quality factor to what I was able to make thus far. I’m sold and not turning back. Every artisan loaf I make from here on out will be made in this. I now want a few more in different sizes and shapes. A round one would be nice. (Rob…Mum….anyone listening?)
Anyway, this is not a paid endorsement by any means. I’m just sharing a few things I love and think some of you cooks and bakers may enjoy this as well, or to give as a great gift to someone who might appreciate it. There’s a bunch of different sizes, shapes and brands online. I was having trouble finding the one I was given on Amazon, but here is another one almost identical to it that is also unglazed. I think the most authentic one available is the original design by Emile Henry.
Next on my list of bread making ‘must-haves’ is a really good bread lame. If anyone has a good brand or type that you love and can’t live without, please let me know. My next venture is making them pretty too!
– The Crazy Bread Lady