When I first decided to bake sourdough bread, I bought a round brotform and baked my first sourdough boule in our round, enameled dutch oven. Before attempting to bake sourdough bread, we used the dutch oven mainly for soups and stews. The dutch oven has been great so far, yielding consistent results with great oven spring and a nice crust. Boules are beautiful, but not the most convenient for sandwiches since the size of the sandwiches vary as you cut along the loaf. So, we got a long brotform (Thanks Dagi!) to make bread for sandwiches. However, it didn’t fit into our round dutch oven and trying to bake the oval loaf on a cookie sheet were not so successful. There was very little oven spring as we had a hard time introducing the steam at the start of the bake.
So we set out to solve it.
We already had Römertopf clay baker(a wedding present from the McDonald-Howard fam, thanks guys!) that my husband uses for his famous pork roast. The baker is soaked with water before baking and results in a very moist pork roast, so I figured the steam from the wet clay would bring the steam my bread needed. However, I had no idea how to adapt its usage to sourdough bread baking. The manufacturer’s instructions say to soak the baker, butter the base, then put it (with the bread inside) into a cold oven, and bake. But I usually preheat the dutch oven for 1 hour at 500F before adding the bread. Would preheating the soaked baker break it? Evaporate all the water? I did a quick Youtube search and found that there was no unified approach to using a Römertopf clay baker for baking sourdough bread, so I decided to soak it, butter the base, put it into a cold oven, allow to get up to temp (13min), then bake covered for 20 minutes, then uncovered at 430F for another 30 minutes. I also decided to buy an oval dutch oven which I use in the same way as the round one.
Here’s the result from both bakes:
The crust on these loaves are pretty different. The sourdough bread baked in the clay baker has a thinner, shinier crust. When I opened the top of the Römertopf, there was a lot more steam billowing out than when I uncover the dutch oven. Both loaves have blisters. The loaf baked in the dutch oven had more oven spring which you can see better below, the bread baked in the Römertopf is on the left and the bread baked in the dutch oven is on the right:
Overall, both loaves taste great but we’ll leave the Römertopf to the pork roast, and will continue baking bread in the dutch oven.
Have you used clay bakers to bake bread?