This month, the BBBabes baked bread in a cloche. I had to be a buddy for this one, I've had a cloche on my wish list for years. They're usually quite expensive so I was thrilled to find a terracotta chicken baker for only $25 which I figured would fill the bill. One of these days I'll splurge and get the big bell shaped one. Now this one is glazed inside on the bottom half - don't know if that affects the steaming for bread, but it worked well enough for me. I'll have to try roasting a chicken in it some time too and hope it doesn't spoil it for bread. The top sure was porous; I didn't have to worry about wiping any water drips after I dunked it, it just soaked them up like a sponge. I wonder if, since this was my first use, I should have soaked it longer for better steaming. Hmmm. Well, if you want to see the original post and amazing results using a proper cloche and white flour, check out Bake My Day! I used half whole spelt, so my loaf is a bit more dense. It still turned out a nice fine crumb with surprisingly delicate texture. Next time I get my hands on some white spelt I'll try a portion of that for whole spelt.
I made a half batch to fit my little baker and used much less sugar than called for. This still makes a large loaf for a family of four. Here is the recipe if you have a clay baker or cast iron dutch oven lying around and would like to try it out. I erred possibly too much on the slack side for this dough but whole spelt really likes to absorb moisture so I didn't want to go the other way. These directions are taken from Bake My Day's post:
from Bread for All Seasons by Beth Hensperger
makes 1 (gargantuan) loaf (I'd recommend making two smaller boules or a half batch)
Dough (first rise 2-3 hours, second only 15 minutes)
1 tsp active dry yeast or 1/4 oz fresh yeast (I used instant yeast)
1 cup warm water
1 Tbs salt
5½ to 6 cups unbleached ap flour or bread flour (I used half whole spelt)
¼ cup unbleached ap flour or bread flour
1. Prepare the sponge: In a large bowl sprinkle the dry yeast or crumble the fresh yeast over the tepid water, Using a large whisk add 1 cup of the flour and the sugar. Add remaining cup of flour and beat hard until very smooth, 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand at room temp until soft, spongy and pleasantly fermented, 2 hours.
2. Prepare the dough: Using a wooden spoon, beat down the sponge. Alternatively, beat down the sponge in the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. In a measuring cup, stir the yeast into the warm water to dissolve. Add the yeast, warm water, salt and olive oil to the sponge and beat well. Add the flour, ½ cup at a time, beating vigorously until a soft dough is formed that just clears the sides of the bowl.
3. Turn out the dough onto a floured work surface and knead about 5 minutes until a smooth dough is formed. Will be firm yet springy and resilient. Adding only 1 tbs flour at a time to prevent sticking. Place the dough in a floured deep container, dust the top with flour, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise at cool room temp until tripled in bulk, 2½ - 3 hours.
4. Shaping: Again turn out the dough on a clean surface. It will be slightly sticky from the long rise. Knead in about ¼ cup more flour to make a firmer dough, about 1 minute. Shape into a tight round ball. Pull the ends tightly to the center of the loaf to form a smooth bottom and sides. Mist the surface with water. Using about 2 tbs of flour, heavily coat the top surface.
Using a serrated knife, slash the top surface decoratively, no more than ¼ inch deep to allow steam to escape and to allow room for the dough to expand.