Tuesday, May 22, 2012

BBB - Shepherd's Bread

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:

Shepherd's Bread
from Bread for All Seasons by Beth Hensperger
makes 1 (gargantuan) loaf (I'd recommend making two smaller boules or a half batch)

Sponge (takes 2 hours)
2 tsp active dry yeast or 3/4 oz fresh yeast (I used Instant Yeast)
2 cups tepid water
2 cups unbleached ap or bread flour (I used half whole spelt)
½ cup sugar (90 gr) (I used 2 tbsp coconut sugar for 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
½ cup olive oil (I used butter)
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.

Cloche instructions:

Sprinkle the dish with flour and place the dough ball in the center of the dish. Move the dough around to cover the bottom and up the sides a bit with flour. (Do you see that square of parchment on the bottom? That's a very good idea... the sides of the dry pot are so smooth that flour won't stick so to reduce the risk of having to use powertools to hack your bread out of the cloche I'd suggest use a piece of parchment)

Cover with the cloche dome/bell and let rest at room temp 15 minutes. Before placing in the oven, rinse the inside of the cloche bell -cover/lid- with water, draining off excess drips. Place back over the bread and place in the preheated 425F oven.  Bake 10 minutes.  Lower thermostat to 400F and bake a further 25-35 minutes. Remove the bell after 30 minutes of baking to allow the loaf to brown thoroughly.  Remove and cool at least 15 minutes before serving.  If you'd like to use your bread baking stone or tiles; let rise a second time for 35 minutes then use same oven setting but don't lower the temp. and bake until the bread is golden brown, crisp and sounds hollow when tapped.
(Use steam if baking on tiles.)


  1. Sometimes we all need our excuses right? Happy to provide you with one ;-D

    Love your bread, and the spelt was a really good choice, think it was wise to keep the dough on the slack side, all the more oomph in the oven then. Thanks for baking with us! Your Buddy Badge is on it's way.

  2. Great to know the spelt will do such a beauty of a loaf! From the looks of your loaf I'd say you got plenty of steam. Since I did mine in cast iron with enamel glaze inside I think the glaze on the bottom of yours is no problem.
    Karen's right, any excuse seems about right to me.

  3. What a gorgeous looking loaf! I used a pyrex casserole dish and it worked. I have a suspicion that any sort of lid would work to trap the steam around the loaf as it begins baking.

    Like you, I would love to have one of the true bell cloches. I've been haunting garage sales, imagining I might find one there for next to nothing. (Good luck to me... :-D)


Thanks for commenting, I love hearing from you! If you have any questions I will do my level best to answer them for you.