Thursday, May 17, 2012

Bread Baking Babes; bread in a pot

Another month, another Bread Baking Babes Bread. This month by the lovely Karen Baking Soda ("Bake my Day"), she picked a bread that is baked in a pot. A clay pot is one option. I know of several people who have baked bread in the so called "Römertopf" (or his cheaper brother "Schlemmertopf"), that were quite a rage for experimental cooks in the 70's. My mother was one of those cooks and we had all kinds of meals from this pot. I could smell it all the way up in my attic room when it was Schlemmertopf-day once again. I never got to like it. Meals that I would have loved when made in a normal pan or dish, got an awful taste from being prepared in this clay-pot and I wasn't the only one at home that felt this way.

But this was all a long time ago. My mother died 21 years ago and a few years ago I found that the notorious clay pot was still hiding in a cupboard at my parent's house, so I took it with me to use for baking bread in it. But when it got here... it went back into the cupboard, my cupboard this time. I never found the courage to bake bread in it, because of the memories from this "Topf". But then there was this month's challenge from Karen and finally I stood up to it and bake in this clay devil.  I though it would be a clever idea to minimize the dough touching the clay, plus I heard Karen's story of having to hack her bread out of the pot, so I used baking parchment on the bottom and enough flour around the edges. The recipe and the cloche instructions worked really good and as I used all white flour, I was sure the kids would love it.

The bread turned out very nice; puffed up nicely, good crumb. But for me the bread had this familiar taste and smell of the past. Especially in some spots where it came through real strong. I tried to ignore it. But even the kids with their love for white bread started to complain about the taste. We persevered, but it was just a too nasty taste, so we fed the last slices to the chickens. They didn't mind the taste, but hey they eat worms too. I can't decribe it really what it tastes like, a combination of clay, iron and the taste of a dentist's treatment. Is this just my topf? Maybe, but I will never trust these pots again. Next time I'll take this wonderful recipe Karen selected and bake it in a iron pot, I'm sure that will be a perfect bread. Thanks Karen for taking my hand and bake in this traumatizing topf for the first time... and the last time too, clearing out my cupboard this way, cause now I know I just still hate this pot! It's going to the second hand shop asap.

But this recipe rocks, bake it in your choice of pot/pan and become our Bread Baking Buddy. Bake, tell, post and send your details to Karen, who's kitchen of the month, so she can add your bread to a wonderful round up. Deadline 29th of this month.

Shepherd's Bread
(makes 1 loaf that fits in a “Römertopf/Schlemmertopf”)
(PRINT recipe)
Sponge (takes 2 hours)
1 tsp active dry yeast
1 cups tepid water (230 ml)
1 cups unbleached ap or bread flour (140 g)
1/4 cup sugar (50 gr)

Dough (first rise 2-3 hours, second only 15 minutes!)
½ tsp active dry yeast
½ cup warm water
1 ½ tsp salt
4 TBsp olive oil
2 ½ - 3 cups bread flour (I used about 430 g)
a little extra bread flour (for kneading if necessary and for the bowl)

1. Prepare the sponge: In a large bowl mix yeast plus ½ cup of the flour and the sugar using a large whisk. Add remaining ½ 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, 1/2 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, 2.1/2 - 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 1/4 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 1/4 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.
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 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.

(Source: “Bread for all seasons” by Beth Hensperger)


MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

What a wild experience! I'm sure that pot needs to find a new home even if it's in the trash but what a story it makes.

I do hope you try this in another pot, I mean look at your photo of the bread, it's gorgeous. Clay is so porous it's easy to think it has picked up a real off flavor and should be retired ... maybe it would grow a rose but and be better off.

Elizabeth said...

Too bad!! And the bread looks so beautiful too.

How weird that your clay pot has such an off-flavour. Throw it away! Throw it away!!

(We love our clay pot so much that I was discouraged from using it to bake the bread - just in case it cracked going into a preheated oven)

Karen Baking Soda said...

A familiar story Lien, about the 70's and the clay pots being all the rage then. I bet my mom was one of them too! Mine comes from their cupboard as well and from the looks of it we have the exact same one (yours also has that dent in the bottom?)

I never made anything else in it but bread and I can't remember meals from the past either although my pot looks worn/used. (not as clean and new as yours.) Hmm I need to ask my mom about it.

Your bread looks absolutely gorgeous, so I think it must be your pot that makes all the food taste off. Isn't that strange?

I think I would put it out in the garden and grow some basil in it?!

Katie said...

I have one that I have only used for bread - no funny taste LOL
But it's not nearly as pretty as yours - I like the planter idea. But the bread LOOKS lovely...

astrid said...

Lovely bread! Mine is much darker, I guess this is due to my use of whole wheat and more rye...

Funny that you have such bad memories regarding the Römertopf, I have very fond ones and loved the dishes my Mom made in it. that was the reason why I got one for myself.

hobby baker Kelly said...

Oh, so sad about the flavor when your loaf is so pretty! Now I'm afraid to use mine for anything but bread. Maybe I'll snag another one somewhere for meals. Or just stick to bread and never use soap on it. LOL.

NKP said...

It looks gorgeous, as does the clay baker - so sorry the flavour was so distracting. I guess the baker will just be for decoration now - can you put a plant in it? ;-)

Anonymous said...

One thing it could be... It would taste really bad if washed with soap! The terracotta soaks up the soap and releases it when cooking. Also, I'm surprised it didn't break - putting it into a hot oven... It should be put into a cold oven...

Anonymous said...

Cool recipes, thanks.

Ideas to clean your pot...

Clean the clay pot only after it has cooled. Soak it with water and clean with a brush. If you need something stronger, add some baking soda as a scouring agent and degreaser. Do not use detergent since clay is a porous material and will soak up the soap. Do not put a clay pot in a dishwasher either. The high temperature and detergent can damage the clay pot.

If moldy smells develop in your clay pot, submerge it in hot water and add 3 tablespoons of baking soda for every 1 quart of water. Let it soak for a while before rinsing and seasoning it again.

To remove food smells absorbed into the clay, fill the pot about 75% full with water. Simmer with a teaspoon of green tea leaves for 10 minutes.

For more, check this webpage: