Prep 20 mins
Cook 45 mins
Baking bread in a wet unglazed clay cooker results in a crisp shiny crust you may have thought possible only in a baker’s brick oven. If you have doubts, try this simple single loaf. The crust is tender crispy, even the next day if the bread lasts that long. 475 F. temperature is correct and the bread does not burn. This is how I will bake bread from now on.
- 1 cup warm water (105 F to 115 F)
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 3⁄4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 3 cups all-purpose flour (approximately)
- Place warm water in large mixer bowl; sprinkle with yeast. Let stand until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in sugar, salt and oil. Add 2 cups of the flour. Mix until blended; beat on medium speed until dough is elastic and pulls away from bowl, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in 1/2 cup of the flour to make soft dough. Turn dough onto floured surface. Knead, adding flour as needed, until dough is smooth and springy and small bubbles form just under surface, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Place dough in greased bowl; turn greased side up. Let stand covered in warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
- Soak bottom of loaf shaped, 5 1/2 cup clay cooker in water about 15 minutes. My clay cooker is about 11 inches by 8 inches and 3 1/2 inches deep. When dough has doubled, drain bottom of cooker; pat dry; grease sides and bottom generously.
- Punch down dough; shape into loaf and place in cooker. Let stand, covered with waxed paper, in warm place until dough nearly reaches top of cooker, 30 to 45 minutes. Cut diagonal slashes, 1/2 inch deep, in top of dough with razor blade or sharp knife.
- Soak top of cooker in water about 15 minutes; drain; pat dry and grease. Place covered cooker in COLD oven. Set oven at 475°F Bake 45 minutes. Remove cover; bake until top is brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from cooker; cool on wire rack. Makes 1 loaf.
- TO BAKE FROZEN BREAD DOUGH; Purists may scoff, but for an easy way to experience the potential of clay cooker bread baking, why not try a loaf of frozen bread dough. It rises high and wide, and the crust is the best it can be.
- Brush sides and bottom of loaf shaped, 5 1/2 cup unglazed clay cooker with 1 tablespoon melted butter or margarine. Place 1 loaf frozen bread dough (1 pound/450 g), bottom side up, in cooker. Brush dough with 1 tablespoon melted butter.
- Refrigerate overnight or let stand in warm place 1 to 2 hours to thaw.
- Let stand, covered with waxed paper, in warm place until dough rises nearly to top of cooker, 1 to 3 hours.
- Soak top of cooker in water about 15 minutes; drain.
- Place covered cooker in COLD oven. Set oven at 450°F Bake until brown, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from cooker; cool on wire rack.
- Clay Cookery.