Like a child counting down the days to Christmas I have been anticipating the long awaited arrival of the new batch of the La Cloche. I won’t bore you with the details but there was a problem with the supply of them and I watched our stock steadily dwindle until the very last one went on its way several months ago. There is a really neat website that allows those that enjoy that kind of thing (like me) to watch the progress of the ship carrying our container from factory to Southampton. With such anticipation, it has been a popular haunt over the last weeks. We really missed them because we recommend them so passionately. Don’t just take it from me – Vanessa is a real convert to them. She loves them, but I seem to remember her being a little reluctant to try them at first…
When people ask me about when I first came across the La Cloche it makes me smile. I had always baked the most beautiful bread in wood-fired ovens of the bakeries I worked in, in the southwest of France and yet the wonderful crusts and fabulous oven spring of these loaves eluded me in my own domestic oven. When I started baking again at home I would pull out loaves that would be odd shaped or that had never reached their potential. It drove me mad. I explained this to Patrick and he said what you need is a La Cloche. I read the blurb, looked at the price and decided that it was probably a gimmick. How wrong could I have been? I must have mentioned this to Patrick, who perhaps to prove me wrong (I think) posted me a sample Cloche he had hanging around in the office. I’ll admit that I tried it with some trepidation. I preheated the oven and popped my loaf in. An hour later when I took the lid off there it was. Inside was my beautiful crusty round glorious bread – just like the ones that come out of the ovens in the French bakery. It was magic, and I practically cheered with delight.
Of course it is not magic - it is actually quite scientific. Domestic ovens are not great to bake bread in. The clay pot is effectively a mini version of an ancient clay oven that you can pop inside your own oven. The clay pot heats up, and distributes the heat evenly around the dough giving it a uniform rise. The pot also retains the steam coming off the dough, which hydrates the crust, giving it that wonderful classically French crunch to the crust. You can also leave the dough in longer as the heat is somehow more mellow, allowing the crust to brown and the Maillard reaction of the sugars developing takes place, giving your bread a much more delicious flavor.
You preheat the pot to 220 degrees Gas 7 and turn your dough out into the base. Pop the lid back on and bake a 1kg loaf for 1 hour, or more if you prefer a darker crust. By preheating the cloche you also get a wonderful oven spring – which gives you a much lighter and bouncier loaf.
We'd love to see your cloche pictures - send in your best cloche photos to us using our Gallery page and we’ll send the winner the oblong baker, which is the long version of the cloche) as a prize.
Make fantastic bread in your oven every time with a La Cloche. Ensure perfect golden, crackly crust and moist, evenly baked bread with this amazing product, based on 1000s of years of bread baking traditions.