Homemade Clay Pot Cloche for Baking
Here's a photo of the baking cloche I made. If you already have a baking stone (and you really should, if you bake much at all) this is an inexpensive way to turn it into a mini brick oven for making crusty "artisan" hearth loaves.
I found this 11-inch clay pot with the garden supplies outside of Sherm's grocery store a couple months ago. I think it cost a whole $3.98. They still had a big stack as of Monday, January 26. Then I bought an eye bolt (with an eye big enough to get a good grip on when it 's hot), two washers and two hex nuts. It's a simple matter to assemble it, one nut and one washer on each side of the drainage hole to hold the bolt in place.
I was afraid the end of the eye bolt (inside the pot) might poke into the top of the loaf, so I had my husband cut it off flush with the nut. (As I write this, I got a phone call from someone who just bought a pot at Sherm's and took it to Handyman Hardware, where they found the parts she needed, assembled it and even cut the eye bolt off for her!)
To use the cloche: Place it on the baking stone in the oven and preheat it to 500 degrees for 45 minutes before you are ready to bake. Using heavy-duty hot pads, carefully remove the cloche from the oven, slide the dough onto the stone and immediately cover with the cloche. Reduce the oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the cloche and continue baking another 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of the loaf. You need to drive all the steam out of the dough to retain a crisp crust when the loaf cools.
FYI...this is not my original idea. I first saw it on Wild Yeast Blog and I believe it was inspired by one on The Fresh Loaf.