Dutch Oven and La Cloche Product Warnings

I received an email recently from Loretta, a Breadtopia customer, who was understandably upset because her Le Creuset dutch oven lid cracked in two places while she was baking bread using the no-knead method. A half inch piece of the lid knob also broke off.

I’ve read numerous internet bread forum posts relating to no-knead baking at high temperatures and this is the first instance of this I’ve heard. Nonetheless, it’s good to be aware of the possibility. Le Creuset is a top name and quite pricey. Hers was only two years old and in perfect condition at the time.

I have read that some Le Creuset knobs cannot withstand temperatures above 400 F degrees. Perhaps the knob expanding in the heat caused the lid to crack. If you’re going to use a dutch oven, check the manufacturers specifications. Some knobs can be removed if necessary.

While I’m on the subject of product warnings, if you are using a clay baker like La Cloche to bake your bread, do not spritz it with water when it’s very hot or it may crack. At least that’s what mine did when I spritzed it. It was quite the idiotic move on my part. And just for the record, spritzing the bread in a La Cloche didn’t make the crust any better. One of the main reasons for using one is so you don’t have to mess with trying to create steam in order to create a desirable crust.

Also,  do not place a clay baker in a hot oven. Place in a cold oven and preheat it along with the oven. The general rule is do not expose a ceramic or clay baker to thermal shock.

The semi happy ending to this story is that both Loretta and I continue to use our respective bakers. That is, our respective cracked bakers.

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan February 1, 2014 at 9:44 am

I am brand new to bread baking and recently bought La Cloche. The first loaf (white whole wheat boule) turned out well and i followed the instructions and put the dough in the La Cloche for the final rise and then into a cold oven to preheat and cook. However, I just received “The Bread Bible” and she recommends preheating the lid and a bread-stone in the oven for an hour and then putting the dough on the unheated base and placing the hot lid on top and putting the whole thing on the heated stone to bake. I am concerned that the extreme change in temperature will crack the base! Any advice?

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Kenneth Tucker February 1, 2014 at 3:36 pm

I can’t see the point of those directions and the procedure sounds risky. I have had great success preheating the cloche.

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Susan February 2, 2014 at 3:32 pm

well I gritted my teeth and tried it as instructed, no cracks, no breakage and the olive bread was wonderful. i shall have to try it with a cold start to see what the difference would be.

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Kenneth Tucker February 2, 2014 at 5:02 pm

Did you preheat the whole cloche or just the lid with a cool base on a hot stone?

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Susan February 3, 2014 at 6:57 am

I preheated the lid and a baking sheet (I don’t have a stone) then put the lid on the unheated base and placed the whole thing on the baking sheet. The instructions had me remove the lid after 15 minutes to finish browning the crust. Planning to make it again with a couple of minor modifications to see what the difference will be.

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Rocco January 13, 2014 at 6:26 pm

Hi! I own a Romertopf I found at a thrift store. It looks pretty old but in good condition. I would love to use for baking sourdough bread. I read in one of the previous answers that I do not need to soak it before putting it in a cold oven, but I guess it would be fine if I did, just to be cautious. The Romertopf website recommends putting food in it before putting it in a cold oven. Can the temperature shock of adding a “cool” bread dough to a heated Romertopf cause breakage or should I not worry about it? Thank you!!!

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Christine March 3, 2014 at 6:26 pm

I’ve used the Römertopf like that w/o problems several times now. Put it in the cold oven, without soaking it, and then put in the dough once the oven temperature of 500 was reached.

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John G April 6, 2013 at 7:38 am

By coincidence, I was in a Le Creuset retail store a week ago. I asked the sales person about the maximum temperature that the plastic knob could sustain. She said that the standard knob is safe up to 375 degrees, but that you could buy an optional knob that was good for up to 500 degrees. If the optional knob was safe for 500 degrees, that to me would imply that the dutch oven itself would be similarly safe.

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Roz March 30, 2013 at 9:56 am

Hi!

My La Cloche arrived yesterday so will be using it soon. Need to ask a simple question (I think the answer is “yes”) just to make sure I don’t damage it: I see that when you pre-heat La Cloche in the oven that you have the dome placed on top of the bottom saucer. I’m wondering if I could instead pre-heat them side-by-side…that way when I open the oven door to place the proofed dough onto the bottom saucer I don’t have to take that additional time (and loss of heat) to remove the cloche top first.

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Breadtopia March 30, 2013 at 10:14 am

Hi Roz,

Preheating the top and bottom side by side is actually preferable for the reasons you mention and also because they’ll preheat faster. So, yes, go for it.

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Brenda June 25, 2011 at 4:10 pm

I’ve owned my La Cloche for about a year now (actually two of them — one round and one rectangular) and I’ve found that no matter what I do, I simply can’t screw it up. I even have a bread recipe that you’re supposed to bake in a bread machine that I threw in the Cloche instead, took a wild guess at the time and temperature and it was awesome.

I think part of the trick is to have really good dough. You can’t go wrong with any on the recipes in “Rustic European Breads From Your Bread Machine (Eckhardt & Butts).

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Rebecca Dittmeier February 2, 2011 at 4:51 pm

I love the recipe I have for No-Knead Bread and I used a Amber colored Corning (Visions) covered dish to bake it in. Came out great. I was going to buy the Le Creuset but I noticed the handles are only rated to 450 degrees….the glass dish works great. I also did not have instant yeast so I used a whole packet of dry yeast and King Arthur unbleached flour and it is some of the best bread I have made….and I have made traditional bread…..love thi recipe.

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Breadtopia January 30, 2011 at 5:23 am

Hi Mila,

Not sure why your crust is rubbery. Unglazed ceramic tends to produce a crispier crust though.

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Mila January 29, 2011 at 9:58 pm

i’m new to bread making. the first few loaves i made came out with a crust that’s too rubbery. what am i doing wrong? i’m using a cast iron (enameled) dutch oven. would la cloche help produce better results?

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JD December 17, 2009 at 7:20 am

Mary J…I currently use my ceramic crock pot insert with a pizza stone for a lid, and it works quite well! I toyed with the idea of putting the bread on the stone and using the crock pot as the cover so it would more closely resemble the various clay bakers, but then decided that it would be much easier to remove the stone from the top when everything is in a 500 degree oven.

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Mary J. December 11, 2009 at 11:27 am

I’m very new to your wonderful website so I’m not sure if this is how to go about getting a question answered. But here goes….

Can I use my ceramic crockpot insert with a glass lid to bake no knead bread?

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Breadtopia April 6, 2009 at 9:39 pm

A tagine? I haven’t tried it but I think it would work fine.

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Irfan April 6, 2009 at 7:34 pm

Hi Eric,

Pleae tell me your thoughts on baking a no knead bread in a tagin.

Thanks!

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Harvey December 4, 2008 at 8:23 pm

Le Creuset ‘Phenolic’ knobs are rated for less than 500 degrees. Fear not,,, Le Creuset stores and their web site sell a “stainless steel” knob for less than $10. I changed all my plastic ones for these and have had no problems other than some discoloration from heating the pot empty and from the scorched parchment paper.
Before I bought the steel knobs I used a stainless bolt and 2 nuts screwed on. I then used a pair of pliers to handle the lid. When I finished with the bread I put the plastic knob back on.

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John G. May 3, 2008 at 8:29 am

see above ** internal/INSTANT READ thermometer, not something you leave in the bread

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John G. May 3, 2008 at 8:28 am

I bought an enameled 5.5 quart cast iron pot from Walmart for $35. I used a phillips head screwdriver to remove the knob (rated for 400 degrees) and went to the hardware store and VERY CAREFULLY selected a solid stainless steel drawer pull knob, replacing the one that came on the pot. I say very carefully because if you aren’t careful you could get some cheap metal with who knows what in it (especially lead!). I paid about $5 for the knob at Lowe’s. I called the pot manufacturer and confirmed their product is fine for 450 degrees, just not their plastic knob.

This cast iron pot has done great for me, I’ve baked two to three 3 or 6 cup no-knead loaves in it per week for two months with zero problems. If I drop it my only concern is breaking my toes. I’d like a la cloche some day, but they seem pricey and sound fragile in comparison. Googling the la cloche I read a lot about people breaking them or their cracking.

My favorite new No-Knead: Add 2tsp chopped fresh rosemary and 2tsp lemon zest to your dry ingredients (for the 3 cup recipe). Awesome bread! I’ve also been lining my “proofing cloth” with seeds (instead of flour) and with some wheat germ. Poppy, Golden Flax and Sesame have been wonderful.

As far as scorching your bottom, I had a little more issue with the bottom getting dark prematurely in a gas oven, and never in my electric. I suggest an oven thermometer to verify your oven temp. Try 425 degrees? Are you using an internal thermometer to check and make sure the inside is done(210 degrees)? You may be overbaking it…. I’ve gotten away with an internal temp of 200 degrees, you might try that as well since the bread will continue to cook some after you remove it.

Best of luck and happy baking!

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breadtopia May 1, 2008 at 5:05 am

Hi Coco,

I got by for years without a special proofing basket. I’d drape a well floured linen towel inside a bowl. The proofing baskets people buy are convenient since you can flour the bowl directly and don’t have a loose towel to contend with when you’re turning out your risen dough. Also, the coiled proofing basket can leave a nice pattern on the finished loaf.

I’ve never soaked or seasoned my cloche and have never had a problem with dough sticking. Sometimes there will be a little sticking of exposed ingredients in the dough (like dried cranberries, for example), but that’s minor. To play it safe, you might want to sprinkle some semolina flour or fine corn mean on the bottom.

I need to look into the soaking thing more. I never have and have cautioned against it for fear of risking breakage from thermal shock. But that might not be an issue if you start baking from a cold oven, and there might be some good benefits doing it that way. I read an interesting article just yesterday referencing soaking a cloche and plan to investigate it further.

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coco April 29, 2008 at 1:16 pm

hi! i am a very frustrated little baker… i have had misshaps all along my journey of bread-making, and i am hoping i found you for a reason…i followed your instructions and all was going well but it was drafty today so i put my dough in the oven to proof and my husband didn’t know and turned it on to bake something… i think he might have killed the yeast…anyway it seemed to still rise a little so i went ahead and am baking it now… my questions are…i don’t have a proofing basket; what makes them special? also, i got a cloche from my girlfriend that she made herself, and she was asking about soaking them first or seasoning them so the bread doesn’t stick? any help? thanks!!!

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breadtopia April 14, 2008 at 7:59 pm

Hi Jonathan,

Someone else asked basically the same question recently over at http://www.breadtopia.com/cooks-illustrated-almost-no-knead/#comment-29274
Richard’s reply is a good one for most cases probably, but it sounds like you’ve covered the oven temp thing already. Some people have mentioned some relief by moving their oven rack to a high position, but it doesn’t seem like it would make that much difference.

Are you using an instant read thermometer to test when the inside has reached 195 – 200?

 

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Jonathan April 14, 2008 at 7:28 pm

OK I’ve had fabulous success with many recipes and techniques described on this wonderful web site (reviving a sourdough starter, managing a starter, sourdough no-knead, extra-tangy sourdough, wheat, rye, etc.) — EXCEPT that nearly every single one of my loaves has a burnt (or at least too-dark) bottom. I bake in a Le Creuset dutch oven, with the cover on for the first half-hour, using some variety of the no-knead method (or the Cook’s Illustrated adaptation). I’ve tried lowering the temp (from 450 degrees), I’ve tried making drier dough, I’ve tried reducing the time, but I can’t seem to put my finger on the problem. The insides and top, by the way, have been great, it just seems to be the bottom. Some recipes even call for a 500-degree oven! Any advice or thoughts for me? Thanks!

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George February 13, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Try placing the dutch oven on a baking sheet. I also take my bread out 5 to 10 minutes earlier than the recipe calls for if the top is brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped.

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breadtopia April 11, 2008 at 5:41 pm

Hi Kate,

Yes, romertopf’s are great. No need to soak. I think you’ll really like the results you get.

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Kate April 11, 2008 at 5:15 pm

Eric,

Am enjoying the sourdough culture and the dough whisk I recently ordered- Thanks!
I have made the nkb in cast iron with good results. I don’t have a cloche clay baker but I do have a romertopf covered baker. Can I use that in the same manner? Would I need to soak the romertopf before use or would it be OK to heat it up dry?

Thanks!

Kate

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Wendy Grant April 10, 2008 at 1:38 pm

Read about cracking of Le Creuset. I sell this product in a kitchen store where I live. The manufacturers brochure that accompanies their products states that the enameled cast iron should not be heated to a high temperature. A neighbor did this with his Le Creuset pot and discolored the interior, caused spotting on the interior and broke pieces off the handle. I think plain old cast iron is the way to go.

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breadtopia March 19, 2008 at 7:34 pm

Hi Louise,

I wouldn’t risk it. I guess the purpose of soaking the lid is to add more steam and improve the crust?

In my experience, the crust (and bread in general) is greatly improved with the Cloche used as it.

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Louise March 19, 2008 at 7:15 pm

Eric:

Today, March 19, 2008, I first read the archive article dated December 28, 2006, on the LaCloche cracking. I have recently read where the base of the LaCloche in put in the oven to preheat prior to baking, and the top is soaked in water for 15 – 30 minutes. When the oven has reached the 500 degrees, the dough is inserted on a piece of parchment and covered with the soaked lid and baked for 30 minutes, then the lid is removed and baked for another 10-15 minutes. Would this method, make the lid crack?

Thank you for your feedback.

Louise

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breadtopia March 13, 2007 at 9:05 pm

Hi Anita,

Sorry it took me a while to get to this… I’ve been away.

Most Dutch ovens are plain cast iron and basically just pots with lids. The lid part is important in the no-knead method for holding in the steam which really helps make the crust exceptional. Is that what you are asking?

Eric

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anita Palancia March 11, 2007 at 6:57 pm

can i use a cast iron pot

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Connie January 24, 2007 at 1:55 pm

Le Creuset is an interesting product and one I use daily (and almost exclusively) for EVERYTHING here, in addition to my old-fashioned cast iron skillet. I wonder if Loretta used the traditional coated cast iron, or – where the warnings on its use are pretty different – the steel version (which has a rubber handle) that’s more intended for stovetop/soup type use? You cannot preheat the steel version, much less heat it over 450, period. I’d be surprised if this happened with the cast iron enamel version of LeC.

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breadtopia January 23, 2007 at 6:07 am

Hi Rena,

I love rye too. So far I’ve used rye a few times with the no-knead method but only to the extent that I substituted about 1/3 cup rye flour for the whole wheat. For me, the appeal of rye comes from the flavor that caraway, fennel and anise seeds bring to the bread, so the last time I baked no-knead bread (2 days ago) I added about a tbs each of fennel and caraway and maybe less of anise. I just tossed some in so these quantities are guesses.

I thought the bread came out great. It still had the nice open crumb and good rise (not difficult with so much white flour) and great rye flavor. Next time I’ll add a little grated orange peel too.

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Rena McClain January 23, 2007 at 5:01 am

Have you done any of the No Knead using rye flour instead of whole wheat? I love rye and wonder if it will work with the no knead as there is different gluten formation. Any thoughts?

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breadtopia January 1, 2007 at 10:37 am

Hi Ana,

Funny you should ask about walnuts and cranberries. It’s one of my favorite recipes (only I mostly use pecans) and I’ve made it 3 times in just the past couple weeks. Twice for a holiday function and once for myself so I could actually get some.

It has adapted nicely to the no-knead method. I just mix 1/2 cup each of the nut pieces and cranberries when I’m mixing together all the ingredients together at the very beginning. I cut back on the amount of whole wheat flour I usually use to 1/2 cup. So 1/2 cup whole wheat and 2 1/2 cups white. I think that makes it a little lighter.

I have also found that when baking with added ingredients like the cranberries, some inevitably stick to the bottom of whatever you’re baking in and can be pretty hard to get off. Sprinkling a little flour on the bottom before dropping in the dough prevents this.

I know what you mean about too much water. Sometimes I’m off one way or the other.

Eric

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Ana January 1, 2007 at 1:35 am

Hi! I love how the sourdough came out, but I think it had too much water and I had to leave it in the oven longer. My next step is to add walnuts and cranberries. Do you have any advice about how much to add and when?

Thank you!

Ana

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