Introduction: Baking Bread in a Ceramic Flower Pot
Writing this one for my friend Sandy in Canada. I cooked a week worth of daily sourdough in an outdoor fire, in a clay flower pot. These are notes of what I learnt from 7 cycles of optimisation. The usual way of baking bread in a campfire in Australia is using a cast iron "camp oven". I can't see how my method could have much advantage over the durable, non stick and fantastic thermal properties of a camp oven - other than the fact I didn't have one. Don't have a complete photoset of the whole thing sorry...so this is a one step Instructable.
DOUGH - This Instructable does not have the intricacies of my sourdough recipe. I worked with an 850g sourdough dough loaf made at approx 70% hydration of 500g flour.(learn what baker hydration level means and don't be an idiot like me the first time I made 70% water dough!) Note this is a fairly wet dough. The dough boulle was well dusted in RICE flour. Yes... rice, as it has no gluten and is therefore non stick. I put the dough in the pot when it had nearly doubled in size and let it rise a bit more with the "oven" lid closed.
21cm diameter unglazed earthenware pot and 21cm pot dish. The narrowing at the "top" was not a desired feature and I think it could be better without. As a far as the oven size, I'd say it's a bit too snug for this size loaf. The loaf on average took up more than 3/4 of the space and some of the fluffier ones hit the roof and stuck and burned. Hungry hoards for this slightly smokey flavoured hot fresh bread meant I didn't try downsizing the dough. No preheating of the oven was performed. From oven experiments I have found it to be unnecessary.
A coin over the drainage hole keeps in the steam until it is removed during the crusting stage after 20 min. I also wet the inside of the pot (not the base dish) under a tap before loading the dough to increase steam that helps facilitate good rising. Note the wire mesh "crown" used to hold the fuel in place.
Initially I tried building a quick and hot twig fire over the pot. It was unpredictable and some sides burned. "Heat Beads", a brand of compressed charcoal bbq fuel briquettes were introduced to add some standardization. I first built a quick burning fire comprised of eucalyptus twigs of on average pencil thickness, with 10 heat beads stacked on top of the twigs to get them alight.
I've also had success using this flower pot in my gas fired Weber bbq.
The fire should burn down in less than 10 mins and the briquettes all be well alight. Spread out a layer of approximately 1cm thick layer of glowing twig embers in the middle of the fire. Plonk the oven on top gently with a spade. With bbq tongs place the Briquettes symmetrically as shown. .. 7 around, and 3 on top was enough. Rake the rest of the embers in a circle around the oven adjacent to the rim using a stick.
Start the timer...
20 minutes - remove the coin. Gently open the lid a fraction and chock the oven open approx 5mm with small stones or shells on three sides. This is to create a dry convection heat around the bread for browning the crust.
30 - 35 minutes - should be done. check the base of the loaf too. Depending on how hot the fire was it may be a little pale, so if this happens, the briquettes can be popped on the ground and the whole oven put on top for a couple of minutes until crunchy.