ancient roman times
I got a Römertopf as a wedding gift (AD at least 20 years ago) and since then I’ve been a Römertopf fan! I used here the German word Römertopf –literally “Roman pot”- because the clay roaster used to cook with since its introduction in 1967. It has influenced cooking traditions in Germany as well as the neighboring European countries. The pot we mainly use in Europe to cook meat, like pork roast, chicken or stew, in the oven. A wide range of clay pots, from round to loaf shaped, are available on the market and can be used to bake bread in any oven. (Clay pots can be found in specialty kitchen supply stores and online).
Some useful words about the advantages of the clay roasting
Clay pot cooking is a special technique of cooking food in the beautiful unglazed pot which has been soaked in water in advance so as to release steam during the cooking process. This technique actually has a long history, stretching back at least to ancient Roman times, and before it has become known in Europe has been commonly used in several cuisines in Africa and Southeast and East Asia.
The food inside the clay pot loses little of its moisture because it is surrounded by steam, creating a tender, flavorful dish. The evaporation of the water prevents burning so long as the pot is not allowed to heat until it is completely dry. Because no oil needs to be added with this cooking technique, food cooked in a clay pot may be lower in fat compared with food prepared by other methods, such as sautéing or frying. Unlike boiling, nutrients are not leached out into the water.
I have already cooked many different divine pork and chicken dishes with tons of vegetables and rice in the clay pot but last week was the first time when I gave a try to bake a bread. The outcome was SUPERB!
Bread in the clay pot
- 3/4 cup warm water
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 1-1/2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp vegetable shortening
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, approximately
Stir warm water, yeast and sugar in large mixer bowl. Let stand 5-10 minutes or until foamy. Add 2 cups flour, salt, and oil. With mixer fitted with dough hook, mix on low until blended, then mix on medium speed for 5 minutes until dough pulls away from sides of bowl. Turn dough onto floured surface and knead, adding more flour as needed. Knead about 15-20 minutes until dough is smooth and springy and small bubbles form just under the surface. Place dough in greased bowl, turn to coat top. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
Soak bottom of Clay Baker in water for about 20 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Generously grease sides and bottom of clay baker.
When dough has doubled, punch down and shape into a loaf, place in clay baker. Let stand, covered with plastic wrap or wax paper, for 30-45 minutes or until dough nearly reaches the top of the cooker.
Soak top of clay baker for 15 minutes while dough rises the second time. When dough has risen, use a sharp razor blade or knife to cut 2-3 diagonal slashes across the top of dough (about 1/2″ deep). Drain lid of baker, pat dry and grease. Place covered clay baker in cold oven, set oven temperature to 475 degrees Fahrenheit and bake 45 minutes. Remove lid and continue to bake until top is brown, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack.
Useful instruction: Clay pots may be cleaned by scrubbing them with salt; soaps or detergents should not be used, because the clay may absorb them.