|One Perfect Loaf|
Adapted from Römertopf Clay Baker Recipes by Reco International
Baking bread in a wet clay cooker results in a crisp shiny crust you may have thought possible only in a baker's brick oven. If you have doubts, try this simple single loaf.
1 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
Place warm water in a large mixer bowl; sprinkle with yeast. Let stand until softened; about 3 minutes.
Stir in sugar, salt and oil. Add 2 cups of the flour. Mix until blended; beat on medium speed until dough is elastic and pulls away from the bowl, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup of the flour to make soft dough. Turn dough onto floured surface. Knead, adding four as needed, until dough is smooth and springy and small bubbles form just under the surface (15 to 20 minutes).
Place dough into greased bowl and turn greased side up. Let stand covered in warm place until doubled, about 1 to 2 hours.
Soak bottom of loaf-shaped, 5-1/2 cup clay cooker in water for 15 minutes. When dough has doubled, drain bottom of clay cooker and pat dry. Grease the side and bottom generously.*
Punch dough; shape into loaf and place in cooker. Let stand, covered with waxed paper, in warm place, until dough nearly reaches top of cooker; 30 - 45 minutes (or longer).
Meanwhile, soak top of clay cooker in water about 15 minutes; drain.
Lightly brush with the egg wash, sprinkle with poppy seeds and cut diagonal slashes, 1/2 inch deep, in top of dough with razor blade or sharp knife.
Place covered cooker in cold oven. Set oven to 475 degrees and bake for 45 minutes. Remove cover, and if necessary, bake an additional 3 to 5 minutes to brown top. Remove from clay cooker and cool on rack.
Yield: 1 loaf
*it is important to generously grease the sides and bottom so loaf will not stick. Can also line the bottom of the clay cooker with parchment paper.