Bread Cloche vs Dutch Oven

Bread Cloche vs Dutch Oven

Let’s all agree that no matter how you’re thinking about baking up a fresh loaf of bread that you really can’t go wrong.

After all, I mean, it’s bread.

Right?

But is there an optimal method for crafting a perfect loaf and if so, what’s the best cookware for making it – a bread cloche or a Dutch oven?

The answer is that it depends on your situation and whether you already have one or the other in your kitchen.

However, the basic difference between a bread cloche and a Dutch oven is that a bread cloche is not designed to be used directly over heat (stovetops, open fires, etc.) but rather in an oven, whereas a Dutch oven can be used in any of those situations.

Now some will argue that bread tends to turn out better when baked in a cloche versus a Dutch oven, but that will mostly come down to individual preferences.

With that said, there are some other differences between these two historic pieces of cookware and in this article, we’re going to dive deep into their respective histories and much more.

So, get your butter knife ready to spread and let’s get to it! 

Differences in Origin

Bread cloches are a very basic form of cookware that resembles a bell in shape.

It’s made of two parts – a domed lid and a baking stone underneath. Cloches work by trapping moisture and heat released by bread as it cooks. This causes the internal temperature to rise much higher and also promotes a more even distribution of heat. The result is some of the most delicious bread you’ve ever tasted!

It’s thought that the earliest civilization to make use of cloches were the Etruscans. The culture occupied ancient Italy from about 900 BC until about 27 BC when it was assimilated into the Roman Republic. The Romans adopted the use of the cloche and used it to make not only bread but cook a variety of other foods like meat and fish. While the Romans are long gone, the humble cloche remains and still largely unchanged from its original design.

It’s thought that Dutch ovens have been around since the early 1700s.

During that time period, the Netherlands were known for producing not only the highest quality cookware but also some of the most expensive, since the primary metal used at the time was brass.

As useful as the cookware might have been, the high cost of the raw materials put it out of reach for many people. However, thanks to the creativity of an enterprising English entrepreneur named Abraham Darby, that soon changed.

Darby, who was also known as Abraham Darby the Elder, is considered a major force in the early days of the Industrial Revolution thanks to a smelting method he devised which allowed the use of cheaper metals, like cast iron, in manufacturing. 

After a visit to the Netherlands, Darby observed that the method used by the Dutch to create their brass cookware involved the use of sand molds. However, in England, the molds were traditionally made of clay, which wasn’t effective in casting molten iron.

After a period of experimentation, Darby eventually hit on a method for using sand molds to cast iron. This dramatically lowered the costs of production and finished goods, which meant that cookware like the Dutch oven became more widely available.

The Dutch oven has always been a simple product – just a sturdy pot with a snug fitting lid.

And since the earliest known uses of them involved cooking over an open flame, this basic design makes a lot of sense. Interestingly, little has changed about the design over the centuries. Even to this day, there have been only modest alterations made, such as small legs for elevation or hinged lids. 

Differences in Usage

As you can probably guess, a bread cloche is at its best when it’s used to make a fresh, delicious loaf. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get creative and try out some of your other favorites in it. Whether it’s for a family dinner of roasted chicken or a delectable dessert like deep dish peach pie, there’s more than one use for a bread cloche if you’re determined and creative enough.

One of the great strengths of Dutch ovens is their versatility. There’s almost no limit to the types of cooking you can do in one, including any or all of the following:

  • Baking – Bread (of course!), scones, cookies or cakes
  • Boiling – Pasta
  • Braising – Brisket, chuck roast or ribs
  • Frying – Fish, chicken or vegetables
  • Roasting – Chicken, pork or vegetables
  • Sautéing – Thinner cuts of meat or tender vegetables
  • Simmering – Soups, stews or casseroles
  • Steaming – Rice

Differences in Preparation

If you’ve never owned either a bread cloche or a Dutch oven and are purchasing one for the first time, you’ll need to make sure you do a few things to get the most out of them.

What follows are general guidelines, so be sure and check out the manufacturer’s website for detailed instructions on how to use their specific product.

Most bread cloches are made of ceramic and are designed for oven use only (conventional, convection or microwave). It’s generally not a good idea to use them on stove tops or any other direct sources of heat.

Aside from that, one thing you’ll need to be aware of is a condition known as thermal shock. Ceramics can crack when exposed to extremes in temperature, so when your bread cloche is hot, you’ll want to be sure that you don’t allow it to come in contact with any cold surfaces or cold water.

The best practice is to allow the cloche to cool at room temperature on a cloth or wooden surface.

Bread cloches clean up easily by hand and are dishwasher safe.

While there are some ceramic Dutch ovens available, it’s more likely that if you’re considering purchasing one, you’ll be buying a cast iron Dutch oven, so for the purposes of this article, we’ll be talking about them.

As with all cast iron cookware, properly seasoning your new Dutch oven is important.

Why?

That’s a good question, especially when you consider that virtually all cast iron cookware comes pre-seasoned by the manufacturer. However, even though this is the case, most pre-seasoned cast iron will not last for the life of your cookware and, to make sure you protect your investment, you’ll want to take the extra step of seasoning it.

Seasoning is important because it without it your food will stick to the cast iron and not only that, won’t taste good at all.

To properly season a cast iron Dutch oven, you’ll need a well-ventilated area or, if possible, do it outside. The reason for this is that it can take quite a while to do this and since it’s performed at high temperatures, there will be a good deal of smoke. 

Here’s a great article on how to do it and even has a video demonstration for those who prefer to learn that way.

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