Over the years Jane and I have tried many kitchen gadgets (many of them ones that she has won in competitions), and to be honest a lot of them have been rubbish. A gadget has to be good to earn its place in our kitchen! This post is about one of the good ones.
You probably know that I have got keen on baking bread - particularly the sourdough type. My skills have been gradually improving, but until recently I seldom seemed to be able to get a crisp crackly crust on a loaf, and that is despite using the time-honoured method of placing a roasting-tray full of ice-cubes in the oven as a way of generating steam. Now, a "gadget" has transformed my loaves.
As a Christmas present, Jane bought me a "La Cloche baking dome", available in the UK via Bakery Bits. In the words of the supplier "A La Cloche will give your bread the wood-fired oven treatment, trapping steam with the rising dough to give you a loaf with a beautifully golden, crackly crust and soft, evenly baked crumb." It does, too.
As you can see from the photo above, the La Cloche comes in two parts: a base and a dome. You put the whole thing in the cold oven and allow it to heat up as the oven heats. Then when the oven has come up to temperature you remove the La Cloche, tip your dough into the base unit, quickly cover it with the dome and return it to the oven. The dome is removed for the last 10 minutes of cooking time in order to let the loaf develop a nice golden-brown colour.
I am very pleased indeed with this item. I have used it several times already, and the result has been perfect bread each time. This is one gadget that I have no hesitation in recommending. It's not cheap, (£47.99), but if you are serious about bread-making it will soon earn its keep. The only disadvantage I can see is that it is quite bulky and takes a lot of storage-space.
Incidentally, some of my bread-making friends have told me that they use an inverted cast-iron Dutch Oven for the same purpose, but cast-iron is very heavy and a blazing hot Dutch Oven can be very dangerous to use!