Have you ever tried baking bread? How about in a terracotta dish? You’ll be pleasantly surprised at just how beautiful your baked bread will turn out. Baking bread in a terracotta dish (Römertopf clay) is a great way to achieve a crusty, golden-brown exterior and a soft, chewy interior. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is too!
You can bake any type of bread you like but here I choose to make a simple white bread. It’s a great place to start when learning to bake with terracotta. As you get better and understand your vessel you can try as many bread flavours as you like.
- Active dry yeast
- Warm water
- Granulated sugar
- White bread flour or all-purpose flour
WHY BAKE BREAD IN TERRACOTTA?
Terracotta means “baked earth,” in Italian and as one of the oldest materials used for cooking food is actually very ideal for baking bread! It distributes heat evenly, helping baked goods turn out perfect every time. The clay has pores or better called porous material which draws moisture from the dough producing a perfect crust. You soak the unglazed lid in water first for at least 10-15 minutes and when ready place the lid on top of the dish to be baked. This seals that moisture in the pores and slowly burns off as the heat rises in the oven, creating steam for perfect bread.
TIPS FOR BAKING WITH TERRACOTTA
- When you first get your terracotta dish (Römertopf clay) clean it with warm water only.
- Do not use soaps as they can block pores and affect the taste of the food that is cooked in the dish.
- Soak unglazed lids in water for at least 10-15 minutes before baking in the oven.
- Always place terracotta cookware in a cold oven (filled with your prepared dough), then set your desired temperature. This is to avoid cracks and breakage in your dish.
- You can cook any recipe in your terracotta dish but terracotta requires a high oven temperature. You can usually convert the recipe by raising the cooking temperature by 100˚F and adding a half hour to regular cooking time (this is because the dish is placed into a cold oven and the clay does not get hot as fast as other cookware does).
- Baking bread in terracotta only requires one rise, the second rise happens in the cold oven! See below for more.
The interesting part about baking in terracotta is not having a second rise. This makes things go a little faster and cuts out a step or two from the regular bread making process. When the terracotta dish goes into a cold oven is when the second rise will happen. You place your prepared dough in the dish and then into the cold oven, turn on the heat and that’s when all the magic starts to happen! The steam gets sealed in from the wet lid and gets baked evenly through the terracotta, then for the last 10 minutes of baking you remove the lid to brown up the bread – voila!
How To Make Basic Bread in a Terracotta Dish
Step One: Bloom yeast in warm water and sugar. Make your dough by adding flour and salt to your yeast mixture. Mix the dough until ragged and bring together with your hands. Knead the dough for approx. 8 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Poke the dough with your finger and if it springs back it’s ready to rest. Cover the dough and let rest for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
Step Two: Soak the lid of your unglazed terracotta lid in water for 10 minutes. Once dough has doubled in size, punch it down and flatten it into a rectangle. Now, fold the dough like a letter, and pinch closed. Fold in half, use the side of your hand to press it crossed tightly and pinch the seams together. Slash the top with a sharp knife or blade.
Step Three: Brush the top of the bread with egg wash. Place the loaf into the terracotta dish, seam side down and put the wet lid on top. Place the bread in the middle of the cold oven, it’s very important that the oven isn’t preheated! Turn on the oven to 400°F while the dough is in the oven and bake as directed.Print
Basic Bread Making in a Terracotta Dish
Here’s a simple white bread recipe using a terracotta dish. Baking in a terracotta dish will transform your bread into a loaf just like the bakery. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at just how beautiful and crusty your bread will turn out.
- Prep Time: 2 hours
- Cook Time: 45 minutes
- Total Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
- Yield: 1 Loaf 1x
- Category: Bread
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: French
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 300 ml warm water
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 1/2 – 3 cups white bread flour or all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg for glazing
- Combine warm water, yeast and sugar together in a large mixing bowl. Let rest for approx. 5-10 minutes until mixture is frothy and has formed bubbles.
- In a large bowl mix flour and salt together. Make a well in the middle of the flour and add liquid. Mix together until ragged. Turn out onto a prepared work surface and knead for approx. 8 minutes until smooth and elastic (you can also use a stand mixer with the dough hook).
- Grease a large clean bowl, place the dough in the middle, and turn the dough to cover in oil. Cover with plastic wrap and leave the dough to double in size in a warm, draft free place, approx. 1 – 1½ hours.
- Using a terracotta dish, soak the unglazed lid in water for 10 minutes, and leave the bottom of the dish.
- Once dough has doubled in size turn out dough onto a slightly floured work surface. Punch the dough down and flatten it into a rectangle. Fold the dough like a letter and pinch closed. Fold in half, use the side of your hand to press it crossed tightly and pinch the seams together. Slash the top a few times with a sharp knife or a razor blade, this is so it rises evenly in the oven. Brush the top of the bread with egg wash. Place the loaf into the terracotta dish, seam side down and put the wet lid on top.
- Now, place the bread in the middle of the cold oven.
- Turn the oven on to 400°F while the dough is in the oven. This step is very important so you don’t crack the dish and your bread gets its second rise in the oven.
- Bake for 35 minutes. Take the lid off and continue to bake for another 10-15 minutes until the bread is browned and when tapped, sounds hollow.
Baking time varies due to size of bread, oven temperature and baking dish. Be careful not to open the oven door or lid too often as it will affect the rise and the crust.
- Serving Size: 1 slice
- Calories: 103
- Sugar: 0.4g
- Sodium: 104mg
- Fat: 0.7g
- Saturated Fat: 0.2g
- Unsaturated Fat: 0
- Trans Fat: 0
- Carbohydrates: 20.5g
- Cholesterol: 14mg
Keywords: White Bread, Bread, Terracotta Baking, Breakfast
Yes, baking bread in terracotta dishes leads to a crusty, even baked bread. Terracotta distributes heat evenly, helping your baked goods turn out perfect every time. The clay has pores or better known as porous material which draws moisture from the dough producing a perfect crust. Make sure to soak the unglazed lid in water first for at least 10-15 minutes and when ready place the lid on top of the dish to be baked.
No, there is no need to soak glazed terracotta. You want to soak unglazed terracotta before baking or cooking for at least 10-15 minutes in cold water.
Yes, if you are making bread you can substitute bread flour for all-purpose flour. The ratio is as simple as 1:1. The bread will have a higher gluten content, will be chewier and the texture will be slightly better.
You soak an unglazed terracotta lid in water for at least 10-15 minutes and when ready place the lid on top of the dish to be baked. This seals the moisture in the pores and slowly burns off as the heat rises in the oven, creating steam in the vessel for perfectly baked bread.
Römertopf bakers come in glazed and unglazed pots. Make sure to soak unglazed terracotta for at least 10-15 minutes before baking with them. Glazed pots do not need to be soaked as the water will not seep into the pores (creating that steam inside the vessel).
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The best bread we have ever had! We are making it again. THANK YOU! Xo 😚
Ohh haha. You’ll be fine with 1tsp!!
Yeahh!! So happy to hear Tisha. Enjoy
If I’m working with an unglazed terra-cotta dish, should I soak both the lid and bottom?
Hi Celene, yes absolutely! Soak unglazed terra-cotta in cold water; both the base and the lid for approx. 15 minutes.
Hi Allie, I’m using a quick rise packet – which measures 2-1/4 tsp. Will that be fine or does it have to be exactly 2 tsp?
Technically when you’re substituting instant yeast for active dry yeast you want to use about 20% less.. so 2 teaspoons Active Dry yeast ≈ 1.6 teaspoons Instant Yeast. Hope that helps!
If it’s the active dry yeast you can definitely use a little more if you’re worried about wasting the rest of the packet. Just keep an eye on the proofing stages!
It turned out great!!!! Thank you for your clear recipe! Shared it with my neighbour. This was my first bread and found the process therapeutic esp with how easy your directions were to follow.
Now I’d like to experiment with flavour and density.
Palo, I’m so happy to hear. I too find the process of bread making very therapeutic! Enjoy 🙂
Thank you. It stored so well. It’s still soft yet dense. I wonder if the density is attributed to the size of my dish.Would you know the size of your clay dish? I think I need to adjust the measurements some for my clay ware size. I’m using a 2quart dish. Or would you have a suggestion for adjusting the ratios, say for 1.5 cups of flour would I cut back the yeast relative to that?
I included a link to dropbox with photos of the bread 🙂
Also would you know how to increase bubbles in this bread recipe?
Thank you again.
Wow, great pictures your bread turned out great!! The density is normally due to the proofing (rise time) and or the kneading. Keep at it and that will change as you’re skills develop. My terra cotta is 4.5 quart so yes a little bigger than yours. I wouldn’t suggest changing the recipe, if you want you could divide the dough in half to make smaller loaves and bake two separate loaves (in a different pan) or put half the dough in the fridge/freezer for another day of baking. 🙂
Turned out beautiful. I wasnt sure of the method. Also use ts of salt and herbs. Hope it tastes as good as it looks. thank you.
That’s great news Sue. I love the idea of adding herbs to freshen up the basic recipe, well done!
I am never sure of the gram to cup conversion in American recipes. Can you please tell me how many grams of flour you are using? Thank you
Hi Kirsten, not a problem at all. You would need approx. 320g – 384g of flour I’ve updated it on the recipe as well.
Found your site during my quest for Römertopf bread baking questions. It’s interesting to see the 2 different opinions on putting clay baker with dough in cold oven versus preheating the empty, non soaked pot. When I did it the first time I just washed out the pot because I hadn’t used it for a while. Put it in the oven while it was preheating to 450. When I opened the oven door an enormous amount of steam and smoke came out of the oven. Quite scary. The next time I didn’t wet (or soak) the pot at all. I made a sourdough rye bread and it came out great. I will have to try your recipe. I was wondering if you tried using high protein or bread flour in your recipe. I am asking, because I managed to get a huge bag of it and don’t want to use my All purpose flour, since I’m having a hard time finding any.
Hi Inge. Yes you can absolutely sub bread flour for all purpose flour. It’s as simple as a 1:1 ratio. The soaked lid creates a slow steam which helps give your bread that lovey crusty crust (you want that steam while your bread is inside the oven). If you don’t have a clean oven and the temperature is that hot you will get smoke, as it’s burning off whatever is left behind. Hope that helps. Happy baking. 🙂
Greetings. Looking to bake a gluten free loaf in a terra cotta pan. Unfortunately, it has no lid. What do you recommend in lieu of that?
We have a go-to gluten free recipe but are also open to others.
Ohh that’s a tough one JJ Andrews! The lid is the vessel for terra cotta baking. Unfortunately I’d suggest buying another one with a lid. You soak the lid in order to get the steam to crisp up the bread, so the lid is a key component. You could try using a cast iron skillet to cover the pan, but it won’t provide the same baking style. As for the gluten-free bread, I’m sorry to say I don’t have any recipes to share. All my bread is made with gluten. I’m afraid I haven’t been too helpful for you.
Thanks so much for the quick response.
In the interim, I discovered that we have another terra cotta bread pan (in theory) but also without a lid of the same size. May be a naive question but would it work if I inverted it and used it as a lid? If it needs to seal tighter than that would offer, what if I wrapped the whole thing in aluminum foil? Just brainstorming, here.
Well you’re certainly are creative, lol! For best results you’d want a lid that can seal, this way the steam can stay within the vessel and do its job to create that crusty bread. But I mean you can definitely experiment with this, and try your aluminum foil idea. Let me know how it goes if you decided to go forward!
I’ve had a fair amount of success making a gluten free bread in a terra cotta pot and according to the instructions above. Have used aluminum foil to help seal the cover, as mentioned in the other comments. Turns out it is a cordon bleu pot, fwiw.
Would like feedback on how to reduce the occurrence of air pockets, air tunnels, air caves, etc. Seems to happen about 1/2 the time.
Hi JJ Andrew, I’m not exactly sure what you are asking? Are you asking about air holes in your bread? Or with you terracotta coving it in foil?
I was asking about the air pockets.
As I’m making gluten free bread, the recipe calls for xanthan gum. Have read that it adds “airiness” so I cut it back a bit and that did help but did not solve the problem. If I cut back too much, the loaf will lose some of its structural integrity. Any other steps I should try?
Unfortunately I’m not an expert in gluten free bread techniques, so I’m not too sure. You may want to reach out to whomever posted/wrote the recipe. They would probably have knowledge on that. Most time air pockets are caused by not kneading and shaping the dough properly, which normally gets better over practice.
i just got a Romertopf and was searching around. i found your recipe. it appears you are putting your dough in the bottom of the vessel and not using parchment paper or cornmeal (to keep it from sticking) or any oil. so my question is do you prep the bottom in any way before you load the dough in to the vessel? thank you for the lovely pictures as well.
Hi William, very exciting and welcome to the club 😉 There is no need to add or grease your vessel for making bread, it will not stick. Parchment paper may start to burn at high heat (over 400˚F) and isn’t necessary. So to answer your question, there is no need to prep the bottom of the vessel for your dough, just stick it right in there, and bake away! Happy Baking 🙂
I have a beautiful, but unusual terra cotta pot. Only the inside is glazed. Also, the lid, unfortunately is glazed inside and out.
Would it work to soak the pot itself and have the steam only on the outside of the pot? Strange dilemma
Hi Lisa, good question. Glazed terracotta is great for cooking but not as ideal for baking bread. The glazed terracotta will not absorb the water like unglazed terracotta will. Therefore there wouldn’t be any point in soaking it as you won’t create the steam and moisture inside the vessel. It still may be a google vessel to bake in, but your results will differ. Hope that helps, happy baking. 🙂
Hi, just about to try using my terracotta oven to cook bread for the first time. You say to add 30mins to cooking time and 100f. So if the bread normally takes 35 min do I put it into a cold oven and cook for 1 hr 05min?
Hi Sally, this applies for other ‘cooking’ style recipes, not for bread. Since you are baking bread you just need to follow my steps in the instructions; you’re basically adjusting the proofing time to use your terracotta dish. I’m assuming you are using another bread recipe? If so, just continue to use the their recipe and follow my steps from 5 on. Hope that helps, let me know if you have more questions.
Hi Alie. Your recipe for baking bread in my terracotta pot / Romertopf has now become a firm favourite in our home. I make the dough – white, 50/50 wholemeal, or granary – in my bread maker so it does all the hard work! Then take it out, punch it down and fold as in your recipe. Lining the bottom with greaseproof paper there is no washing of the Romertopf. I always soak the lid in water. Cutting deep slices in the formed bread dough and topping with e.g. poppy or carraway seeds – experimenting with these. Then cover and in oven (Gas Mark 6 for me in UK) for 40 minutes from cold. Then 15 mins without the lid and the results so far have been very well received!!!! Thank you for your recipe – such a help and good to find a community who love cooking in terracotta. Jilly – New Milton, Hampshire, UK
Jilly, thank you for taking the time to write me about your experience. I’m so happy to be part of your baking and love how you are experimenting with flours and seeds. Best, Alie 🙂
Well I tried a sweet bread and put two loaves side by side.. they are rolled jelly roll as if for cinnamon buns. Oh my, Its amazing! So glad I searched for cooking in clay. I’ve only done a chicken, artichokes so my experience is low but this is a whole new world to explore…thank you for sharing your knowledge!
I have another pot that is cracked, is it no good now?
Hi Lois, this is so great to hear, thank you for sharing your experience with me! I completely agree with you, terracotta baking is a game changer!! Unfortunately the cracked pot is no longer good (depending on how bad it is), steam will eventually leak through so your seal will not be good and eventually the pot will break.
I have an older spara bratentopf 156 clay Baker which I inherited from my mother… I made a great ciabatta loaf in it years ago but lost the recipe…the lower inner bowl is glazed but not the lid…do I presoak just the lid ?..or the whole thing ?… can’t remember…. preheat the baker then add the dough?…or dough in cold baker on glazed bottom…do you have a ciabatta recipe for this..?… thanks…Ted…
Hi Ted, you only soak the unglazed lid in water for at least 15 minutes before baking in the oven. Always place terracotta cookware in a cold oven (filled with your prepared dough), then set your desired temperature. This is to avoid cracks and breakage in your dish. I’m sorry but at the moment I do not have a ciabatta recipe posted on the blog. Keep an eye out though, as I’ll make a note and add it to my recipe list. Hope that helps and happy baking!
My terracotta dish does not have a lid. After 35 minutes it sounded done but was a little underdone. I live at 5,000 feet. How might I adjust for altitude? Any help out there?
BTW I used bread flour.
Hi Ralph, this recipe is used with a lid so that may have a factor in your baking time. When there is a lid the heat will retain in the vessel and bake the bread a little faster. The recipe bake time is 35 minutes plus another 10 minutes. So that may have been the problem plus not using a lid. There shouldn’t be an issue with using bread flour. I’d just extend your baking time next time around round. There is also a very good article about altitude that you can check out here, as I’m not an expert on altitude. https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/learn/resources/high-altitude-baking Hope that helps.
Hi! Just baked a sourdough loaf in my spara baker and it looks great except the bottom became too dark. Should I put the baker one rack up so it’s not on the bottom rung of the oven? All else is great, good too crust.
Hi Karin, yes you can move the rack up and that may help a little or your baking time may have been a bit long for the bread. Just note that the bottom of fresh baked sourdough bread is typically very dark and thick. You’ll notice at bakeries the bottom of the bread will also be dark (almost burnt looking) too. That thick crunchy crust is what you look for in a sourdough. Hope that helps and happy baking.
I want to begin bread baking in my claypot. Would like a more healthy alternative to plain white bread.
Hi Alice, you could start with a basic whole-wheat bread, you can get the recipe here.
Howdy from Texas, Jilly. I’m so glad I found your page. I have a Romertopf and am excited to use it again. I’m very excited about making bread!! I’m looking for a good, ciabatta recipe; suggestions? Also, can I add seed, nuts, herbs to your bread recipe? Have you made focaccia in your cooker? Thank you for sharing!!
Hi Beckie, great to have you!! I hope you love baking with your new Romertopf, it will definitely make 100% of a difference in your bread baking! I have not yet tried making focaccia in my clay pot, only white and whole wheat bread. I’m sure it will be delicious as it will create a crispy crust and moist interior in the focaccia. If you don’t want a crispy top then I’d stay clear from the Romertopf. You can find my focaccia bread recipe here. Unfortunately, I don’t have a ciabatta recipe on the blog, but now I’m thinking that would be a great recipe to have. Let me know how it goes and I’m here to help if you need it! Happy Baking.
Until I found this recipe my terra cotta cooker sat in the cabinet collecting dust! This makes a beautiful loaf of bread! Now my terra cotta cooker is used weekly! Thanks!
Hi Diane, thanks for taking the time to write a review! I’m so happy to hear your terra cotta cooker is getting to good use and you’re enjoying some beautifully baked bread! xo, Alie.