I strive not to be a complete sucker for aesthetics, however on an early March journey to Chicago for my favorite kitchenware convention, I wasn’t the one one ogling Le Creuset’s newest. In the middle of the French producer’s sales space stood a podium with its new providing, together with a little signal asking passersby to chorus from sharing photographs of it on social media, which was like asking felines to remain out of a subject of catnip. By the time I obtained there, the PR man had given up on enforcement.
This was Le Creuset’s new Bread Oven, customized made for the round domed loaves of bread referred to as boules that your entire buddies who would not shut up concerning the sourdough they have been making throughout Covid lockdown are going to go nuts for.
The Oven is made up of a backside “pan” that is 9-¼ inches throughout on the prime and curves right down to the pan ground to snuggle your dough. The prime is a cloche—a gold-handled dome that creates the sealed surroundings the place dough turns into bread. Top and backside, the inside of the enamel-coated cast-iron is black and the outside comes within the Le Creuset colours that make us swoon (Bonjour, Cerise! Hey, Marseille!) Put your dough in and put the entire thing in your scorching oven and all the pieces concerning the Bread Oven is designed to ship your dough rising towards the heavens and create a pillowy inside referred to as the crumb, together with a crispy, chewy crust. The Bread Oven is a showpiece for lovely bread.
Funny factor, although, there’s already a well-established king of the class, the Lodge Combo Cooker, and whereas le Bread Oven prices $290, the Lodge presently prices about one-sixth as a lot. Or you could possibly purchase neither and simply use the Dutch oven you may already personal, which might nonetheless make nice bread.
I obtained out the recipe for my go-to boule, the “no-knead” loaf popularized within the late 2000s by New York City baker Jim Lahey with assist from meals author Mark Bittman. A lazy-bones’ particular, you stir collectively flour, salt, yeast, and water and, as an alternative of kneading it, you simply let it proof in your counter in a single day. The subsequent day, you kind the boule, let it proof for one other hour or two, and it is able to bake. For velocity and precision, I exploit Modernist Bread’s model, a weight-based recipe that yields a 1-kilo loaf.
One boule into testing, it was obvious that the Bread Oven delivers with élan. The bread’s crust sang its crackly melody when it got here out of the oven to chill, the crumb had a beautiful springiness and nice chewiness to it, the “holes” inside have been small and evenly spaced out, and the style was fairly divine. I appreciated that the cast-iron oven itself was comparatively mild and maneuverable. I additionally beloved the theatricality of lifting off the lid like a tuxedoed waiter at a fancy restaurant. The oven was clearly incredible at its job, but it nonetheless appears functionally equivalent to the Combo Cooker.
Both the Bread Oven and Combo Cooker work properly for a couple of causes. An “oven” or “cooker” made for baking bread offers extremely even warmth, smoothing any out warmth fluctuations in your house oven. The heavy lid shuts tight to kind a seal, creating a little steam oven the place the elevated moisture improves the warmth switch and helps the dough stretch because it rises. And, whereas forged iron may need been my grandma’s favourite pan materials, this simply exhibits what a sharp cookie she was.
For head-to-head testing with the Lodge, I went straight to the man who helped me work out nearly all the pieces in that final paragraph, Francisco Migoya, the coauthor of Modernist Bread, Modernist Pizza, and Modernist’s forthcoming tome on pastry. He was the one who had turned me on to the Combo Cooker, so I used to be curious to get his tackle the Bread Oven.
When I arrived within the Modernist Cuisine kitchen, Migoya had 4 loaves of sourdough he’d simply baked set out on a cooling rack, two artfully scored beauties from the Le Creuset and two from the Lodge, which instantly jogged my memory that I hadn’t had sufficient breakfast. Even up shut, it was troublesome to distinguish between the loaves. Migoya lower into one among every loaf and we examined the cross sections.
“No noticeable difference,” he proclaimed, and for so long as we stared at them we actually could not discover a lot to set them aside. Even the thickness of the crusts matched. He lower items off for some style testing and—shock!—they could as properly have been from the identical loaf.