I'm a Bread Novice, and Le Creuset's New Bread Cloche Helped Me Turn Out Professional-Looking Loaves

If you want crusty, crispy bread with minimal effort, this is the way to go. 

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Le Creuset's Bread Cloche
Photo: Nina Huang

Even though I'm an avid dessert baker, I'm embarrassed to say that I've never really forayed fully into bread baking. It's the idea of handling something as delicate as carefully proofed dough that intimidates me: one second too long in the mixer or an hour too short in the proofing bowl might all bring your hard work crashing down, resulting in gummy glutenous breads that taste as bad as it looks.

That's why I'm always looking to try gadgets and cookware that might help me perfect my bread, such as Le Creuset's newly released Bread Oven. For those who have been hoping for a bread cloche from the brand after years of making loaves in its Dutch ovens, now's your chance. ​​I'm not surprised to find that Le Creuset's bread oven makes baking loaves from scratch so much easier; it really turned this amateur baker into someone capable of producing professional-looking loaves.

Le Creuset Bread Oven in Marseille
Courtesy of Le Creuset

To buy: Le Creuset Bread Oven, $290 at lecreuset.com

Having gotten my hands on the new Bread Oven over a week ago after the brand sent it to me to try, I've since tested it out with three loaves of no-knead white bread and a dozen scones. The bread oven instantly wowed me upon opening the box. Not only does Le Creuset offer the oven in its signature variety of vibrant hues (mine was Marseille blue), but it also designed the cloche to be so lightweight that I could easily lift and carry it even with a bad back. It only weighs 9 pounds, its side handles make carrying the cloche in and out of ovens super easy, and its ergonomic lid handle makes lifting the dome effortless.

Since the Bread Oven is made with stain-proof enameled cast iron that requires no seasoning, you can immediately put it to use and it will build up a nonstick patina as you bake more and more. The lid is large enough to allow big ounces of dough to rise without impediment (my loaves were around 19 ounces each that only took up a little over half of the space), and the lower baking pan is made with beautiful ridges that create a stunning pattern on the bottom of the bread—as well as a "Le Creuset" branding—to really impress.

Le Creuset's Bread Cloche
Nina Huang

Like other bread cloches, the pan's 5.5-inch high dome and tight-fitting seal traps heat and moisture within the oven to create the crispiest crust you can imagine, so there's no need to prepare your oven with a hot water tray. The bottom pan, on the other hand, provides an even temperature so there won't be any dark spots on the bottom of your loaf. It warms up very quickly with no need to preheat the cloche in the oven ahead of time, and it's heat-proof up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit and compatible with all stovetops.

The results are truly spectacular. I divided my handmade batch of no-knead white bread dough into two and baked one half in the bread oven with the other on my Nordic Ware sheet tray with a piece of parchment paper at 450 degrees Fahrenheit. I had the former cook in the cloche for 28 minutes first before removing the domed lid and letting it acquire a gorgeous golden brown color with another eight minutes in the oven; for the latter on the tray, I baked just for 28 minutes straight and it ended up being much darker.

Le Creuset Bread Oven in Marseille
Courtesy of Nina Huang

The most significant difference between the two loaves was the crust and the tenderness of the bread. With the cloche, I was able to achieve a truly thick and crispy crust on my loaf compared to just baking it on the sheet tray. I tapped it on the bottom multiple times and was extremely satisfied to hear that deep thud you'd get from bakery-style bread, while the loaf from the sheet tray was much thinner and faltered at the tapping test. Cutting it open, the bread oven loaf was also much softer and tender, while the sheet tray loaf was a little drier (albeit still chewy and delicious).

Le Creuset's Bread Cloche
Nina Huang

For even more testing, I baked a third loaf with raisins in the bread oven, getting even better results after baking it for 28 minutes at 450 degrees Fahrenheit under the dome and another 15 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. The loaf turned out pillowy soft with the crispiest crust you can imagine. I saw equal success with non-bread bakes, such as my cream raisin scones that had a fluffy interior as well as a nice crisp bite. The same scones baked on the sheet tray, although still soft, were less impressive at the first taste than what I achieved from the bread oven.

Le Creuset Bread Oven in Marseille
Courtesy of Nina Huang

Of course, you can make other desserts like in the bread oven without the lid on; simply treat the 9.5-inch base as an enameled cast iron skillet to make brownies, skillet cookies, or even a fruit crumble. For those with a cast iron skillet and a Dutch oven already, Le Creuset's bread cloche might seem like a needless surplus, and I would agree if you have limited space in your home for another piece of cookware. Yet for those who want to truly up their baking game when it comes to round, artisan-looking loaves (and impress guests with a splendid reveal by lifting the bread cloche), the bread oven is just as worth it as other Le Creuset creations.

With it, I feel so much more confident approaching bread, knowing that it'll bake your hard work evenly while minimizing heating mistakes in the oven. Shop it now at Le Creuset for $290.

Le Creuset's Bread Cloche
Nina Huang

To buy: Le Creuset Bread Oven, $290 at lecreuset.com

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