Last week I spied a very interesting enameled cast iron pot in the thrift shop. It was the perfect size for a small chicken. On the bottom it had the familiar stamp of Le Creuset, the famous French pot makers. I brought it home and prepared to drop a chicken in it when I noticed to my dismay that there was a crack, which rendered the pot useless for holding liquids, thus ruling out chicken. Then it occurred to me that the pot was the right shape for bread.
An internet search revealed a recipe for making a very different sort of bread in just such a pot – from the NY Times. It’s no-knead bread, and so far we’re very impressed with the results. I’ve also make a loaf of regular rye bread in this pot, and it rose much better than any rye I’ve ever baked in the oven.This has to do with two main factors: putting the dough into a hot pot, and baking with a lid on. The lid traps the moisture that ordinarily escapes from the bread in a normal oven, and this contributes to the initial rising and superior results in texture and taste.
In 1972 Le Creuset hired Enzo Mari to design this particular line of pots. I love finding beautiful things like this, and who was responsible for their design. Mari is one of a long line of Italian modernists, responsible for countless beautiful objects of which I am surprised and happy to have discovered one more.
One thing I realized after all this – if the pot had not been cracked we might not have discovered this wonderful way to make bread. Ergo: crackpots have their uses! No offense, Enzo, I’m referring to the pot.