Baking bread in covered clay pots creates an old-world style artisan loaf. This bread has a thick, crisp crust like bakers used to produce in wood-fired clay ovens before the advent of electricity. This just can't be done in your normal kitchen oven. The Romertopf company, however, manufacturers a covered clay pot that produces this type of crust. The secret is the clay lid -- it traps the steam escaping from the bread dough, yet is porous enough to absorb some moisture and not return it to the surface of the loaf.
Soak the top and bottom of the Romertopf pot in water for 15 minutes. Although it is not necessary to soak every kind of covered clay pot before baking, Romertopf recommends this step for theirs.
Drain the top and bottom and pat the insides dry.
Prepare completely the bread dough of your choice.
Grease the inside of the pot and lid lightly with olive or vegetable oil.
Cut pieces of parchment paper to fit the bottom and sides of the pot. The side pieces should be tall enough to grip and easily lift out the cooked loaf.
Put the prepared dough in the paper-lined pot, cover the pot with the lid and place it in a cold oven.
Set the oven for 500 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 45 minutes.
Remove the lid and bake uncovered for another 10 minutes, or until the crust is brown.
Use the edges of the parchment lining to lift the loaf out of the pot and set aside to cool.
Store wrapped in parchment paper, either at room temperature or in the refrigerator, for up to four days.