A cloche is a bell-shaped vessel made of ceramic. It is used to cover the baking bread and gives results surprisingly like a ceramic oven insert of a full ceramic oven.
My cloche is made by the Sassafras Company and comes in two pieces: the bell itself and a pan that contains the bread. The idea is to heat the cloche while the oven is heating, then lift the lid, put the risen dough in the cloche and replace the cover. This bakes in a dry oven. Some people say to leave the cover on for the whole baking period, others say to remove the cover after 15 or 20 minutes. Either way, you’ll be very happy with the results, although I prefer to remove the cover after about 15 minutes for a large French or Italian boule. The crust that develops is truly amazing, it’s crisp and crackly and really good.
I’ve read where some people have raised the dough in a cold cloche, then put it in the heated oven. I’ve tried this, and I didn’t like the results. I think this method gives inferior oven spring and crust development.
One thing you should be sure to do is use parchment paper under the dough. I’ve had cases where the bread baked into the surface of the cloche pan and I had a dickens of a time getting it off.
Here’s a picture of my cloche.