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I have a Moroccan style tagine, and I usually use it on the stovetop. The recipes or guidelines I have found for baking bread in a tagine usually depend on using it in an oven - something that is problematic for me in my particular oven (because of its height). I'm interested in knowing if there's some way to adapt techniques to make bread (flatbread, biscuits, I'm not too picky) using the tagine on a stovetop.

An answer to this question here suggested looking at dutch oven recipes. Some of them require the use of an oven, like the tagine recipes. Others, the camping versions, seem to require techniques I am not sure would translate to a stovetop tagine - that kind of quick preheating, while fine for thick cast iron, would likely cause temperature shock in the tagine (since it is designed for consistent slow temperatures).

So, on to details. Preheating the tagine should put the camping dutch oven recipes back into play. I'm pretty unsure about leaving it on the stove to preheat while empty, especially since it will take a while (half hour or more) to get hot - having been warned against heating up pots without at least a little liquid in them. Having water or oil in there while it preheats, though, is likely to affect the finished bread since the extra water/oil will coat the bottom. On the other hand, the reasons it is unwise to heat pots empty might not even apply to a tagine, since it is a thck clay dish, kept on very low heat, is supposed to absorb a lot of heat slowly, and is a largely sealed environment anyway - if anyone knows, that would be helpful.

The alternative to preheating the tagine, would be to put the dough in it while still cold, and let the dough be heated up at the same, slow rate. I'm not sure what all of the effects would be - it might create a final rising before it reaches baking temperatures, so I would maybe avoid those recipes where the timing has to be precise... actually, figuring out timing is likely to be difficult for tagine baking anyway, most of the recipes for stews and such are really flexible. I think it's unlikely to burn or something equally dramatic, but it will probably affect the texture, and I'm not sure which kinds of dough might be able to tolerate the technique.

So, in case that was too long and chatty, what I am looking for is any techniques that might be helpful in either baking in a stovetop tagine, like how to preheat the dish, or in adapting the recipes to work with the limitations of the tagine, ie, perhaps a drier dough because less moisture escapes, or because there's a little left from preheating with water in the container.

This isn't urgent, since I do have an oven capable of baking - but I've wanted to bake bread in it since I got the tagine, if I can figure out how. It might have the beneficial side effect of letting me make bread with thinner, softer crust, since mine tends to come out rather crusty.

As per request, here's an example tagine picture, so it's clear what kind of pot I'm talking about. A short article on how to cook in a tagine can be found here, so there's an idea of what kind of adaptations might be useful.
Example tagine pic

  • Hi Megha! Would you mind linking to a picture or information about a tagine? I've never heard of one. Generally I'd add a link myself and not bother you, but when I Googled it I didn't find something that I knew would be correct! By the way, thanks so much for being a rock-star voter!! It shows genuine caring for the site, and sets an awesome example! – Sue Nov 26 '16 at 21:05
  • @Sue - added the pic and a couple links, I hope they're helpful enough. I'm glad you mentioned it to me, I hadn't thought about how hard it might be to find information without the proper context to know which was right! Thanks for the heads up and also for your kind words :) – Megha Nov 27 '16 at 1:32
  • Tagine cooking is a marvelous method, and there are some great ideas here even if someone doesn't have one. – dougal 5.0.0 Feb 11 '17 at 9:24
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I've cooked bread on the stove many times. My setup was a cast iron pan with a metal trivet inside and a small pot inside that, which is what the bread dough was placed in. I then had an old rice cooker pot inverted over the pan. That essentially created a small stovetop oven. The small pot was on the trivet so the pot didn't get direct heat from the cast iron pan - otherwise, the bread would burn on the bottom. I did this for many years to make one or two servings of bread every morning for breakfast.

You could likely do something similar in your tagine. Figuring out the timing for the bread was trial and error. There's just no other effective way.

As for flat breads, I cook them using my cast iron or carbon steel frying pan. I've tried baking naan, but we don't like the texture of it, so frying is the way to go for us.

  • Thanks for your suggestions, it gives me some ideas! Did you preheat the cast iron empty, for your stovetop oven, or with the trivet and pot in place? Or were you heating it the first time with the dough already inside? Sorry, just trying to figure it out. – Megha Jun 20 '16 at 7:49
  • Happy to help. :) I didn't preheat. The baking environment is so small that it only takes a few minutes to come to full heat. – LMAshton Jun 21 '16 at 9:28
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I have done some tagine baking at last, and it was pretty successful! I started with a pre-made spinach and herb dough, just so I could try the mechanical baking without worrying about the variables of my recipe.

For my first try, I used half the dough. I rested the dough, according to the package, folded some feta into it just because, shaped it and let it rise in the (oiled) tagine, then put the whole thing on the stove and started heating. It was edible, but a little disappointing, it ended up dense and felt a little doughy in texture, even though it had been cooking for some time (couple hours) and had definitely cooked through. The bottom was lovely, deep, golden brown, but the top was pale and soft.

I thought perhaps I had overestimated how much dough should be baked like this, perhaps the issue was uneven heating. For my next two tries, I used half as much dough (a quarter of the original ball), rolled it out and folded over a couple layers with corn kernels and cheese, and let rise on the countertop (fewer variables because similar recipes, and also tasty food).

This time I preheated the tagine (already oiled) for about a half hour, or until it was hot to the touch before I put the layered bread in (I figured it wouldn't be hot enough to cause whatever damage I was worried about if it was still that cool). I kinda...forgot it on the stove, and only checked a couple hours in. The bottom was beautiful golden brown, although a bit hard and dry, and the top was puffy and looked cooked, with a bit of cheese bubbling out the sides. I flipped it so the top would brown as well - which had the effect of softening the top back down to a really good consistency, with the trapped moisture and the extra time. Overall, quite a success.

Third try, I didn't preheat the tagine, but put the layered bread in the oiled tagine while still cool, and heated it on the stove all at once. Again, the bottom was deeply brown when I flipped it about a half-hour in, and that bottom crust softened back down with moisture while the top browned. This one was cooked much less time (perhaps an hour and a half total, with half an hour of that spent getting up to cooking heat), and still came out really successfully.

Lessons of baking in a tagine:

First, to use much less dough, since the heat is directional, and cooks from the bottom up. It can be flipped to brown the top, but that setup is better suited to focaccia or flatbread, rather than rounded loaves.

Next, preheating the clay tagine works just fine. Probably the lesson I was taught was about dangers of metal pots at high heat, but the tagine is made to absorb heat safely, and it heats slowly, so there wasn't any issue with it heating practically empty. Probably is is safe for the same reason dutch ovens and the like can be preheated empty, they are intended to be sturdy and absorb and hold heat, and so won't be ruined if there's nothing in the pot to absorb extra heat. I was likely worried for nothing.

Third, the bread made in a tagine doesn't burn. Really. It was probably done within an hour (going by trial three), but in trial one stayed hot on the stove for several more hours (total, four-ish?) without burning, and with no negative consequences. The same positives that I like about tagine cooking, low and slow and with no problem sitting longer if I get busy or distracted, also apply to tagine baking. The bottom crust gets deeply browned, and dry, but softens back up when flipped because the tagine traps moisture. Perfect crust, actually, since I get all the flavor of browning, but a soft texture like I prefer.

Fourth, it will probably always stick a bit around the edges. I oiled the tagine each time, but the way the tagine works is trapping the steam so it drips down the sides and back to the bottom where the food is, and presumably this washes the oil down from where the bread touches the pan. The underside comes up cleanly, since the oils collect there, but the very edge always sticks until I can get under it. It isn't a problem, but something to be aware of.

And now that I know something of the mechanical aspects and tendencies of tagine baking, I can try baking with dough I make myself - since I don't have to worry if the problem is the baking technique, or the recipe. More experiments are fun!

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