I need some Romertopf clay baker advice

Hi Serious Eaters,

I just got a Romertopf clay baker (the 4 person one) and I have some questions that I'm hoping you can help me with. First, I am going to use it primarily for bread, and I am wondering, do I need to soak it before bread in it? The instruction manual seems to indicate that I do, but I've never heard anyone mention soaking before in conjunction with baking bread in terracotta, so I'm a bit confused.

Also, I know you're not supposed to use soap to clean them. Have you found any method that is particularly effective? Is water really enough? Do you ever use baking soda?

And finally, do you have any great recipes for other things to make in a clay baker? I am a vegetarian, so I won't be roasting meat in it, but I'd love to find some other uses for it, so I'd appreciate any ideas you have. I'm a complete novice at clay baking, so no tip is too small!

Thank you so much for any insight you can give!

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