Thursday, September 11, 2014

Oven Within Oven

Small brick oven by the pond

Just yesterday everything changed for me. I finally learned how to bake bread in my small brick oven. The problem I was having in the past was the result of not enough mass and not enough insulation, and the breads were terrible. I simply could not get the oven to retain enough heat for bread baking. Yes, I could make pizzas and flatbreads because I could maintain a fire in the back or on the sides, but without the constant flames, the oven would soon lose its heat. 
I decided to try something different. Instead of firing the oven to a desired temperature, sweeping out the hot coals, peeling the loaf or loaves in, closing the door and finally, keeping my fingers crossed, I thought I'd work with my Dutch oven. 

Dutch oven preheating

First the Dutch oven was preheated in the flames. Then The bread dough went into the Dutch oven, and I slid it over to the edge of the fire. I baked the bread for 45 minutes with the cover on and then 10 minutes with the cover off.
After the first 15 minutes I lifted the cover off to check the bread. There was good oven spring, the crust was starting to develop, and I knew I would be okay. 
After the allotted time, the bread was beautifully baked.

 Bread beautifully baked

The oven temperature? That's hard to say, but I tried to keep it around 500ยบ F around the Dutch Oven. Here you'll have to  experiment.Using this technique to make just one or two breads at a time is perfect, even if your oven is not, and I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

No Roof Here

I've always said that you need a roof over your outdoor oven, but I'm trying to prove myself wrong. Building a roof over your oven is no simple chore, and that's why so many ovens are left roofless and are damaged by rain and snow.

oven by pond

A couple of weeks ago I added more insulation to my brick oven, and I changed my ratio of perlite to Portland cement. Normally I use 6 parts perlite to one part dry Portland, and the perlite holds together because of the Portland,but it's not terribly robust. Over this layer I used 6 parts perlite to 2.5 parts dry Portland. This cuts way back on the insulation value because all that Portland provides highly accessible thermal boulevards for the oven heat to escape through the dome, but here, I was interested in creating a rugged exterior that wouldn't require a stucco or a roof. Time will tell, and I'll let you know how things hold up.

                          new rugged exterior (I hope)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Oven In Progress part# 7

Mud is getting mixed up

Oven fired

It looks like a layer of insulation has been applied, and next it should be stuccoed. After that, a roof would be ideal.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Popular Mechanics

Not a likely place to go for bread baking information, but check out this article by Andrew Sean Greer.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Oven In Progress part#7

Before building the "real thing," the oven builders decided to construct a mini-oven for practice. I believe that's a great idea.

After constructing a successful mini-oven, you should have enough confidence to build a much larger oven.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

It was worth the effort

Yes, it takes a lot of effort to build an earth oven.

But the payoffs can be substantial.


Thursday, August 7, 2014


If you're not baking sourdough breads, then there's a good chance your breads are rather bland tasting. Of course, you could always jazz them up with molasses, toasted sesame seeds, honey or whatever.
Instead try this. Simply add about a quarter cup of sourdough starter to your flour, yeast, salt and water mixture. I used to think that the sourdough fought a nasty battle with the domestic yeast and no one was the winner. Now I believe that they get along fine and can benefit each other. The domestic yeast (and we're only talking about 1/4 teaspoon per 500g loaf) will take some of the guess work out of the process when added to the sourdough starter, and everything becomes more predictable.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Oven In Progress part 6

Our oven builders are back on the job. They've decided to build a brick arch at the mouth of their oven, and that's a good idea. The brick will protect the opening of the earth oven from be whacked by firewood and oven peels.

Catenary Arch Form and Brick Arch Form

Brick Arch in Place

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Oven In Progress Part #5

In preparation for rain, the canopy is the way to go. There are lots of things you can do in the rain, but constructing an earth oven is not one of them.

The Kneading Conference 2014

Join us at the Kneading Conference in Skowhegan, Maine in July. You won't be disappointed.
I'll be leading an earth oven workshop.