Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Baking in the Wood-Fired Oven

Baking bread in a wood-fired oven presents multiple challenges and often a lot of discouragement. To understand some basic principles about wood-fired bread baking, you can look right to your conventional stove in the kitchen. Bake some loaves in a "cloche," and we'll call this "baking undercover."
Bread baking under a stainless steel cloche
Imagine that your cloche is really a miniature wood-fired oven that only holds one loaf at a time. Part way through the bake, remove the cover of your cloche and note how bland looking your bread appears to be. It's bland looking because the cloche has been containing all that steam escaping from the dough, and the loaf has not had any time to brown.
Leaving the cloche cover off now and finishing the bake, the steam will dissipate, and the bread will brown nicely.
 Bread baking in a Dutch oven
Now translate this to your wood-fired oven. Your baking loaves need steam at the beginning of the bake, but a dry atmosphere for a finish.
Bread baking in a WFO

Baking loaves in a tightly sealed wood-fired oven may provide enough steam, but if they don't, then you'll have to use a steamer. 
The steamer

The most important thing to remember is that you're not going to get good at baking in a WFO unless you bake lots of bread.


AndreaDF said...

What about leaving a pot full of water inside the wfo? I will try and let u know!

Breadhunter aka Stu Silverstein said...

Try it and let me know, but I suspect it's easier to spray the oven. That way you're introducing the moisture when and where you want it. Hassling with boiling pots of water is no fun.