Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Please Review

Hi everyone,
If you've read my book, Bread Earth And Fire, could you take a few minutes and write a review on Amazon
Thanks so much,
 Building an arch

Oven workshop

Bread in Dutch oven

Friday, December 19, 2014


Check out this video posted by Richard Moscovich. First I thought I was watching three-card monte until the final stage.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Oven Completed

The final step in finishing off this oven was a roof, and here it is. Nothing more than a simple piece of metal roofing draped over the dome. In previous posts, you can see various phases of this oven under construction.

Saturday, November 22, 2014


Lefse is a Norwegian flatbread made with potatoes and flour. Check out the video

Sunday, November 9, 2014


Gluten. Another thing to make you lose your mind? No it isn't. Michael Specter's article, Against The Grain in The New Yorker, November 3, 2014 issue is the most intelligent thing I've read about gluten. If you're a bread baker, check it out.
illustration Paul Rogers
Nearly twenty million Americans now say that they regularly experience stomach problems after eating products that contain gluten.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Bakery Work

Check out this wonderful video, but turn down the music.
Bakery Work

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Runny/messy dough

Okay, you've done everything right, but the next day you look in a horrified manner at the dough that has been working overnight. It is an unsightly, runny mess.
You've done everything right, but we can usually narrow the problem down to two possibilities.
If you've been making no-knead yeasted bread, there is a very good chance that your proofing temperature was too high. Higher than 70º F. is too high. A long cool proof is best, and that is between 60 and 70ºF.
If you've been making sourdough bread and you experience this problem, there are a couple of possibilities. Temperature control is important just as it is in the yeasted bread. Go with the long cool proof. The other factor is the duration of the proof. If sourdough proofs too long, then the proofing dough tends to become sourdough starter! It is sharp smelling, sharp tasting, and it has no glutenous structure, simply falling apart when worked. The remedy is to cut back on the duration of the proof.

Runny dough (bad stuff/not good)

Nicely textured dough

Monday, September 29, 2014

oven no longer in progress

This should say everything

See previous posts that show how the oven builders got to this stage.

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 500º 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.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Bread First

For the past several months, my son and I have been working on a beginner's guide to bread baking, and we have come up with this slim, yet complete book. If you know of an easier way to make bread, I'd sure like to hear about it.
Bread First is a book for beginners. Everything a beginner needs to know can be found here. You can expect to bake great bread the first time. The process is simple, and the ingredients are readily available. "No knead" baking is for everyone. No experience is required. Clear instructions with photos make everything extra easy.

Download an ebook here 
Order a print copy here

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Oven In Progress

Here's a good photo of the top slab completely surrounded by perlite insulation, ready for firebrick and sand mold.
Our oven builders are taking off for awhile, and they probably won't get back to the oven until mid-July.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Oven In Progress

It's a new day and the temporary metal ring to support the top slab has been removed. Probably insulation will separate the slab from the stone base because it would make no sense to transfer heat from the slab to the base.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Oven In Progress (con't)

The family is back at it today, and they completed a top slab upon which the firebricks will rest. The top slab will give the oven more mass, and it is essential for serious bread baking, but if you were just making pizzas and flatbreads, you could skip the top slab.

 Temporary metal enclosure to support the sides of the slab

The little red beast beautifully mixes the concrete for the slab

There is nothing like watching the work get done

The top slab is done and the metal ring will be removed when the concrete hardens

stay tuned for the next installment

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Oven In Progress (con't)

The happy oven builders (I hope they're) are at it again for another session. They have just finished filling the void between the stone base with rubble and topped off with perlite insulation. They used 8" of perlite insulation with some bottles in the middle which may add to the insulation value. 
It looks like they mixed Portland cement in with the perlite, but none is necessary. Portland cement creates thermal pathways for the heat to escape, so it is best left out of the base. The perlite alone will easily support a top concrete slab. 
If you're insulating the outside of the dome with perlite, then you need some Portland cement to hold it all together. 6 parts perlite to 1 part Portland.


 Stay tuned for the next work day

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Permit To Build

Before spending any time designing an oven for your property, find out if you can legally do this.
In two weeks I was prepared to build an oven for someone, and it was suggested that it might be a good idea for the property owner to speak to the code enforcement officer first. The officer gave an emphatic "no." He said the location was too close to the lake. That was it. No oven. Do your homework

"Smoked" Bread

Taking the cover off the Dutch oven was not really a pleasant sight. Sure, the crust is burnt. I can't get away with simply saying "rustic," but you know, it's very difficult to destroy a bread. Slicing through the crust, a beautiful crumb was revealed, and the taste was smoky and delicious. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

An Oven In Progress

In this post and in following posts we'll see an earth oven being constructed in Maine by a couple who took one of my oven building workshops. Looks like the kids are helping out.
Beginning excavation

Excavation finished. Don't underestimate the amount of work this takes

Gravel added for good drainage

Concrete slab poured

Beginning flat stone base, and flat stones are the easiest stones to lay up.

Base complete

Stay tuned for the next phase which should happen in a couple of weeks.