Today was the party for which I have been "practicing" - featuring my WFO-baked breads. Well, that was kind of the excuse, but it was a potluck with friends from the Italian community, so, needless to say, there was no lack of many other delicious foods.
I got to J.'s about 10:30am. She had fired her oven at about 6 am but had been afraid it wouldn't be hot enough by 10am, so she had added another log of walnut. In fact, the floor of the oven was near 800 dF and the roof was near 900 dF. So, although my breads were ready to bake, I thought it prudent to wait until the floor temp fell to 500-550dF. I shoveled out the coals and left the door open for a while.
I then swept the ashes out and mopped the floor. I had brought along a garden sprayer and tested it. Water sprayed towards the roof turned to steam instantly. I put up the oven door for 10 minutes or so while I moved my peel, the proofing loaves, my lame, some semolina, etc. to where I could load the 4 loaves as quickly as possible, once I was ready to do so.
My preceding WFO bake included a 1kg loaf of my SF-style SD with increased WW. That turned out to be really delicious, so I decided to make that bread for the party. My defense against a too-hot fire was to make smaller loaves that would bake with a shorter exposure to the heat. So, I made 2 kg of dough, the same formula except I added 25g of toasted wheat germ, just for fun.
When the oven floor temperature fell below 600dF, i decided to bake the loaves. The wait for the oven to cool this far meant the loaves were a bit over-proofed, but not so much there was any collapse when they were scored.
I sprayed the oven roof for 5 seconds or so, then loaded the loaves one at a time but as quickly as possible. I closed the door for only about 10 minutes, then opened it and rotated the loaves to bake evenly. After 20 minutes, I took one out to test. It sounded hollow when thumped, and the internal temperature was about 207dF.
There was good oven spring but only modest bloom. A couple of the loaves had some bursting. I think the over-proofing resulted in less oven spring but more fragile loaves which probably had some damage to the gluten sheath when they were dumped on the peel.
The crust was a little crunchy, but not as thick or crunchy as the previous WFO bakes. The taste of the bread was wonderful.
Today's WFO-baked breads plus some SD Italian breads and a Fig-Hazelnut WW Soudough baked at home
Various people brought wonderful antipasti, lasagne, salads and meat. J. had told me she wasn't going to need the WFO after I finished but evidently changed her mind by today, because she baked a pork roast in the WFO which was sweet tasting and melt-in-your-mouth tender. I drank quite enough of a delicious red wine that came from somewhere. It might have been a Syrah or some sort of Rhône blend. Hmmm ... It could have been a Amarone too. It was big enough.
The best desert was the flourless dark chocolate, ground almond mini-cupcakes my wife baked.
The breads were appreciated by all. The bread I baked in the WFO is one I have baked at home many times. It tastes different and remarkably better baked in the WFO. There is nothing "smokey" about the flavor. It is just more complex and mellow. I have no idea why, but it has been true every time.
It was a good party. Great food. Great wine. Delightful conversations. Everyone thought it needs repeating.