The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

New Terracotta Oven

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johny's picture
March 29, 2007 - 4:57pm -- johny


I don't know if anyone else has experience with one of these, but I just set this one up today.  It's not much bigger than a backyard grill, but will fit a couple of loaves of bread at a time (22 inch internal circumference).  It has to have a couple of seasoning fires, but I hope to use it this weekend and will let you know how it works for me.  Has anyone tried anything similar?  Any advise or suggestions?  Oh, I bought it at Alfrescoimports.com.  They are in California and I am in Connecticut.  We had some shipping problems and they have been wonderful!

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Paddyscake's picture
Submitted by Paddyscake on

Looks interesting..where in Connecticut are you? I'm originally from Simsbury and have been here in Oregon for 4 years now. Let us know how it goes...

johny's picture
Submitted by johny on

Hi,
I'm from Colchester, about half-way between Hartford and New London.  I've been to Simsbury a number of times, but don't know it at all well.  It's the other side of Hartford and I usually have no reason to go there.
As far as the oven goes, I did a lot of baking on Saturday but had little success.  I am not discouraged - I know how to burn wood:  I heated with it for years, but have never baked or cooked with it.  It's kind of amusing to use the little wood I used to consider kindling as "logs". 
The oven is small - 22" inside, so it's hard not to let the fuel get too near the food and the bread often cooks unevenly.  I generally used too little corn meal so things stuck and couldn't be repositioned.  I will post a picture of my fiasco if I can figure out how to attach it to this.
In general its like the joke about how to get to Carnagie Hall - Practice, Practice, Practice!

Paddyscake's picture
Submitted by Paddyscake on

I have a very good friend who grew up and still lives in Colchester. I have another friend whose parent's have a cottage on ...I think it was called Cedar Lake. It's been a long time since I was there. It's a very nice town..look forward to hearing about your practice sessions!

johny's picture
Submitted by johny on

Hi, Paddyscake!
Yes, there's a Red Cedar Lake about 2 miles from here over back roads.  Good memory!

mikecq's picture
Submitted by mikecq on

These ovens are similar to the ones used in the southwest. To bake bread, you will need have the oven real hot, then shove the coal to the sides. Brush clean the area you will be baking then put in your bread dough. You may need to getr a large stone to cover the opening for heat retension.

For pizza and similar items, a cover is not needed.

Try roasting mussels in it. Get a cast iron skillet and cover with a bed of ICE CREAM salt, similar to rock salt. Then place the mussels on it and place in the oven until cooked. The oven must be really hot. You will get a great wood flavor in them. Other dishes can be cooked in it with various cast iron pots.

Enjoy.. 

sheshequinn's picture
Submitted by sheshequinn on

  your oven looks interesting , Johny  and you will get the hang of it soon from the sounds of it.

I saw an insert that goes into kitchen oven and was wondering if anyone has heard for it.

good luck johny, keep me posted.

johny's picture
Submitted by johny on

Hi, Sheshequin
Is it the HearthKit?  I have never used an insert, but have seen them advertised and I think I read a positive review about the HearthKit and found one at www.pleasanthillgrain.com/hearth_kitchen_hearthkit.aspx.  You might try googling it to find the review.  I chose the outdoor beehive I did because I have lots of free wood, like to build a fire (I even miss heating with it sometimes - but not most times) and my wife would not like an oven insert.  Also, the behive is supposed to do everything from baking to roasting to grilling.  It's not for everyone; it may not even be for me, but we'll see.  If you do get an insert I'd like to know how you like using it.

ehanner's picture
Submitted by ehanner on

Johny,

I have been reading about cooking in a clay oven and I think I understand that the fire should be out when you cook. My take is that you warm up the inside layer then sweep out the ashes and close the door to let it stabilize somewhat. Then when the temp is where you want to cook at around 500 or maybe a little more, put your bread/pizza in and close the door up again. It should only take a few minutes for a pizza and that would be the first thing to cook. Later in the day the temp would have fallen to 500 or so and breads could be baked. Later still, meats can be roasted and so on.

I'm planning on building a clay oven in the back yard as soon as the frost is out of the ground here (Wisconsin). Good luck and post some pictures of your progress.

Eric

johny's picture
Submitted by johny on

Hi, Eric:
Thanks for the note.
From what I've read and the material that came with the oven it's done both ways.  I chose to leave the fire because I was aftaid the oven would cool too much.  The literature suggested a baking tempature of 350 degrees for bread, but I am more partial to the 500 you mentioned or something close.  I'll probably try it without a fire in the box next time because I wasn't satisfied with the first results.
I'll let you know how it turns out.

tattooedtonka's picture
Submitted by tattooedtonka on

Hi johny, not that I have any actual experience to offer you, but it seems that the fire out method would most likely give you better results. The fact that if the fire is built in the center of the cooking area and then burned to ash your entire cooking surface would be heated evenly, and should bake your goods evenly without the hot side/cold side effect from the fire pulling in air while it burns problem.  Again just going from what Ive seen and read in different books.

Good luck, its a darn nice looking oven.

johny's picture
Submitted by johny on


Hi
I don't know if you're right or not, but we'll find out the next time I have both good weather and time to bake and I'll let you know how well it works.
Thanks for the comment!