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Going back in time with bread - earth oven - lots of pix

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Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

Going back in time with bread - earth oven - lots of pix

I occasionally re-enact Celtic history with my good friends from Ancient Celtic Clans. This weekend we attended the Celebration of Celts event. One of the things we did was to make an earth oven. None of us had ever done anything like it before, so it was a definite learning experience. Here I am putting the finishing touches on the chimney we didn't think to add until it was already roaring hot.

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This was also my first time going without a net - no scales, no measuring cups, no recipes. I put a big pile of flour in a bowl, added some yeast, added some salt, then water until it looked and felt right. I did a quick knead just to incorporate everything, then at 45 minutes did a stretch-and-fold, 45 minutes later either another stretch and fold if it needed it, or forming into a boule. 

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The first loaf went in and I realized I had forgotten to slash it after the bottom exploded out of it.

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The loaves got progressively better as the day went on, until they were looking like this - a beautiful currant loaf:

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One of my other hobbies is woodturning. We churned some fresh butter by putting cream into the wooden box on the left and shaking the heck out of it. The butter went into the little tub on the right. You can see the buttermilk still in the box on the left with the wooden agitators floating in it.

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I also juggle :) Hey, I had to shake it up somehow!

 

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I was astounded at how well they came out. Even without doing any measuring, I was able to crank out 6 beautiful, delicious loaves from a hole in the ground. Amazing.

 

And with freshly-made butter to slather all over them, we were in heaven!

 

-Joe

pjkobulnicky's picture
pjkobulnicky

Way cool Joe.  I've done earth ovens in the past and you did a good job. Give yourself a pat on the back.

 

Paul Kobulnicky

Baking in Ohio

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

In August, I'll be moving to Corvallis, Or -- very close to where Kiko Denzer, author of Build Your Own Earth Oven lives. Apparently, he conducts workshops. I can't wait.

Did you use his book as a guide? How did you build it? By the looks of the bread you baked, it looks like it was plenty hot. Did you have to fire it multiple times, or were you able to get six loaves out of one firing?

Great post and pics -- I especially like the one of the loaf giving birth ....

Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

We didn't use anything as a guide.  It was completely seat-of-the-pants.

 

We were getting 2 loaves out of each firing.  I kept the coals going in front of the mouth of the oven so I could sweep the fire back in after the loaves were baked.

 

If we used thicker stone and more earth we would have definitely gotten more heat out of it.

 

-Joe 

Floydm's picture
Floydm

That looks awesome.

Managing to combine juggling, wood-turning, historical re-enactment, AND bread baking all in one weekend... That's hard to beat!

Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

Don't forget bow-making and Scotch-tasting ;)

 

Laphroaig and Dalmore had a tent there and for $15 you could attend a tasting hosted by a Scotsman who's been in the company for 11 years.  It was one of the coolest events I've ever been to.  I learned a huge amount of stuff I didn't know about Scotch and whiskey and got to taste some fantastic Scotches.  The presenter was hilarious, telling us cheesy jokes and making great toasts in that wonderful Scottish brogue.

To make it better, the table was set for 12, with 5 glasses at each setting, and there were only 4 people at the table.  Can't let all that good barley juice go to waste...

 

-Joe 

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Very cool! I'm sorry I missed this event - and only just across the Hudson River from me - looks like fun, although I don't see my clan listed there that day (Cunningham). Makes me want to get that earth oven project in my back yard going soon - great pics, thanks for sharing!

ehanner's picture
ehanner

That sure looks like a great fun time! I've bought the Kiko Denzer book and plan to make an oven soon. Seeing you post puts fuel in my tank to get this done. How is the butter when you make it from scratch? To bad there was so much extra Scotch!

 Great post Joe,

Eric

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

And you've given us some great ideas too!  We're having a Keltenfest June 21 (longest day of the year) in my area.  Thanks for the post.   Good looking baker at your fest by the way.   Mini Oven

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

And the summer solstice is upon us.  Full moon tonight and may the force be with you all!

Mini O

beanfromex's picture
beanfromex

A very interesting thead.

It is something I have never done, but really enjoyed seeing your progress.

 ps- Good job on the jugging also.

 

regards from tabasco mexico 

 

leemid's picture
leemid

Well. There you go showing pictures of great fun but where are the drawings and detailed explanations to satisfy the curiosity of the engineers among us, huh?

Lee

Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

It's a pile of rocks covered in a pile of dirt.  :)  Really, it is.

We just removed a circle of sod, put down a flat base stone, built 3 sides out of similar stone, then put a big one on top.  It happened to have a chunk taken out of it that made a natural chimney.

We then just put the sod back on top and made fire.

-Joe

leemid's picture
leemid

Did you apply for all of the appropriate permits, and did you do environmental impact studies? I tell ya, I'm on a campaign this morning! I'll bet you didn't even examine whether the stones were carcinogenic, did you? What with all the paranoia we have concerning the status of our starters, our hydration levels and the controlled/uncontrolled nature of our oven bloom, are you telling me you just went off and willy-nilly built and oven in the DIRT and ate the bread from it, with cow fat on top? There ought to be a law...

That's my story,

Lee

Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

We did research local laws beforehand, if only to be sure we were breaking them.

The stones were pre-soaked in a special mixture of used motor oil and asbestos in suspension, for that delicious carcinogenic tang.

We put the cow-fat in an aerosol can to make sure we propelled it with enough CFCs to make our own little ozone hole.  Soaking up those extra UV rays really made that little extra difference in flavor.

:) 

-Joe

 

redivyfarm's picture
redivyfarm

You must know that we are a haven for renaissance men such as yourself in the Great Northwest!  Thanks for the outburst of laughter on this end. It brought RC into the room until he realized it was just me laughing at pictures of bread again! And thank you for the inspiration. I plan to mix dirt, food, fire and little kids at the next opportunity.

pjkobulnicky's picture
pjkobulnicky

I've built a Kiko Denzer oven and if/when I do another (I've moved to a different house) I would do two things differently.

 

1. I would invest in a set of metal oven doors. I think Oven Crafters sell them. If not, I would get a local iron monger to make me a set. Messing with clay or wooden doors is an on-going pain and takes the fun out ofusing the oven.

 

2. I would rent a small cement mixer from my local rents-all to mix the adobe.  Kiko has you do it with a tarp and lots of friends but mixing the adobe is a lot like working dough ... but in this case you want the adobe to be as dry as possible while still being workable. I would also use, shoot - I forget the name of it ... the "popped" mica that you use as insulation around flue pipes,  to mix with the adobe to make it lighter and to help with the insulation. Kiko uses straw but straw is very hard to work into the adobe.

 

Paul 

 

Paul Kobulnicky

Baking in Ohio

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

By the way I got the instructions from first post, all I need is some rocks and a shovel.   Putting the fire in front between bakes also puts the heat there, so no door is needed.  I love the simplicity of it.   Tempted to smoke out the neighbors.... where did I put that shovel?   Mini Oven

Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

> Putting the fire in front between bakes also puts the heat there, so no door is needed.

 Yes, we found this out after the second or third loaf.  Putting the fire in front really helps the loaves brown evenly and not need to be turned so often.

I've got a fire pit in my backyard that I use when we have outdoor parties...I'm considering converting it into a big oven :) 

-Joe 

pumpkinpapa's picture
pumpkinpapa

I built an oven from Kiko's book as well and I would definitely use doors on the next oven, it is an ongoing concern but enjoyable too with finding the best wood. I have a nice hard maple door right now. I have some pictures of an oven with a metal door at Harvest Moon bakery in the Bruce peninsula:

 

My wife and I mixed the cob together on the tarp with our feet, dancing around was great fun! Some friends want us to aid them as well and have a big cob dance there too.

We had our insulative layer with all the straw mixed in it was still wet and quite workable, when it was dry it crumbled and needed more water.

If you want to cook for extended periods and have a lot to cook or just like to have something pleasing to look at in your yard then go for it! They are a pleasure to build. 

apers's picture
apers

this fascinates me

 

:) April 

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

Glad to see you back and as always with great stuff to share! I'd like to try that on a camping/rafting trip (Deschutes). Approximate time on baking? The wooden mug, plates and vessels (sp?) have to be of your creation and you are juggling them too..haha!

Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

> Approximate time on baking?

 About the same as in my home oven - 40-45 minutes total.

 

-Joe 

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

bwahahahahahaha - ok pre-Renaissance, right!? Awesome pics and looks like a good time was had by all. Beautiful bread and inventive nature. Did you hold your starter in a bag under your armpit? :D

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

Joe, I just found this and it sounds like so much fun!  The pics aren't showing up, although pumpkinpapa's from later in the thread are visible. Is there somewhere else I can see the photos?

gianfornaio's picture
gianfornaio

I'm considering turning a little terraced garden spot in my yard into an earth oven. It's just outside a basement walkout, practically right against the house. It strikes me as very convenient, but I wonder about the heat generated and what the risk is. If the oven is dug into the earth just a couple of feet from the (brick) house, what concerns should I have for fire safety?

How much thickness of firebrick or mud or clay will insulate the oven to the point of it not being dangerously hot outside?

Those of you who have earth or brick ovens, are they hot to the touch on the outside when you start baking?

I know I need to pick up Kiko's book, but am curious about this point at the outset.

mkelly27's picture
mkelly27

think about the smoke generated from the firing, is it going to linger and creep into the house? I have lots of room and am considering the environmental effects(smoke)against the conveinience factor in my thinking about an earthen oven.  Most of the ones I have seen are placed away from the living quarters.

 

_______________________________________________________

Two wrongs don't make a right. Three lefts make a right

browndog's picture
browndog

I can't believe I missed this post the first time out. And me a true lover of bagpipes. (I really am and it's sometimes hard to convince people that I don't just 'like bagpipes' as opposed to 'hating bagpipes'. I have cds, I go to concerts, I can name names...

TheDrkHorseOne's picture
TheDrkHorseOne

I'm of Welsh descent, so this sort of interested me as well. Very neat and simple idea for a makeshift oven. I can imagine making that on the fly, and the subsequent pictures of the roof covered version were pretty cool. Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads has a modern version for those of you that are looking at baking in your backyard. I suggest you at least look at this at a local library before making the leap.

 

I tell you what leapt out at me, Joe. 2 wooden balls in that little contraption made butter??? Are you saying that if I go buy some cream, stick it in a tupperware bowl with a couple marbles and shake it enough, I can make butter? Or is it the certain design that makes it work? I'm extremely curious about this if you have tome to answer. I'd love to be able to offer home made bread along with home made butter at my next family gathering... really push that limit to freak them out.   

mkelly27's picture
mkelly27

 My wife (who is also Welsh, BTW) does naturalist presentations at a local Nature center and as part of one of their "homesteading" historical demonstrations, they actually use a canning jar and 2 or 3 marbles to make butter.  It is really simple, I learned it when I was 5 (41 yrs. ago)

_______________________________________________________

Two wrongs don't make a right. Three lefts make a right

Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

Are you saying that if I go buy some cream, stick it in a tupperware bowl with a couple marbles and shake it enough, I can make butter?

 That's just what I'm saying, yes :)  Shake the daylights out of it for a bit and it gets creamy.  Shake it some more and the butter and buttermilk separate, viola!

 -Joe 

mkelly27's picture
mkelly27

Don't forget the salt! Actually I like to use my kitchen aid mixer to make fresh butter.

______________________________________________________

Two wrongs don't make a right. Three lefts make a right

Jeffrey's picture
Jeffrey

My Mom just made us kids shake it, we never had marbles, do they help alot?

 

jeffrey

Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

Got me.  First time I've done it since grade school  :)

 

-Joe 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I once caught a relative shaking the whipping cream before opening and whipping it and warned it could turn into butter.   My son was 6 years old at the time.  The next time I opened some whipping cream, it was butter.  What????  Giggling was coming from the next room.  -no marbles needed-  Mini Oven

TheDrkHorseOne's picture
TheDrkHorseOne

I'm sorry for being naive on the subject, but I can honestly tell you that I'd never had a thought about it until I saw that picture. Sure, I've seen the churns, and I actually know a little bit of the physics behind it, but seeing that small wooden contraption and the commentary just floored me, frankly. I'm going to do that next family gathering and make my nieces do the work, heheh.

 

I won't forget the salt, but do you use it before, during, or after the shake?    

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

But after you've separated the butter from the buttermilk, Run some ice water through the butter and discard. Do this a few times till clear, your butter will then last longer and not sour so fast. :) Mini Oven

 

If you feel you have to add salt (yuck, puke, foowey, aaaaa) then knead it in after the butter has been made.   

jeanldw's picture
jeanldw

I am very new at all this including how to respond to comments to the right people.  So I just wanted anyone interested to take a look at www.nuktessli.ca , .  What this woman has done and is doing is amazing.  She homesteaded 5000' up in the mountains of the Chilcotin in British Columbia.  Take a look at her bread baking experience!  And everything else - for all of the back-to-the-landers in this group.

god, I wish I was 30 - or maybe even 40.... 

wholegrainOH's picture
wholegrainOH

obviously, very late in catching this thread.  Fascinating; will get the book and explore possibilities!  And thanks, jean, for the reference to nuktessi -- looks like a possibility for the next vacation! 

Alan

Columbus, OH

www.alan-ohio-bread.blogspot.com

Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

This year's Celebration of Celts was just as much fun, and once again our bread baking was a big hit.

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Like our peel? ;) Hand split out from a whole oak log and worked down with a drawknife and hatchet.

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We also make Scottish Oatcakes on a slate griddle hung over the fire.

And of course, meat :)

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More pictures at the Ancient Celtic Clans web page.

-Joe

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

this years celebration. Really enjoyed the pics on the web page too. Did you cook the bread on a "stone" this year?

Breadboard's picture
Breadboard

Someone knows how to twist iron!!!  Very cool. That's one beautiful and well designed fire tripod.  I've been into blackening steaks, delicious!  Just thinking you could add a hammered iron griddle to the accessory list and knock your wool socks off with delicious blackened red deer (or beef).  Serve it up with a chunk of your amazing trencher bread, Yes Sir!  Have fun!