The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Learning Heat

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PiPs's picture
PiPs

Learning Heat

It feels so strange to stop for a minute and think back over the week ... It has been a blur of oven firings, dough mixing, baking and cleaning.

In some ways it has been a week of major milestones ... the FIRST bake!

... but now that I am test baking everyday in the oven it really feels down to business. I have entered into a relationship with this wood burning beast and I need to tame it.

I now often think of something that Chris Bianco said about woodfired ovens - he said they teach you about heat.

Perhaps I understand that a little more now - it's not just the feeling of radiant heat when you stick your arm in a blazing hot oven, its also about heat transfer, how it moves through objects and is stored.

The lesson probably also extends to losing most of the hairs on my right arm and burning off part of my fringe ... I am also drinking a lot more water these days :)

 

 

Though we are baking small loads in the oven it is not fully operational. A lot of water is used to build these masonry ovens and for the first few weeks that moisture needs to be pushed out of the oven so it can dry thoroughly - the oven has been literally dripping water. But everyday I see improvements in its heat storing ability and the water patches in the render are slowly drying up ... but it could still take a few more weeks until it "comes good".

As has been said so often, the biggest test is having dough that is ready when the oven is ready ... I have many, many, many more weeks until I have a firing schedule nailed down. This will be my biggest test. We can work the bread schedule around the oven ... but the oven NEEDS to be right.

 


First Sourdough bake


Bread and basket


Sourdough and Walnut Levain


Sourdough crumb


2kg Miche


2kg Miche


Miche Crumb

 

So now the test baking phase begins ... over the next few weeks many varities of breads will be baked, tested and improved upon then baked again and again ... the whole time aiming for consisent results that taste delicious.

All the breads in this post have been baked in the woodfired oven. Apart from the ciabatta, all are sourdough and have been hand mixed, plus they contain a proportion of freshly milled grains. The biggest batch I have hand mixed so far has been 30kgs - It is easier than it sounds and is incredibly satisfying.

As Eric Kayser says, "It is a dream!  It is a dream to make the dough by hand, to make the energy with the hand!"

 


Scoring practice


Restaurant Ciabattas


Boldy baked bread!

 

Sorry I have been so slack with replies in my previous posts ... I will aim to answer any questions that you have or just say hello :)

Happy baking,
Phil

 

Comments

Floydm's picture
Floydm

No questions here, just a "hello" and a "thank you" for sharing all these.  Your loaves look incredible already, I can't wait to see what comes out of that oven when you really start nailing it.

-Floyd 

PiPs's picture
PiPs

"Hello" Floyd :)

Thanks for popping by ... I imagine you have been quite busy with the site redevelopment. It looks great btw!

All the best,
Phil

lumos's picture
lumos

This is exactly the sort of moment I feel the immense size of this planet. I REALLY wish I could pop down casually to your restaurant and taste your breads right now. They all good absolutely gorgeous!   Thank you for sharing your great journey and heart-felt congratulations (raced with healthy potion of envy :p) in living your dream.

Look forward to enjoying the further development. Good luck! :)

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Hi Lumos,

We are probably still a month away from opening ... but pop in anytime :)

I have a good feeling about the direction our little place is heading.

Cheers,
Phil

isand66's picture
isand66

Those are some beautiful looking practice loaves.  I don't see how you can improve them too much but I am sure you will think of something :o)

I'm just about to board my flight from HKG to NY....too bad I can't make a quick stopover to sample your labor of love!

Look forward to seeing and hearing about your grand opening. 

Cheers

Ian

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Thanks Ian,

I can't help it ... I am never satisfied ... Whether its the dough, the shaping or the oven management ... everyday is chance to improve.

Have a good flight.

Cheers,
Phil

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Way off topic, I know, but my undergraduate thesis was comparing some of the theology of Origen of Alexandria Gregory of Nyssa.  One of Gregory of Nyssa's big breakthroughs was moving from the idea that human perfection is a static state to the idea that human perfection is constant progress. I kinda fell in love with that idea and find it to be applicable regardless of one's belief system.  So... rather than thinking you are never satisfied, consider that in striving for constant improvement you are achieving as close to perfection as mere mortals can ever achieve. : )

Cheers,

-Floyd

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Really nice Floyd ...

I'm going to think on this today ...

Thanks,
Phil

evonlim's picture
evonlim

hello Pip, those beautiful baked breads are just amazing. can't beat a wood fire oven heat. taste and crust and texture of the bread must be remarkable compared to those baked in a normal electric oven. it gives lives to the breads. went to a organic sourdough shop yesterday, thought i will see some good breads at least what i see here in your pictures. a sad sight :( 

can't thank you enough for sharing every bit of your work. so much to look forward to... it brings the best out of me when i see fire not only in that oven but in you. 

evon

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Thank you so much evonlim :)

I was just speaking to Dennis the oven builder about how pleased I was with the oven so far. I have never baked a miche as thoroughly before ... it was as light as a feather. You can see the difference in the crumb too ... waxiness!

Hope to be sharing more soon

Cheers,
Phil

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Great breads, Phil! they are very good as it is. 

I only miss the reddish crust you often obtain with home oven. I guess that the WFO burns so high, that the crust would instantly brown before giving chance for steam to do its thing. Is there steam in the WFO?

-Khalid

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Thanks Khalid,

Steaming is still being worked on. The baking chamber is a sealed environment so in theory as the loaves bake they release moisture and this becomes the steam ... like the cast iron pot method. But in reality the chamber is so big that not enough steam is generated in my opinion to get that crust you are looking for. I have heard and seen many, many steaming methods ... none that I am happy with. Moisture and masonry ovens are not the best of friends ...

Also the way that these ovens are loaded gives steam a chance to keep on escaping ... so much to think about!

At the moment I am concentrating on the doughs and firing schedules ... when I am comfortable with these I will begin to experiment more with some different steaming methods.

The crust tastes fantastic, feels fantastic and looks pretty good when I get it right ... its just different from the steam injected crust that have become the standard.

Good to hear from you :)
Phil

 

 

yy's picture
yy

Gorgeous! I love the look of the boldly baked loaves. The dark accents really lend an air of romance to the bread. Does your local clientele like bolder crusts? I recall many of my friends calling Tartine's signature country loaf "burnt," until they had a bite and were converted. The adjective they use now is "perfectly caramelized" :-).

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Hi yy,

It is going to be hard to please everyone :)

With the descending temperaturess of the oven I am hoping we can bake different styles bread that will appeal to many people. I am a fan of darker crusts ... but I have to keep that in check :)

... have to get the right balance. "perfectly caramelized" ... now that does sound good!

Cheers,
Phil

 

Wingnut's picture
Wingnut

Great journey and some cracking bread, Fair Dinkum!

Cheers,

Wingnut

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Cheers mate!

All the best,
Phil

ml's picture
ml

Hi Phil,

Your breads and your blog, as always, are so beautiful! A true artist. I'm sure you will be extremely successful.

I would be curious as to the list of breads you are going to experiment with. I'm sure, as you have time, you will show us all the results.

I always wondered why good bakers don't have arm hairs :)

ml

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Hi ml,

We have a short list of breads at this stage ... I'll do a post on them a little bit later ... still testing. It will be predominately sourdough and possibly a few yeasted varieties as well.

Yeah, everyday I come home smelling like a fireplace :)

Cheers,
Phil

ml's picture
ml

Hi again,

Since you have recently been experimenting, can you tell us which levains you are baking with?

PiPs's picture
PiPs

No probs,

My maintenance starter is 65% hydration and fed freshly milled wheat once a day. I use about 5% of starter to new flour to feed it. This is a consistent feed routine and I don't muck around with it much at all.

Leavens are then built from part of the maintenance starter and I can play around with them as much as I like. I have been using sifted wheat quite a bit ... plus also playing around with short intermediate builds. Getting them to fit within a schedule plus producing a great flavour is the name of the game :)

Cheers,
Phil

ml's picture
ml

Hi Phil,

I recently did the shortest build for me, 3 hrs. I needed one more & was short of time, so, based on the CR comment that he uses a very young levain (2hrs?) I risked it. I got one of the best tasting batches of that formula, ever. I will continue to experiment with that.

Thanks for the answers,

ml

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

I can't imagine how they will turn out when the oven is in full regime!

I read all your threads about this big adventure, Phil. I wish you the best of luck! 

PiPs's picture
PiPs

It still feels early days ... I haven't received my bread peels yet and the cantilever door is not operational - so loading the oven is pretty awkward at the moment.

I am looking forward to getting into the rhythm of baking and firing!

cheers,
Phil

Jeremy's picture
Jeremy

Bloody proud of u mate...makes me teary eyed with envy!

Best,

Jeremy

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Hey Jeremy,

Wipe those tears :)

... It is so nice to be baking everyday!

Cheers,
Phil

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Thanks Phil, great looking breads - I was hungry. The new site format is an improvement in story and appetite...,

Wild-Yeast

 

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Thanks Wild-Yeast,

Glad you like them ... The miche was delicious!

Cheers,
Phil

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Hi Phil,

First a big thanks for taking the time to keep us updated on your progress.  

I loved reading about your learning from the oven about the fire/heat :-)

I began burning wood as fuel for our home a number of years ago as a means to stay warm without increasing our gas bill.  I did get the increased warmth I was after but I also got a whole lot more.  I became a student.   Like you, the fire, wood, metal and air all taught me.  My family members rolled their eyes when I tried to explain the intricacies of burning wood.  How the heft of a piece of wood told me where it belonged in the firebox.  About how the species of wood told  when to add it to the firebox.  How the sound of a piece of wood told me if it was seasoned or not.  The flames and the smoke told me about the air distribution, heat of the fire and how strong the draft was in the flue.  How the coals told me when to add more fuel or when to adjust the amount of air allowed into the firebox.  The fire told me about outside temps. without me even having to go outside....My list could go on and on but I know you know what I am talking about. My family still does not nor do they understand the intricacies of bread baking....Too bad.  I 'get it' and that is what matters.  The reference points in my daily existence.

One thing that you probably already know is that if you ever burn in a different WFO, while the process will be similar, you will become a student once again :-)

Thanks again for sharing.

Take Care,

Janet

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Hi Janet,

Sorry, I missed you comment :)

I have so much to learn ... I have been lucky to have the opportunity to practice and improve my doughs ... I wouldn't relish having to do that and learn the intracies of a wood oven.

The hardwood timber we are using is fresher than I have used in the past, and I still think we can have it delivered at a better length. I am drying the timber in the oven for the time being which is giving me better results with the firing ... I am not sure if I will continue this practice or not.

Great to hear from you

Phil

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

If you need some tips and pointers on working your heat management just let me know.  I may be able to give you some advice to make your learning curve shorter.  As your oven fully cures you will start to get different results.  Are you checking internal temperatures of your breads?  Anyway free advice if interested. 

Faith

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Thanks Faith,

Yeah, I am being pretty easy on myself until the oven cures properly. This is a larger oven than the previous Alan Scott oven I have used with different insulation and bricks ... it behaves differently ... in a good way. A nice even heat from top and bottom. The biggest trick is getting used to the timber and its variations.

I have been checking internal temps ... just on the loaves at the front anyway.

If I have any questions i'll pop you a message.

Cheers,
Phil

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

Yes they are all different.  Until I learned how to utilize my thermocouples  properly it was real easy to over or under heat the oven.  I also have 6  thermocouples so I have charted and graphed my oven's flowing temperatures over firings and baking.  Nothing like having your loaves ready for the oven and 200 above cooking temperature.  Or worse running out of energy before the second or third round.

I would be interested to know where they placed your thermocouples, and how much mass you have in the floor and walls.

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Hi Faith,

Thermocouple 1 - Drilled into a brick on hearth floor
Thermocouple 2 - In the concrete below hearth bricks
Thermocouple 3 - Between Vermiculite and Concrete

Thermocouple 4 - Drilled into brick on roof - off centre to the right of the oven 
Thermocouple 5 - In concrete above oven roof bricks
Thermocouple 6 - Between vermiculite and concrete on roof

I don't know about the exact mass ... each of the firebricks weighed about 4.6kgs and they are layed on there side. I think it is eight inches of concrete and eight inches of vermiculite ... that's a rough guess I would have to talk to Dennis to confirm ...

One the pics shows a running log of the temperatures I have been charting ... for me thermocouple 6 and 1 are my first go-to readouts when I walk in the door in the morning.

Cheers,
Phil

Jeremy's picture
Jeremy

Phil, I'll be ok, trying to put my own project into gear..but the difficulties lay in money, real estate and lack of real time from my chef job more then anything. Anyway...really happy for you, keep sharing, it's so good to see a man enjoying his work as you do...

 

Jeremy

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

Nice placement  you will be able to do a lot with that information.  I have 7.5 inches of thermal mass.  I have two other ovens planned one a white and one a black oven.  The white oven will be of my own design.

Next time you fire your oven look at #4 and #6 and make note.when you pull out your coals.  Average the two numbers and that should be close to saturation temp once rested... usually within 20 degrees.  So as your firing you can burn more or pull the coals early to achieve your saturated oven target temp to start your bakes.  

#1 is an unreliable number and you will only use it right before loading bread. 

Faith

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Thanks Faith,

Good to know ... I am going this afternoon to light another fire ... The oven is still a bit damp underneath, so I am just going to keep the firing happening ...

Would be interested in hearing about your white oven design.

Cheers,
Phil

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Hi Phil,
Your photos are mesmerizing - your fabulous breads, and those flames, rising from the glowing embers...
I was thinking reading through your post that "learning heat" would be a great topic for Jarkko's magazine!
Congratulations on the first fire and these beautiful loaves, made à la main.
You already have such an understanding and mastery with dough - oven management can't be far behind.
Best wishes,
:^) breadsong

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Thanks breadsong,

Dough is one thing ... ovens are another ... combining the two is the really tricky part :)

Watching the fire is so mesmerising ... I have to pull myself away from it.

Cheers,
Phil

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

It's easy to see why you love your new vocation.

All the best,
dw

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Thanks Debra,

I do love it ... pinch myself everyday at how lucky I am ...

Cheers,
Phil

carblicious's picture
carblicious

Phil,

Thanks for sharing and taking us along on your journey.  Very impressed.

-Don

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Thanks Don,

Happy to share ...

cheers,

phil

linder's picture
linder

Pips,

Those are some great looking loaves of bread.  It looks like you are really taking to your new oven and it is responding to you as well by baking some great bread.  Hope your journey continues to enlighten and delight!

Thank you for sharing your process.

Linda

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Hi Linda,

I hope the oven and I will get along well :)

I am learning every single day ... I love that!

Cheers,
Phil

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

a WFO.  Your bread is just breath taking,    Now you know why artisan bread, if there is still such a thing,  can only be baked in a WFO by a real master baker.  Other breads are just wanna be artisan no matter who makes them if they aren't made in a WFO.    I'll have to get to Brisbane to taste one of yours some day.  That oven sure didn't have to wait long for a real fine baker to find it :-)

Happy baking, 

PiPs's picture
PiPs

I know a lot of people who would argue that point :)

I am not a fan of buzz words like 'artisan' ... I just see it as bread ... and I can't imagine making it any other way.

Your welcome to visit anytime ...

Cheers,
Phil

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Thanks for letting us watch over your shoulder.

Paul

PiPs's picture
PiPs

A pleasure Paul ...

Kind of nice I have so many people along for the ride.

Cheers,
Phil

Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Hi Phil,

A few weeks ago when I researched big miches and the Gerard Rubaud formula I read again your post

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/26030/breadsong-g%C3%A9rard-rubaud%E2%80%99s-039pain-de-tradition039

I am amazed how you kind of closed the circle.

Your bread looks so appetizing! It tellls about your passion and fulfillment.

Juergen

 

byronfry's picture
byronfry

Hey Phil,

Good to watch this oven progress, I was just getting permits for my commercial oven this time last year and it's been a wild go. I'd been using a smaller mobile WFO for awhile, but still learning the curve of this oven has been surreal. The major challenge has been desigining the bakery and the bakers hours around the oven. I thought I'd give you an example of my baking schedule so you might have something to go off. Just for reference, the oven is 5x7, 7.5 inches of masonry, wrapped in multiple layers of ceramic blanket with cellular foamglas under the hearth. 

Firing from the previous day commences at about 4pm. The oven is burned hot with the damper wide open until 9pm, at which point its reloaded with a bit more wood and damped down for the night. I start working at 3am, mixing some doughs and dividing others that were mixed the night before. At 6 I bake off sheet pans of pretzels and focaccia with the high oven heat. About 2inches depth the oven is at 700F. Then goes some small ciabatta buns, then baguettes, then some 750g levain loaves, one or two loads. The 2-inch deep middle gauge is at about 625-650F at this point and I fill the oven with croissant, danish, and pain au chocolat, sausage rolls and meat pies for about 1 hour, at this point it's about 8:30 and we open the shop. I let the oven rest and the temperature spike back up, then I bake some large 1 and 2 kilo whole wheat loaves, then some 1.5kg sourdough loaves in pans. I then let the oven rest for another hour, at which time its about noon, and I start baking 3 or 4 varieties of rye breads that I will sell the next day. Baking finishes by 3 or four, the fire is relit and the next days doughs are mixed along with leavens for the morning. 

It's quite lovely how the oven heat lives a life each day, first burning bright, then slowly waning and growing lethargic. It's good to make breads that match the heat and watch them thrive in there ideal environment.

 

Goodluck!

Byron

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