Mud oven midwinter
Fired up the oven today for the first time this year, and the first time since late october. I had imagined baking on a wintery January day, but as it happened, we had record highs of nearly 50 degrees (in wisconsin) so it wasn't that much colder than the last time. Today's breads: Ciabatta and the Columbia French bread
I started the columbia dough (which has a 3-5 hour first proof) at 9:30, and lit the fire at 10:15. Ciabatta dough followed after that. I let the fire start to burn down around 3:30, and shoveled out the coals by about 4:00. This is a little longer than I usually go, but I wasn't sure if the cooler weather would effect things or not. Turns out I had PLENTY of heat, so I did overdo it a little. Fortunately with a cool kitchen and 2 slow-rising doughs, I wasn't in a rush. After cleaning out the coals and "soaking" the oven with the door shut for a half hour or so, the oven was a lovely 550 degrees. I put the ciabattas in, and they were done in 10 minutes. Turns out I should have left them in a little longer, they look great but softened up a bit after cooling--so the crust is not as crunchy as I normally like:
In the oven:
After this the oven was still a bit too hot for the french bread--the recipe calls for a rather cool 375 degrees. I cracked the door for 20-30 minutes and loaded the bread when it had dropped to 425-450 degrees. I figured I'd just keep an eye on them and bake them a little less than the recipe called for. I had a TON of oven spring on this batch, and was very pleased. They were done in about 25 minutes---three loaves around 1 pound each.
Now, stay with me here--we got a little carried away. The thing with the mud oven is, you spend 5 hours getting it hot, you feel like you need to USE THAT HEAT. So, we stuck in a chicken to roast, and some sweet potatoes! The oven temp was about 400-410 degrees to start, and about 350-375 after an hour. The chicken was done in about an hour and 15 minutes! :)
Of course by now it was eight o-clock. We ate dinner, and I had one last thing to throw in---granola. I made two batches, 2 cookie sheets each, and they took about a half hour per batch. By 10:30 I was done---12 hours after starting the fire. Phew! A really long but really fun day.