The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

brick oven

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Nickisafoodie's picture
Nickisafoodie

 


Pizza baked home at 650 degrees





Ever since reading about Jeff Varasano and his obsession for the perfect pizza I find myself regularly revisiting his sight and learning more every time: http://www.varasanos.com/PizzaRecipe.htm  The sight is highly educational and a fun read and recommended by many other Fresh Loaf posts.  There is lots to learn from this sight including dough hydration (very wet), hot oven (how to modify yours at your own risk!), flour types, use of a starter and several days of cold fermentation, dough technique, aspects of creating a superior sauce, homemade mozzarella, toppings, and pizzeria ratings and technique, technique and more technique.


His holy grail is a 2-3 minute pie at 850-950 degrees - obtained in his home oven by rigging the cleaning cycle to stay on such ovens being designed to reach up to 1000 degrees to burn off any spills.  I have made very good pizzas at 550 degrees in my oven baking at 7 minutes or so.  I easily rigged my oven as Jeff did.  As others on this site have said proceed at your own risk and every kitchen should have a fire extinguisher near.  I am very happy with a 4 minute pie at 650-700 degrees rather than seeking 850-900 degrees (someday).  Preheating to 650-700 can take 80-90 minutes and longer to get to 800 plus temp.  Use of an inferred thermometer nails the temp.  After all is said and done I find the higher temp pie to be far superior to pies coming out of a standard 550 degree max oven, even though I have made some very good pies in a standard oven with stone.


If you get past the angst of the oven, then the trick is to use dough that is very wet as it can stand up to the heat and still be crisp on the outside and moist on the inside.  My experience has been that an 80-85% hydration works well.  And following Jeff’s method of storing in portion sized plastic containers in the refrigerator from 3-5 days to give the dough superior flavor. 
After trying his technique for dough mixing many times I was not getting the proper dough development.  I found this YouTube video “That's Alotta Ciabatta! Start to Finish” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v24OBsYsR-A which shows how to make 90-95% hydration Ciabatta using the flat beater for most of the mixing and eventually to the dough hook.  Having used this technique several times, I can say it is the way to go on high hydration dough and achieving the window pane effect.


My recipe is simple:
Build Starter: 120 grams total consisting of 60 grams of rye and 60 grams of water (note: you can use 100% white flour.  I prefer having up to 20% divided evenly among whole wheat and rye which adds a subtle flavor profile.  And my starter is 100% rye).  After five hours to build to peak activity add the following:
60 grams (10%) whole wheat
472 grams (80%) bread flour
410 grams water
15 grams of salt (2.5%, higher than the typical 1.75% for bread)
3 grams of yeast (.5% given the use of starter)
Total 1,080 grams, enough for three 12”-14” pizza rounds at 360 grams each
See links above for mixing technique (YouTube) and storage on Jeff’s site.  The sights are worth a look for any baker using high hydration dough, and pizza lovers.  Jeff has opened his own pizza place in Atlanta, Ga which seems to be getting great reviews.  His story of a passion that turned into his business calling is very interesting.  I found it inspiring to read and learn as we all do when sharing our experiences…


 



 

davidjm's picture
davidjm

 


Secrets to successful Clay Oven Usage


I'm still relatively new to this, but I haven't seen the information below in other places.  I welcome your comments and suggestions from your experiences as well.  They will benefit the whole community!


First, go ahead and buy the book by Kiko Denzer "Build your own earth ovens" (amazon.com $15)


Insulated Hearth Subfloor:


In Kiko's book, he recommends using plain sand as a subfloor for the hearth.  That is the cheapest way to do it, but for $50 more, you can have an insulated subfloor that will hold heat much better than sand.  Build a form the size of the top of you base at least 2" thick.  Buy a bag of Portland cement and 2 big bags of vermiculite from a plant nursery.  Mix the two at a 5:1 ratio (vermiculite:Portland) dry.  Then add water and mix until you get an oatmeal consistency.  Pour into the form.  Smooth out the top.  Make sure it's level!  Let dry for at least a week.  Then you will set your fire brick directly on top without mortar.  The clay walls will hold it in.  Ideally, you would have 4-5" thick subfloor.  I found that I loose heat out the floor faster than the walls with 2" thick subfloor.


Oven Dome:


Kiko, in one of his blogs, actually says the ideal height of the dome, no matter the size of the floor, is 16".  He plans to add it to the next edition of his book. In the present edition, he gives a percentage formula. 


Firing the oven:


After a couple miserable failures, and combing the web for advice, I finally figured out how to successfully fire a clay oven.  Here's what I learned.


You really need good seasoned oak to make it get hot enough. 


Buy an Infra-red thermometer (amazon.com $80).  It is worth it.  You'll need to chart out the heating behavior of your oven at least one time.  Then you can use it to give you a frame of reference during a heating. 


And, plan to spend at least 3 -5 hrs heating it up, depending on the size of your oven.  My oven floor is 28" wide by 31" deep, and 20" high ceiling inside.  It is a relatively large oven.  I found that I have to fire the oven for 4+ hrs to get the temp high enough. 


Think in terms of heat saturation of the clay walls and floor.  Noah Elbers at Orchard Hill Breadworks (orchardhillbreadworks.com) says he fired his clay oven 6 hrs before he attained proper heat saturation. 


The outside walls are a good guide as to heat saturation.  In my oven, I need the outside walls to gain 100 degrees in temp before I am near having proper saturation; even more if I want to bake a larger quantity.  (This is where an IR thermometer comes in handy!)


I think firing time depends on how much you are baking too.  If you are only doing a couple pizzas and no breads, then you don't need as much heating time.  But if you're going to maximize your baking potential, you'll want a long hot heating.


I took hundreds of data points of my oven during a firing, and I put my findings into a graph.



(The upper lines are inside temps.  The lower lines are outside temps.)


Couple observations from the graph:



  1. You see a big jump in internal temp at 75 minutes when I put in a few pieces of nice seasoned oak.  After which time, the internal temp continues to grow.

  2. Inside temp reached 1000+ degrees F at its peak.

  3. The rate of heating of the outside increased after the good oak was added and steadily gained in temp until the fire went down to coals.  (I rake the coals across the floor and let sit for 30 min to heat the floor uniformly.)

  4. After that time, the outside temp remained relatively constant.

  5. You can see clearly how after the fire is taken down to coal at 255 minutes (or 4:15 into firing), we immediately start losing inside temp at a steep rate.  Coals stayed down for 30 minutes and then raked out. 

  6. Once the oven inside temp reaches around 450, we see a leveling off of the rate of cooling.  I think that if I had fired the oven another hour, the inside temp would have leveled off at a higher temperature.  That would have given me addition time in the pizza and bread baking range.  As it was, I got about 90 minutes worth of baking time on that firing.  My max capacity in that firing was: 14 pizzas, seven 30" baguettes, and 6 whole grain loaves.


I hope this is helpful.


Let's hear some of your secrets!


David


 

treelala's picture
treelala

http://www.redrivergorge.com/


I Was thinking about how to bring health to a community and I thought about scripture about breaking bread with others. I decided to reach out to Cincinnati my home town. I am going through the community centers and reaching out to the directors to be involved in a brick bread oven workshop. I believe this will be a great tool for healthier neighborhoods. I wan to share this workshop with the fresh loaf community hoping that you will npass this tool along to people you know who are go getters when it comes to lifting up urban life. Blessing to all!


Featured Site: Red River Gorgeous, Bread Oven Workshop
Weekend of July 24, 25 & 26 2009

Red River Gorgeous, Wilderness cabin retreat sponsoring a breadoven workshop hosted by Welsh timberframer, Don Weber. Interested parties please email cdourson(at)redrivergorge.com. The workshop will be held the weekend of July 24, 25 & 26, 2009. Stay tuned for details and get ready for two days of hands on experienceop and enjoyment.

rcornwall's picture

backyard brick oven

July 5, 2007 - 11:57am -- rcornwall
Forums: 

Has anyone ever built a wood-burning brick oven? I am considering doing it in my backyard. I don't want it too simple looking such as adobe mud, but want to do something more brick and tile looking because we will probably be selling our home in the next two years and want something that will be a real eye catcher. Any advice?

rcornwall

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