The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

One fire -- Many foods

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

One fire -- Many foods

One of the things I'm having fun with is learning how to use the oven to bake a variety of foods. With a WFO, this is not as easy as it may seem. There's no temperature knob on a WFO, so you can't just turn the heat up and down like in the typical kitchen range. Instead, you have to plan your baking to take advantage of the heat that you have available. This means getting the oven to a high temperature to start, and cook various things as appropriate as the temperature naturally falls.


One trick I've been working on is to cheat a bit and keep a small fire going even after the oven has reached it's baking temp. (Usually, you rake the fire and coals out of the oven once it's heated.) This does two things: It allows me to hold the temp a bit higher a bit longer, and it lets me add smoke to the mix. Here's last weekend's foray into the world of wood-fired cooking. It was hot, we had invited some neighbors over for dinner to celebrate his birthday, and thought we'd do the whole meal in the oven outside so we didn't heat up the kitchen with cooking.


First, there have been several questions about how much smoke a WFO produces. Unfortunately, I thought of this after my fire was already going pretty well, so I didn't get a shot of the smokey first 10 minutes, but here's a shot of the fire so you can see it's going hot & heavy, and a shot of the chimney top. Notice, no visible smoke.


DSCN2760 by you.


DSCN2759 by you.


Once the oven is hot enough that the soot burns off the bricks, it's time for bread. This dinner party was kind of a last minute thing, and I didn't have time the night before for the typical sourdough preferment routine, so I elected to build some Pain à l'ancienne per PR's BBA. That only takes a few minutes to put together on day one, then it's directly into the fridge until the next day, when it only takes minimal work to complete. We decided to make it into a focaccia this time, with a topping of EVO, basil, rosemary, garlic salt. The bread went in with an oven wall temp of around 550° for about 20 minutes. Here's the finished product:


DSCN2763 by you.


Once the bread was out, the oven was still around 500° wall temps, so in went some fresh tomatoes and new red potatoes, cut up for later making into potato salad. I also tossed some oak chips/sticks onto the coals that I had kept in the oven to maks some smoke to flavor the veggies.


Wood-Roasted Potatoes:


DSCN2765 by you.


Wood-Roasted Plum Tomatoes:


DSCN2766 by you.


(These were added to some other veggies that we grilled later, but I didn't get pix of the final medly.)


Here's a shot of the WFO-roasted potato salad:


DSCN2769 by you.


The oven wall temp had now fallen to about 450°, so in went the desert - another peach/blueberry cobbler. I didn't get pix of this one, but I posted pix of one last week. You can see the very edge of the pan in this photo. You can also see how I maintain the coals during this process. I have a steel angle that I slide into the oven to make a box to hold the coals. I add small pieces of wood on top of the hot coals to maintain them and to generate smoke when desired.


DSCN2767 by you.


Once the cobbler was done, I left the door open for a bit until the oven wall temp fell to around 400°. Then I built the fire up just a bit and added a bit of additional wood, to get things really smoking. Then I loaded some dry-rubbed ribs, and sealed the door almost tight so the fire would continue to smoke without either heating the oven further or going completely out. Left them cook for about 4 hours in the falling oven. Fifteen minutes before dinner, I mopped them with some Jack Daniels BBQ sauce (I gotta learn how to make sauce that good!) and here's the final product -- fall off the bone, don't-care-how-messy-you-get-eatin'-'em good, ribs.


DSCN2768 by you.


Everything was very tasty, and we never went near the kitchen stove.


I'm gonna wind up fat as a house. ;-(


ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA

deblacksmith's picture
deblacksmith

Neat to see so much going on in your oven.  


I like the idea of the angle iron.  You could even add a small space under it, a few 1/4 inch shims, to allow some draft to flow to the bottom of your retained fire.  You would weld the shims to the bottom of the angle iron so they were not be "loose".  If you didn't want them, just turn them so they are the vertical leg of the angle.


I just may have to build one of these ovens.


Dave

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

Hmm. interesting thought. Maybe I'll try to temporarily slip a few metal shims under it next time to see if it makes a difference.


ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA

deblacksmith's picture
deblacksmith

You will be surprise at how allowing air to enter the bottom of you fire will keep it going.  In a coal blacksmithing forge, where we use an air blast to burn the coal, and form coke when we want to take a break or go to lunch we will turn off the air blast completly and just crack the ash dump at the bottom of the forge.  The air that enters this way will keep a pile of coal burning for several hours.  When  you come back you can turn on the air blast and be heating metal in just a few minutes.  


I think that you will find that this will add to how you can hold temperature up in the wood fired oven.  In old wood cook stoves folks used to use corn cobs when then wanted a quick rise in the oven temperature.  You are not likely to find many of these in Pittsburgh. :)   But pine cones also have been used for this.


Keep writing about your oven -- the series of posts have been great.


Dave

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

Cobs? Hmmm. Who'da thunk? I'll have to coke 'em next time we have COTC and use 'em for kindling. Pine cones I have. In spades. They do go into the oven.


BTW, I'd love to get some time in a forge. That stuff facinates me. They have a week-long blacksmithing class at Davis & Elkins College every summer (where I often go to the music weeks - guitar) and I'm seriously considering signing up next year to make some tools for the oven.

JeremyCherfas's picture
JeremyCherfas

Tom Jaine would be proud of you. Except for the ribs.


What a greaat feast.


Jeremy

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

Although I built it to bake bread, I felt bad for wasting all that heat every time! So I've been on a kick to cook as much as I can, whenever I can.


ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

I bet you could make s'mores when everything else is done!


Yum, it looks like quite a feast!!! 


Here in California, wood fires are limited because of air pollution control--even wood burning heating stoves are limited these days.  As someone with asthma and a smoke allergy I appreciate it, but I also appreciate the desire to bake in a wood-fired oven.  So I am glad that you are trying to maximize it's use--all that smoke does not go for naught. 

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

I used to worry a lot about the smoke, but not quite so much any more. I'm pretty careful when starting the fire to get a small fire burning hot before adding much wood, and adding it slowly. That keeps the smoke down to a surprisingly small amount for only a short amount of time. I also coke my wood so it's uber-dry and clean-burning.


I've noticed that my oven makes less smoke smell than when somebody lights their fireplace or grill. I also recently read (Wood-Fired Cooking, Mary Karlin) that burning wood doesn't release much more CO2 than it would if it were allowed to rot in the forest -- it just releases it sooner. Makes sense - rotting is just slow burning. So I worry a bit less now.


Understand also that "a lot of smoke" in this oven isn't really all that much smoke. It's only about 12 cu.ft. inside the oven and it only takes a handful of wood chips to fill the oven with enough smoke for cooking purposes, and very little of this escapes up the chimney. Using the grill makes way more smoke than the oven.


As for s'mores, they work better over the hot coals that are raked out and dumped into the fire pit or charcoal grill. But I'll take that cobbler over a s'more any day! ;-)


ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA