The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sunday afternoon with the mud oven

breadnerd's picture

Sunday afternoon with the mud oven

We had plans with friends for a mud oven pizza party, and the weather was extremely cooperative. A lovely fall afternoon! We built our mud oven this spring/summer following Kiko Denzer's book, and after a few runs I'm now getting the hang of baking with it.


Today's baking, besides the pizza, was three kinds of bread: Sourdough (I used the basic Bread Alone formula, which is a pretty standard sourdough recipe). I was quite happy with how these turned out, and they smell really good. I shifted my sourdough culture over to whole wheat since I've been trying out a few whole wheat recipes, but used white flour for the final dough--the result was a lovely colored dough--just a touch wheaty but still light.


some plain ol' french,

and a test recipe for Reinhart's 100% whole wheat Struan (a multigrain).



The baguettes were not my best! Loading off the peel didn't go as smoothly as it could have. Then, I took them out a little too early and the crust softened up after they cooled. They'll still be tasty, but I can do better! The oven was a bit too hot when the Struan went in (probably close to 450) so they're a little dark. I haven't tasted them yet (too full on pizza) but I'm looking forward to it.


After bread baking, we let the oven cool down a bit and then roasted some pumpkin seeds from our jack-o-lanterns. Finally, the temp was down to about 325 degrees, and I threw in some granola. This has been a surprising good use of the oven, and I'm so fond of it I have to make a batch every time so I don't run out! I'll add some dried fruit to it one it cools off--usually cranberries and raisins.



JMonkey's picture

That's fantastic, Breadnerd. Once I own my own home, I'll put in place a five year plan to convince my wife that we need one of those. I was able to convince her that grinding our own flour was a good idea because it's less expensive in the long run and that fresh flour is more nutritious. <

So, just out of curiosity, how long did it take you to build the mud oven, and about how much would one expect it to cost?

breadnerd's picture

Thanks :)


If it makes you feel better (or worse?) I've had the firebricks for this project for a few years before actually doing it! it wasn't so much convincing my better half as it was getting a whole lot of more important projects out of the way first! (It's our first home too.)


It took us several weekends of work to make the oven, mostly interrupted by weather and other responsibilities. I've been meaning to do a write up of the constuction process, and will do it eventually. Later projects can happen after it's up and running. For example, we don't have a final plaster layer on it, and we added the roof after a few firings. So that helps break up the project a bit.


As far as costs, the book ("Build your own Earth Oven", by Kiko Denzer) really encourages you to recycle and scrounge for materials, so if you have the time and ability to do it you can make it for pretty cheap. But depending on your location and time, some things are easier to purchase.


For example, we had landscaping bricks laying around, so we used those for the foundation (even though ithey're not super attractive). We purchased gravel for filling up the foundation hole, and could probably have found sometihing for free with a little more effort.


We don't have a very clay-rich area, but I was able to purchase shredded clay from a topsoil/landscape place for quite cheap. I had as much clay as my truck could hold (probably 1/3 of a yard) for 20 bucks, and that was enough to just finish the oven. We also purchased sand from a nearby stone place, which is pretty inexpensive.


So, to sum it up, the key to any home project is to NOT add up the costs, and I haven't!! If you plan ahead and look for bargains and/or recycled items for the oven, you can probably do it for pretty cheap (anywhere from nearly free to less than $300). If you buy all the materials, and use high end items such as flagstone etc. for the foundation, it could cost a lot more.


Mary Fisher's picture
Mary Fisher

We haven't got a mud oven but Spouse built a stone oven about three years ago. Everything except the fireclay and cement were reclaimed so the cost was very little - but as has been said the cost is unimportant. So the first loaf costs £n or $n, after that it's all free. We don't consider the payback time for a bar of chocolate or other nice but unnecessary things!

The bread baked in a stone or clay oven is superb. The residual heat must be used, I've cooked a whole old ram's leg after bread by putting it in a large covered container and leaving it overnight. It was divine - and so tender as well as tasty - far better than if it had used gas or electricity in the kitchen oven - and free!

Sadly i couldn't see the pictures on this blog - no idea why. If there's any interest I'll put a link to the pictures of how we built our oven.


Doc Opa's picture
Doc Opa

I can't see the pictures either and I have tried with Firefox and IE.  I'm in the final stages of building a Forno Bravo brick oven, tuscan style with a high vault.  I could not convince my wife that we should build a cob style oven like in Kiko Denzer book.  I used Craigslist to aquire firebricks and red bricks and other materials to help with the cost.  Not counting my labor, I'm probably doing it for 5 to 10 cent on the dollar to what it would cost to have it built and pay for the labor and materials.