The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Improvising tools and other thoughts

janij's picture

Improvising tools and other thoughts

Over the holidays my husband has been trying to increase his carbon footprint by leaps and bounds.  This time of year is quiet for us, we own an A/C and heating company in Texas.  So summers are crazy and winters allow us some time to play.  Our big new toy has been the wood fire oven.  I didn't realize how into cooking in it my husband would become.  I swear he has decimated the chicken population around here in recent weeks and I have made more bread than I could really give away.  I am waiting for my neighbors to not look me in the eye and try to run whenever they see me coming with anything in my arms.  I actually had one guy down the street, who I have never met really, almost turn down a chicken from us.  I guess I would be suspicious of someone handing out chickens I didn't know.  As you can see, I am getting desperate for takers.  Last night as I was trying to get ride of 3 of the 6 loaves we baked yesterday, which is what I got on here to write about in the first place, I gave them to friends of our neighbors who just happened to be leaving the neighbors house when I walked out the door.  Don't know them either.  It was rather funny.  I asked them if they would like a loaf of bread.  One of the guys replies, "Umm, we have a loaf at home thank you."  I told him it was homemade and baked in a wood fire oven and he gave in.  I didn't wait to hear what the second guy had to say, I just shoved the bread in his hands and knocked on the neighbor's door.  I am sure people are somewhere thinking I am very strange indeed.  So I need to find a soup kitchen or something to donate bread to.  That is one of the things I would like to do this year is give more.  So if anyone knows where to find places to donate bread I am open to ideas.

But back to reason for this entry.  Kyle, my husband, decided the other night he wanted to make the bread.  From start to finish all by himself.  So I asked what kind he wanted.  He wanted a light rye hearth bread.  So thanks to Hamelman and DiMuzio, I got out a calculator and made up a formula for a 20% rye, 40% preferment, 65% hydration dough.  In hind sight I should have gone to 68% to get a little bigger holes but I didn't want the dough to be too slack for my begninner husband who would have to mix the dough by hand.  The DLX is too small for 6 loaves.  So Kyle ground the rye, made the poolish, learned the french fold, and stretch and fold.  Where would I have been with out all the excellent videos I have found from this site?  I would ahve been in trouble indeed!  I weighed out all the ingredients and helped with shaping and such, but Kyle did the bulk of the work by himself.  I even tried hard not to hover!  The dough turned out really nice.   I thought he did an excellent job for his first rodeo so to speak.  But there are 2 big tricks with baking in a WFO.  The first is timing.  It is hard to get the loaves and the oven ready at the same time.  Lucky for us it has been about 50 deg here so I put the loaves in the garage to retard/proof while the oven temp gets in range.  The second trick is loading the bread.  I realized I needed a narrow peel.  Since Kyle is an avid fisherman he suggested buying a oar and sanding the varnish off.  It works like a champ!!  I would have never thought of it.  But it is hard to get all the loaves in and spaced correctly.  So below are some pictures.  One is the oar, sanded and oiled.  One is of the Counrty Rye oaves we made yesterday.  And we will see if I find any other ones to put in.

My next experiment is going to be with different grains.  I recently purchased 50lbs of spelt berries, 50lbs or durum berries and 50lbs of hard white spring wheat.  So I would like to come up with a formula and do a test and see the differences in flavor and behavior.  I am thinking of doing about 50% whole grain and 50% AP flour.  I will let you know how that goes.

The Oar- or new Peel

The loaves in the oven...nicely spaced if I may say so myself.  Or atleast better than before! :)

Lastly, the crumb..



gardenchef's picture

please  keep the postings coming, I look forward to hearing about you grain are a lucky couple and your neighbors and others have no idea how blessed they are to be near you.

God Bless


CaptainBatard's picture

What a great idea...using the paddle...the breads look great


ehanner's picture

It is nice when you can identify a time of year when you have the time to have a hobby and enjoy it. It sounds like you both are having fun.


janij's picture

It has been really fun.  And I have my starter working way so I can get grinding, literally, on my grain experiment!

Thanks for all the kind words.

Mary Fisher's picture
Mary Fisher

But do you really mean that your husband is trying to INCREASE his carbon footprint???

We installed a wood fired stove (not oven) this year and I've using it for cooking almost everything. It's not big enough to bake masses of bread so I have to use the electric oven but most meals I make on the top of our stove. I even made a complete meal for nine of us last week. Many foods are better cooked on the wood fired stove (which is our dining room heater) than they are using the kitchen cooker. 

Your oven is HUGE! I'm envious. I can only use our outdoor stone built wood fired bread oven in summer :-(


janij's picture

This summer was very hot and dry here, so we sat and waited all summer to fire ours back up.  There is a park behind us and I didn't want to start a fire with a burn ban in effect.  So it has been really nice.  But I think they cook food better as well.  We have been cooking lots of chickens and even a 25 lb turkey in it.  Everything is way more moist than in a regular oven.  Do you have a picture of stove?  I would love to see what is tlooks like.

Mary Fisher's picture
Mary Fisher

I don't know how to put pictures up here :-(

If someone can advise I'll do it, otherwise mail me at I have LOTS of pictures!

M2's picture

Those are great looking loaves of bread! 

We love our bread and we love making them.  It is funny that we have to "get rid of" them!  Yeah, I use the same expression also ;) and I hope that the receiver will love the bread as much as we do!

I bet those bread are delicious...I'm going to make some this weekend.