The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

wood fired ovens

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malu's picture
malu

wood fired ovens

I would like to purchase or build an wood burning oven, eventually would like to start a very small bakery/cafe in the US. I am still "very"new to baking so any suggestions are much appricated. Currently living in Germany but will be heading back at some point soon. I have been enjoying and trying to learn as much as I can here. Each small villiage has its own bakery and each has its own recipies, methods and the tastes are all different and great, so its really hard to pin down what will work for me. I know I will not be as great as they are but I will have fun trying.


 

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

Are you thinking about building a WFO that will be used in/for your planned bakery, or just a small one to learn on? (Even a small bakery/cafe would need a pretty big WFO.)


Just some things to think about for starters: Some cooking requires the fire to be burning during cooking, e.g., pizza. Some cooking requires the fire to be out and the oven cleaned prior to cooking, e.g., bread and pastry. It's kinda tough to mix the two.


Kit ovens are in their element for the fire-in type of cooking. They heat fast on a small amount of fuel, but don't hold much heat once the fire is out. High-mass (primarily custom built) ovens take longer (i.e., more fuel) to heat, but hold their heat for a long time.


Masonry ovens used for bread/pastry can use pretty much any fuel -- a typical alternate fuel is gas. Many commercial ovens use gas burners that can be inserted, moved around as needed and removed from the oven. Very useful for "topping off" the heat load between bakes. Since the source of the heat is unimportant once the oven is up to temp, the fire is raked out and the oven cleaned, the type of fuel that was used to heat the masonry is irrelevant -- a hot brick is a hot brick! For fire-in cooking of course, there's no substitute for wood. (Coal being a possible exception for pizza, but I still prefer the smokiness wood imparts.)


If you're looking at running this as a business, consider your fuel costs. You'll need to compare the price of wood vs. gas or coal per BTU in your area. (Gas is certainly cheaper in my neck of the woods.) Using wood or coal also means you may need to calculate disposal costs. Additional permitting may be required as well.


Also remember that, if you use wood, you may need to purchase kiln dried wood and you will want to use smaller "sticks" than normal fire wood -- normal fire wood doesn't work all that well in a WFO unless it's re-split and/or pre-dried. For non-commercial use, this is usually accomplished by loading your next batch of wood into the still-hot oven to dry for use the next time. For various reasons, this doesn't work well in a commercial situation. Kiln dried and split WFO wood can cost about 4X the cost of normal fire wood.


Check out the books by Alan Scott and the stuff by Kiko Denzer. The various oven mfgrs also have some good info. I'd also suggest looking at the limited selection of cookbooks that are aimed at WFO cooking. You don't really need special recipies for use in WFOs, but the lack of a temperature knob does take some getting used to.


ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

That's an extremely informative post on a subject I'm also very interested in - and quite sobering! The idea of a WFO in the backyard is romantic and, to be honest, is a dream I've harboured for many years (well before I started baking pizzas and SD bread - I was initially fascinated by the lovely roasts and other cooking various European communities were doing in their home-built, rough and rustic, but highly effective backyard ovens here). There are clearly a lot of factors to consider, and you've summed them up very cogently.


Cheers
Ross

Dancing Bear's picture
Dancing Bear

http://www.fornobravo.com/forum/


It's a lot like the Fresh Loaf for people who like to set things on fire ;)

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

Don't give up on the dream just yet! Backyard ovens are a LOT simpler than a commercial endeavor. And you can build one for free (or almost) and fire it with twigs collected from the local copse.


Once a week pizza is a WHOLE lot easier than daily baking for a commercial bakery or bistro.


We built our own backyard oven a couple of years ago and now wonder how we managed without it. We originally thought we'd use it for pizza, but rarely do. We do, however, bake SD bread pretty much weekly, as well as roasts, foul, fish, veggies and, best of all, various and sundry desert delectables -- you name it. Pretty much everything cooked in it comes out wonderful. I attribute this to the fact that it cooks with radiation vs. air convection like an ordinary kitchen oven.


A WFO is the ultimate kitchen tool for any foodie worth his/her salt.


ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

It's just that realising it is a little more complicated than might initially be imagined.


The way you use yours, ClimbHi, sounds ideal in my terms. Would you mind divulging how you built yours - which plans you used, at least? And did you have much experience as a DIY handyperson?


I have downloaded the free plans from fornobravo, and while I applaud these guys for making this design freely available, I don't think they're going to lose a lot of business in doing so - their design plan as downloaded was much more complicated and daunting than I had anticipated. Well, certainly for someone like me, who has some handyperson nouse and experience, but not enough, I think, to take the leap and attempt one of their ovens.

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

Check out this slide show:


http://www.flickr.com/photos/climbhipa/sets/72157613634415857/show/


More info is included in the comments to a lot of the pics.


It's a Scott-style oven, kinda-sorta based on his plans - "The Bread Builders". I made a few modifications and the next one I build will, e.g., include a smoke shelf for better drafting. (Mine relies on a damper to throttle the draft -- without it, a bit of smoke will escape the front opening due to downdraft turbulence. Not a big deal in most outdoor ovens with a short chimney, but mine has a tall chimney and is under roof, so I didn't want a smokey arch.)


Skill level is not all that important. Pretty much anybody could build a WFO with the info available in Scott's book and other similar guides. Witness the pics. My Lovely Assistant was definately not a skilled mason -- at least at the beginning of our project. (Pretty good now, though!)


Given that adequate plans are followed, the primary differences between a WFO constructed by a highly skilled builder and a greenhorn will be cosmetic. After all, in the end, it's just a pile of hot rocks! ;-)


ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA

malu's picture
malu

Well there is a lot to consider that I honestly have not yet thought of. I truely thank you for your knowledge and help. I will narrow my hopes down to realistic plans, but I will push forward. The location is up in the air (with my wife), either VA, NH or Colorado. I have looked at one oven her in Germany that will hold 6 to 8 1Kg loafs Http://www.haeussler-gmbh.de  they offer courses on their ovens as well. so I will keep looking and keeping by your advise. Again thank you.


Mike

gregnim's picture
gregnim

To wet your appetite, here is a Brit video of making pizza in a wood-fired oven:


http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/video/2010/feb/17/how-to-make-prefect-pizza


Saw this video on the brick oven discussion group, of which I am a member:


http:/groups.yahoo.com/group/brick-oven/


For anyone considering building a wood-fired oven in the near and not so near future, I would highly recommend them. They helped me get through my year of oven building. And yes, it was worth it.


Greg

StrokerMcgurk's picture
StrokerMcgurk

I don't know about ovens for baking bread but I do know about brick pits(ovens) for cooking BBQ in the state of Texas. In a lot of areas, mostly large cities, they are now illegal unless they were built before a certain date and can be 'grandfathered'. I used to be in that business and was told my pit had to be steel for cleaning purposes, which is absurd but I'm sure it makes someone feel good and that's what counts today. Might want to check regulations where you want to do this.

StrokerMcgurk's picture
StrokerMcgurk

I looked at the photos yesterday of that lady building the brick pit and got to say that's as serious an effort as a individual can put forth. Doing a great job, good luck. Wish I could find them today, but can't, which is typical of me and these computers.

crumbs's picture
crumbs

ClimbHi: Your oven looks fantastic. Makes me want to buy my own place so I can do that kind of fun DIY project. The breads you've made also look great.


I'd love to try cooking on a wood oven, but unfortunately I don't own one, and I rent an apartment so I can't build one. Definitely interested in doing it in the future though, so that's why I am reading up now. Looks like a really awesome and rewarding way to bake bread.

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

There's nothing that says a WFO has to be a permanent fixture. Tho' I've never tried it, I've seen postings about folks building small campsite WFOs. It's actually something I mean to try out myself in the coming warmer weather.


Basically, you need to find a large-ish flat rock to serve as a base, build stacked stone walls around it, and another stone or two for a roof. You can even bury it with sand or clay for better heat retention. Then fire away!


These tend to be pretty small -- one-loafers -- but I'm guessing they'll make the cook the hero of the campsite! ;-)


So, head for the woods and give it a try!


ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA

erdosh's picture
erdosh

I was recently invited as a guest to a friends who has a small wood-fired outdoor ovne (a horno). Two of us took freshly prepared bread dough to bake right after the roasted chicken was done.


What a disaster! First the chicken was burning, the oven was so hot, 20 minutes later it was too cold for the chicken to cook (the host had to take it in to put under the broiler, lol). The bread dough remained basically warm bread dough.


Be careful-wood fired ovens are tricky.


George, Culinary Scientist http://whatrecipesdonttellyou.com