The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

WFO Recipe Alteration

swiggin's picture
swiggin

WFO Recipe Alteration

There is a communal wood fired oven near me (Dufferin Grove Park, Toronto) that gets fired up twice a week, and I have been given the opportunity (or will be) to try out some of my own bread in the oven. I am interested how my recipes will turn out, as I am fairly new to bread making; though I receive consistent results from my breads at home (side info: I make predominantly, 99% of the time, with sourdough as the levain). The main question I have is:  what are some considerations that needs to be made when making bread for a wood fired oven, ie. hydration of the dough or depth of scoring, anything that may affect the result - that I can change. I am sure I will have a better grasp once I use the oven and can see results, but thought I would ask in advance. Also, what steaming methods do you find best used in the wood fired oven? I know that some say there is enough steam generated by the loaves, but as I will be the first in the oven/or last, it will not be a full oven (maybe 5 loaves)- making me think additional steam is needed. I was going to either try 'water in a heated cast iron skillet', or spray a mist of water from the hose into the WFO- both had been suggested. (They may have a set up already that works, but haven't seen the oven in action yet). Anyways, thanks for any information that I can use to help mitigate the inevitable disasters. 


 Seth

janij's picture
janij

Is a 68% hydration dough for our WFO hearth loaves.  I think the most important thing is temperature and how long the oven has been fired.  How much heat is it retaining that it can give back?  That is the big question.  A 65-70% hydration sourdough would work well as long as the temp is right.  Steam.  How big is the oven?  If the temp is right steam should not matter.  If you are worried about it I would use like a cast iron skillet and put it in the oven to heat up, the put some water in it.  I don't think you will need it.  Underproofed is better.  You will noramally get good oven spring out of a WFO oven.


Oh, Loading!  Now there is another trick.  Do they have a narrow peel there for everyone?  If not keep in mind you have to load off a 14" peel and the door is tight.  I use an oar that is sanded and oiled.  I would see if someone has a peel.

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

If you have a recipe that you like, just go with it. I've never needed to alter any recipe for WFO use. But know that a WFO will cook a bit faster than a conventional oven since it cooks predominantly by radiation from the hot masonry surrounding the food. My loaves generally cook in about 15 minutes. I no longer use a thermometer to check internal temps -- it's always done when the crust is nicely baked. 


One big thing to watch out for is high floor temp -- especially if you're the first one in after firing. Don't know how community ovens work -- is there a line of folks breathing down your neck to get in & get out? I hope not! It takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour AFTER the fire is raked out for my oven to reach usable temps for bread. (During that time, the heat migrates from the surface of the masonry deeper inside the mass. So the surface temps go down, and the oven becomes more stable as the masonry temps equalize.) I use an IR thermometer if I'm concerned that the floor may be too hot, and shoot for a temp around 525°. Much higher and you'll end up with burned, tough bottoms.


As for steaming, it's not essential. But a full oven does help. If your bake doesn't fill the oven, maybe you can double up with another baker? When I do steam, I use a garden sprayer that sprays a VERY fine mist. I mist just after loading and maybe 2 more times in the first 5 minutes or so. If the spray is fine enough, the water turns to steam before it ever touches the bricks. Be careful though -- too much water on hot bricks can create thermal shock that can damage the bricks.


Understand that every WFO is different -- much more so than conventional ovens. You are baking in constantly falling temps, and how fast and how far the temps fall vary greatly with the particular oven. It may take you a few tries to figure it out, but don't give up. The results are worth it!


ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA

swiggin's picture
swiggin

Thanks for the info regarding the methods that both of you use. I guess I will just keep the same dough's as I do and see how they turn out. The nice thing is they use the WFO's every week (a couple times) and will know the behavior of the oven (ie. heat retention, when to load, etc). Although it is a 'community' oven, I think I may be the first person to of asked to use their own dough, so I don't believe there will be pressure to get it in and out. The primary use for the WFO's is baking bread for a Thursday Market at the park (and community meals). The park staff are the people who actually make the bread and do the baking, so am unsure how much they like the actual baking aspect of their job, and how much knowledge they can impart (so the answers, plus some research, will allow me to go in with some knowledge of WFO's). 


 Seth


ClimbHi- Where about in Pittsburgh do you live? My grandparents live just outside the city in Glenshaw Valley.

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

I live a couple of miles south in "da burbs". I have a good friend who lives in Glenshaw. That area is pretty prone to flooding if you're anywhere near the creek.


ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA

korish's picture
korish

I have a wfo in my back yard that I use about every week. Dont worry about your recipe to much, you dont need to adjust it, but do becarefull about the time it takes, this Saturday I was baking 10 breads and checked on them after about 10 minutes they were almost ready so I left them in for another 2 minutes, well wen I got them out the breads that were furthest to the back had a burn to the top of the crust. If you will be the first one to put your bread in you might want to check on the bread and see if you need to move it around. Usualy the back of the oven is the hotest spot so the bread that is furthest in sometimes needs to be moved to the front almost at the end. But that is not often so just check on it. I also use a garden sprayer that I add steam to it, and I put a wett towell over the door before I close it that gives it some steam also. Good luck and have fun.


You can see pictures of my last bread on the link bellow and if you look around there are pictures of my oven also.


http://www.ourwholesomehomes.com/2010/01/to-much-cooking-this-sunday_11.html