The Fresh Loaf

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Baking bread in a WFO with a fire still going

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dantortorici's picture
dantortorici

Baking bread in a WFO with a fire still going

I have a Mugnaini WFO and find that after all the heating, when I pull out the coals, mop it down, I can usually only get about 2 bakes in before the temp gets to low (~400 or so).


Of course, I'd like to bake more so I am wondering about baking while there is a fire going on one side of the oven. I did find an interesting post in this forum that talked about putting a large angle iron in the oven as a stop with the fire going on one side of it, and there was a suggestion to prop it up with washers so a draft would go to the bottom of the fire. This all sounds good but I am wondering if anyone has tried baking bread with a fire still going and what I should watch out for.


Any sage advice out there?


thx


Dan


 

Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

First I would like to know more about your oven.  How much thermal mass is there in the walls and floor.  Also the insulation in the walls and floor (how much and what kind).  I ask this because it may be as simple as adding more thermal mass to your oven then follow with more insulation.


My fear is that if you leave a fire going while baking you will get uneven heat and would need to turn your bread as it bakes.  It also may give your bread and unpleasant smoky taste. I also think the fire would be very drying of the air so crust issues may be a problem


Worst come to worst give it a try and let us know how it worked for you.


Faith

dantortorici's picture
dantortorici

It was built to the specs that Mugnani provided. There is a whole bunch of vermiculite on top of the shell and it sits on a bed of concrete that is about 5 inches thick. I think definitely, there isn't as much mass as a brick oven but the benefit is that this heats up pretty quick.


I have seen videos where there was a fire in one corner and bread baking in another. Its a bigger oven but I am just trying to figure out how to do something relatively as efficient.


I am thinking that a fire still going would be a very small one, its more the heat of the coals and such that would provide the extra heat so I don't think smokey taste should be an issue but I really don't know.


thx


Dan


 

farina22's picture
farina22

I've tried, I've tried...but if you have a fire in the oven, albeit small, the bread will be scorched and uneven. In my experience, I have to have a fire going for many, many hours to build up enough residual heat that I can bake for more than about 1.5 hours at a consistent 500 degrees. I have a pretty big oven--I can fit about 8-12 loaves at a time, so I usually don't have to worry about doing multiple bakes. Since I only bake for friends and family (and the freezer), it's not my particular problem. Good luck!

dantortorici's picture
dantortorici

Yes, I am with you on the need to store a lot of heat to bake more. 


How big is your oven? How much of a fire did you have going? Any particulars you can give me will help me figure out where to start on this.


Did you ever try just with the coals in the oven and no flame?


thx


Dan

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

I have baked with a very small amount of burning coals/embers in my 36" wfo.  They were pushed far to one side, a very small amount of  simmering embers/coals were remaining and the ash was swept out and the oven mopped clean.  I used white oak, a clean burning wood, no junk wood.  The bread had picked up a mild lovely flavor from the small pile of nearly fizzled out coals.  I loved the flavor, with a very light hint of smokey flavor to the dark carmelized crust, it had a little sweetness to it,  I thought it was delicious.   Im sure Im not the first to have baked bread in this manner.


Sylvia   

dantortorici's picture
dantortorici

Sylvia,


Oh, how wonderful! I will definitely give it a try. I also have a 36" round wfo.


There are so many hot coals that I sweep out to prep it for bread, hmmm maybe I may just want to keep a bunch in there instead.


I like the idea of the angle iron I read about in another thread. A big piece of steel that looks like an 'L' at a cross section. It would help to keep the dirty stuff away from the cleaner bread side.


How big would you say the pile of coals was when you did this with the bread?


Also, did you do this to bake longer if so what did you find with regarding the effectiveness of doing it this way?


 


 Dan

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

I had my oven burning a hot fire for pizza's.  I let it burn down to only I would say a quart or less of burning small coals.  The oven was swept very clean and the coals were pushed to the side, still leaving lot's of space in the oven, full floor size for baking is 36" round.  I have a http://fornobravo.com oven.  It is very well insulated and holds the heat for some time after the coals have completely gone out.  There was plenty of room to bread, without dust from the small pile of coals, but by this time there wasn't any smoke or dust that could be seen.  I also use a laser thermometer to test for oven temperature all around the oven.   


I plan on sweeping the small pile of coals and covering them with a large turkey tin foil pan, or a stainless steel pan, maybe with some vents punched into the foil.  Any coals left in the oven will have it's affects on the oven stablizing it's heat equally.  The bread could also be tented instead of the coals!  I'm still experimenting.  It's always fun to try different things with these ovens. 


I use a small portable bricket type bar-b-que on folding legs that is very handy to roll around and set under the door of the oven to sweep hot coals into and then they can be used to also bar-b-que outside the oven.  But I prefer using my oven grill with the hot coals pushed under it for bar-b-que...the flavor!!   As far as smokey flavor on the crust of the bread.. depends on the size of the pile of coals/embers left, I think the smaller the pile the better.


Sylvia

dantortorici's picture
dantortorici

Thanks Sylvia, nice ideas for reusing the coals. Sounds like there are a few variables to try that you have identified:


1. How to separate the coals from the baking area. I will try the angle iron first


2. How big a pile of coals to use


3. What size flame, if any to have on the fire side.


I will give it a go this weekend. I have a laser thermo as well so I'll see what kind of heat profile I get with this.


Dan

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

the coals I have used are only glowing, there is no flame and if you have a fire in your oven you should not place the door on..when it's removed the flames can jump out at you...they are seeking air and you can get burned, so please be careful...never put a door on a burning fire in your oven.


Sylvia

cholla's picture
cholla

I have found that leaving some coals in the oven, ( I split them to both sides and bake in the middle) acts to elongate the proper temperature window. I liken it to using sourdough starter compared to yeast when making your dough, it matures slower and the optimum bake window lasts longer. Slows things down, if you will.


 


John 

dantortorici's picture
dantortorici

John,


Nice idea... coals on both sides probably distributes the heat more uniformly.


Any guess as to how long it added to your baking window?


How big is your oven and roughly how much coals do you put on each side?


When I'm done heating the oven I usually have about a cubic foot of coals. Do you leave that much in?


Dan

cholla's picture
cholla

Dan,


I guess that it adds 2 hours to the baking window. My oven is a Kiko Denzer earth design. 36" dia. with a 20" ceiling, and 12" thick walls of dirt. I use about 2 football size piles of coals on each side. Usually I just divide what is left to 2 sides and let it heat soak until it comes down to the temperature that I want. With the coals in place this takes much longer, but then the temps stay up longer too.


 


John

dantortorici's picture
dantortorici

Well, I gave it a try last night baking with coals in the oven along the two sides.


Problem was, I left all the coals in, and it was too hot and burnt the bread. 


Part of the challenge with WFO is timing of the heat in the oven and matching it to the timing of the rise. With the coals in, it cooled MUCH slower and consequently I over-proofed waiting for it to come down and still put it in too early hence the burn.


Next time: I will pull all the coals to a bucket, and then only add them when I need them after the first bake or so. The two angle irons on each side worked well to keep the coals back and create a bake zone in the middle. Just need to figure out how and when to add coals after the first bake or so.


Then there is the issue of will the coals be any good at that point or just ash. Will I have to keep feeding a separate fire then bring the coals back in...hmmmm


Dan

cholla's picture
cholla

Dan,


Are you using sourdough or yeast to make the dough? With sourdough, I find that the raising is slower and more forgiving about baking at just the right time. And we like the taste better, so everything works out.


 


John

thamnophis's picture
thamnophis

There is not enough thermal mass or insulation to make the heat last. Think of them more as a grill than an oven. They'll bake a couple loaves of bread but thats about it.

dantortorici's picture
dantortorici

I agree, the real issue is thermal mass. I am trying to work around that with the judicious application of coals when heat is needed. Yeah, its a bit of a kludge but I think there is an acceptable way to do this....


Dan


 

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

Just a late-in-the-game thought: you may want to try stacking as many bricks as you have room for in the oven during firing to soak up some extra heat. May work better than coals. I find using coals for baking (as opposed to roasting) is less than satisfactory since you can't seal the oven door tightly with coals or they go out.


ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA