The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Comnmunity Ovens

Carbondale Community Oven's picture
Carbondale Comm...

Comnmunity Ovens

We are about to inaugurate our community oven in Carbondale, Colorado. Our intent is to fire up the oven once a week (initially) and make it available to bread bakers at a scheduled baking time.  We are in the process of drawing up some rules and guidelines for the oven's use.  Anyone have any insights or suggestions for us? Thank you!

FoodFascist's picture

I'm very jealous. Really. I have only one suggestion - why don't you inaugurate it by smashing a bottle of bubbly on its edge? That's what sailors do with ships...

Carbondale Community Oven's picture
Carbondale Comm...

Bubbly...I think that's in the works for our first fire, planned for this week! Thanks for the comments.

Chuck's picture

I suggest either supplying all the fuel, or if community members "donate" to the fuel supply then have a rule about fuel quality. There have been stories about bakers shoving parts of old pallets, and even painted wood, into a community oven  ...maybe because they didn't know any better. Needless to say, I'd not be at all happy to find my bread was baked next to burning maybe-toxic chemicals, and would probably go so far as to withdraw completely from the community if it ever happened.

I also suggest requiring each user to score the top of all their loaves with "their pattern" (sort of like a cattle brand). It's all too easy for loaves to get mixed up and disagreements to break out. Provide a scoring tool (a sharp serrated knife?) and some printed instructions for bakers who aren't yet comfortable with scoring. (To old-timers this is just an "of course"  ...but to community oven newbies it may come as a revelation.) As bread scoring patterns have to be very simple, it may be necessary for users to switch patterns all the time depending on which other folks they're baking with, so their pattern-of-the-day is always different from everybody else who's in the oven at the same time.

Another suggestion is to provide plenty of work surfaces (tables? counters?), so every user has a place to put all their ingredients, a place to mix their dough, and a place for their finished loaves to sit on racks and cool.

It probably takes quite a while to heat the oven up; somebody has to start building a fire hours before any bread goes in. I suggest either having a "manager" who does this regularly, or some sort of well-organized turn-taking so a different user is assigned this chore every time. The only thing worse than showing up with my bread dough only to find the oven just started warming up and it will be quite a while before I can use it, is me being singled out for the startup chore again and again and again.

My last suggestion is to provide some source of fairly large quantities of good water, and a sink with a drain for washing. If it's tap water, you'll probably need some kind of filter to shrink the chlorine concentration (the kind of "water softener" that uses salts is probably not suitable for this purpose).

Carbondale Community Oven's picture
Carbondale Comm...

All excellent suggestions! We will use them as a framework for setting up our rules for community baking.  I especially like the idea of personalizing bread with a special mark. I'd been wondering how to keep the loaves straight. It's hard to believe we are finally going to be baking bread together, after 2 years of meetings and fundraising. Thank you for your ideas.

jlewis30's picture

Oh that sounds like a fun community projesct for sure! I live in CO, but nowhere near Carbondale (Castle Rock, yawn) I cannot imagine such a cool thing happeneing here.

Carbondale Community Oven's picture
Carbondale Comm...

Well, we're not far from Glenwood Springs or Aspen, if you ever come this way. Or go to our website, or our Facebook page (Carbondale Community Oven) for updates and schedules.  How about an oven in Castle Rock next?    

Doc Opa's picture
Doc Opa  They have had community ovens in Toronto.  They may be willing to share thier experiences with community ovens.

yozzause's picture

Hi there Carbondale

i would love to hear more about the project the size of the oven and the size of the community and even some pictures would be super

good luck with the project Yozza

Carbondale Community Oven's picture
Carbondale Comm...

The hearth size is, I think, 34 x 38.  There are some photos on our website ( and Facebook page (Carbondale Community Oven.)  Ovencrafters, from whom we purchased the plans, asks builders to refrain from posting photos of the construction itself.

Our town of Carbondale has 6000 residents, many who grow their own food or purchase it locally.  Lots of gardens, master gardeners, excellent cooks and restaurants.  The community oven is located in a field outside our bustling nonprofit center building -- housing 30 nonprofit organizations--which is a place that people visit constantly to view art shows, see performances, and attend meetings.  We envision baking bread together once a week, maybe on Friday afternoons, while we hang out around the oven and talk to our friends and neighbors.  Next year, a community garden (our second) will be built right next to the oven,bringing in more visitors and oven-users.