The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

WFO Success Weekend!

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

WFO Success Weekend!

I have learned a lot about my oven this fall.  One of the most important things I learned, though, I just confirmed this weekend with this bake.  I have feared since I finished the insulation layer that my oven was too thin-walled to hold enough heat for multiple bakes.  I also suspected that perhaps I just was not "charging the heat battery" fully enough to make it last.  This weekend was a test of this theory.

This weekend I extended the high-fire burn from 1 3/4 hours to 2 1/2 hours.  I did not burn it any harder than I have before, but I burned it that hard for longer.  The finished temperature of the oven was not that much different from previous bakes.  I could tell by other external observations, like steam coming from the insulation layer, that I had the heat deeper into the oven than before.  The temperature drop during my soaking and equalization period was also quite a bit less.  I figured that was a good thing.   It did throw off my proofing schedule though!  Just one of the joys of learning a WFO.

The plan was to again try to bake two loads in the oven, back to back.  I've tried it before and ended up with undercooked second batches both times.  For this test I prepared a first load of 30% Whole Wheat sourdough boulles (6 loaves @ 770 grams each) that I knew with confidence I could bake off.  The second load was a lighter test of two loaves of "Old School" Deli Rye from the Inside the Jewish Bakery book.  At only two loaves I could bake them in the kitchen if the wfo proved not up to it.  In the end, the wfo proved up to the task.

It was a challenge trying to bring all the timings together, and I only pulled it off, sort of.  I underestimated the soaking and equalization time I needed after the longer high-fire burn.    While waiting for the oven to cool I over-proofed the sourdough, and ended up forcing the oven floor temperature down with repeated damp scuffling.  It worked out though, and the sourdough baked off beautifully.  Next time I will try loading just a few degrees hotter.  Here they are, just ready to come out of the oven.

These finished at 208F after 28 minutes.  The bottom crust was not as pronounced as I feared.  I must have gotten the floor cool enough after all.  As soon as I got these loaves out I loaded the rye loaves, even though the oven temperature was a bit higher than the recipe specified.  Nonetheless, they baked off in roughly 30 minutes as well.  Here is the whole bunch on the rack cooling.

I was very pleased with the crusts on these loaves. They all have that great thin, crisp crust that I think is characteristic of the WFO finish.  Following are the crumb shots.  The sourdough first:

Though quite acceptable and very tasty, there is obviously some tightness in the crumb from over proofing.  As I learn to manage the oven timing better that will improve.

Here is the rye bread:

I was very pleased with this result.  I have a short list of improvements to shoot for next time, but the patti-melt sandwiches yesterday were great!  I also gave one of the sourdough loaves, still warm from the oven, to my neighbor and assistant oven builder.  As it happened his newlywed daughter and her husband were visiting, so they enjoyed the loaf for dinner.  Next day my friend said "Don't send that bread over when the kids are here!  Now they're looking for a house in the neighborhood!".  Too much fun!

What did I learn about my oven?  It can bake two loads back to back with no trouble.  I just have to charge it up accordingly.  I need to allow more time in my timeline for oven soaking and equalization though.  I have a big note in my oven management log to "Make the oven wait for the bread, not the reverse!  Start the fire early!" 

I also know that I must finish my oven door.  I have been getting by with just a piece of 3/8" plywood held in place by a brick for an oven door, and it does not fit all that well.  I know, therefore, where my heat is going!  I have a 3" thick solid oak door in progress, but I still need to get the stainless steel heat shield made for it, and get my thermometer.  I also have a little millwork to do to finish the woodwork up before I can do those things.  With that door, though, my heat retention will improve a lot.  As it was, the oven was at 545F (roughly) when I loaded the sourdough, and roughly 435F when I loaded the rye.  It was still over 400 when the rye finished.  I assume the temperature drop was less for the rye bake because it was only two loaves.  Next time I'll prepare more loaves for the second load!

Thanks for stopping by!
OldWoodenSpoon

Comments

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

All wfo ovens are different in their heat sink and stabilizing them.  Timing and coordinating the bakes at just the right temperatures 'lol' you've done a successful weekend bake...doesn't it feel great : )  Loved, reading your post and seeing your photos.

Thanks for sharing OWS!

Sylvia

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

Yes, it does feel great.  It feels like I have advanced up a level with the oven, and I look forward to challenging myself, and my oven, again next time.  Perhaps a couple of cobblers to go in after the second bake.  After all, it would be a shame to waste that left over heat. :)

OldWoodenSpoon

ananda's picture
ananda

I think that rye bread looks especially tasty OldWoodenSpoon,

Great post on your lovely oven and bread baking.   Your observation is of great significance to those learning how to use these brick beasts.   How much firing, and the consequent solidity of the heat retained: good work.

Best wishes

Andy

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

considering the source!  Thanks Andy.  I think we are both enjoying our wood fired ovens.  I must come back to your blog one of these days soon as I have some questions for you about your double levains.  Talk about good work: those qualify!

Thanks
OldWoodenSpoon

FaithHope's picture
FaithHope

Woo hoo!!!  AWESOME!!!  I think your bread looked totally awesome!!!  Man, I need to really start taking some time to do bread better!!  Thanks for sharing!  I've had the same experience with my oven too.  I just don't heat it long enough to heat all the way through.  But, I tried what you did, heat it the same heat, but longer.  Seemed to work better for me.  The whole heat sinking part I haven't got quite down yet either!  I tried to smoke a second turkey all night.  Came out okay, but was over done.  Will try another one as soon as we finish eating this one! ;)

Thanks for all you shared!  It's great to see how others are working with their ovens!

HA!!!  I think that is so sweet what your neighbor said!!!  Too funny!!!

OWS, looks awesome!!!!!  You are way pro with bread!  Good job!!!!!  Keep your posts coming!!  I love reading it!

I just read your post, and tried to withhold from scrolling down to see the bread!!  It was worth the wait! :)

Ah...it was beautiful!!! :)

AWESOME!

Faith

 

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

for the compliments, and for the boundless enthusiasm!  Reading your posts is more exciting than a triple espresso!

I'm sure you will find, as I did, that one of the secrets to these big, heavy oven-beasts is long high-fire burns.  I find the battery analogy helpful, and I think of heating up the oven like charging up a battery.    One day I hope to be able to judge just how much heat I am storing with a given firing time, but for now I'll settle for being able to guess when it is "enough".  Challenging, but rewarding too.

Thanks!
OldWoodenSpoon

FaithHope's picture
FaithHope

I forgot I wanted to tell you the status of my door.  So far it's working great!  My dad also made it out of oak, but it's maybe .75" thick.  Not too thick, cause it's so heavy already.  In the picture you can see the backside of the door, he has two strips that hold the rest of the pieces together.  I see that you said your door is solid which is great, cause my door is splitting now.  Not a big deal, it's the "rustic barn" look I'm going for! ;)  But...we did take extra Foamglas covered it in foil and I think that helped A LOT!!!!  The door can get pretty hot!

Also, I LOVE the thermometer in the door, just like ClimbHi's.  I know it doesn't tell perfectly what's inside, but it does give you a good idea what's going on!  I'm so glad I have it, and it was only $20 bucks, so totally worth it!

The door is about 27lbs, I thought it would be way too heavy, but actually it's not bad at all!  My dad also made me a rolling door/peel "holder" out of all the oven scraps, so I can have somewhere to put it when it's hot, but not mess up the prob that's coming out the back.  It's pretty sweet!

So, if you have any left over insulation, maybe you can put it in your door?  I think it helps!  Here's some of the pictures.

The top and bottom don't have as much Foamglas and you can really tell the difference by the touch.  But it doesn't get too hot to handle.  But I do think that's why it splits until it gets to the braces.

We also put that little carpet in front of the door, so I can tilt it back and just slide it out on the cow handles, makes a big difference!  Then just lift it out!  But you can see where it splits.  Still LOVE my door though! ;)  So cute! :)

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

for insulation on my oven.  Nothing that high-tech!  My oven is made of clay mud.  My insulation is wood chips in a fireclay slip matrix.  I'm going to fill the stainless steel heat shield on my door with leftover perlite.  From there, the oak is just going to have to split, and I know it will.  When it gets too bad I'll mill out another one, or try something different.

Thanks
OldWoodenSpoon

Laurentius's picture
Laurentius

Hi OldWoodenSpoon,

If you have steam coming from your insulation, thats an indication that the oven needs to be completely dried or that water is leeching into your oven somewhere and need to be stopped and dried with multiple firing until all of the moisture is gone. 

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

yet.  That is one of my excuses for not yet putting any finish coats on the oven.  The oven is very new, and the insulation is pretty thick.  The steam this time was because I finally got it hot enough to push some more moisture out.  There is still more in there, I know.  Next spring/summer will be soon enough for the finishing coats, so I can give it plenty of time to air and fire dry the insulation first.

 

Thanks
OldWoodenSpoon

hanseata's picture
hanseata

maybe, one day when my husband has finished all his other projects...

The rye bread looks very light - did you use white rye?

Karin

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

This is the "Old School" Deli Rye from ITJB.  It calls for white rye, but one of the variations calls for substitution of medium rye instead.  I did not have that, so I just used 50/50 white rye and dark rye.  The dough was even darker than the baked loaf turned out.  It lightened up some in baking for some reason.

Make sure there is nothing else on hubby's list when you start the oven.  They are a lot more work to build, in my opinion anyway, than the books tell you.  It took me an entire spring and summer of one-day-per-weekend time to build mine the second time, when I had a finished foundation, oven floor and arch brick work already in place.   It was worth every minute of the time I put in, but I put in a lot of time nonetheless.

Thanks!
OldWoodenSpoon

ehanner's picture
ehanner

OWS,

Great bake from the last firing. I was going to suggest a longer yet firing to dry out the oven completely. The steam from the insulation is sending a message. Plus, when the water is replaced by air as it drys out, it will work better as an insulator. I think you will find the oven holds heat better as it dries out.

BTW, I have given up the idea of building another  WFO here and I have a thermometer I was planing on installing in the door. They aren't to expensive and I'll gladly gift it to the cause if you like. Let me know if you don't have one and I'll mail it.

Eric

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

Yes, the insulation thing is holding back my heat retention.  I concluded that I might as well just bake bread and let the occasional firing dry it out as I go.  Since I'm in no hurry to put the top coats on, there's no big rush to get it completely dried out.  Other than performance, that is.  Until the ambient humidity goes down next spring though that sawdust and clay will be pretty hard to get dried out completely.  It would be just as hard to then keep it dry, so I'm just going to burn a bit more wood, and bake a little less for it, until then.

Wow, a thermometer!  Thanks for the generous offer!  I have not bought one yet but intended to, so of course I'd love to have it.  I'll send you a PM to work out the details.

Thanks Eric!
OldWoodenSpoon

Lisakemr's picture
Lisakemr

There is nothing better then the smell of fresh air mixed with fresh baking bread in a wood fired oven! The bread looks awesome! I enjoyed the pictures...

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

Thanks for the kind words.
OldWoodenSpoon