The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Learning Heat

PiPs's picture

Learning Heat

It feels so strange to stop for a minute and think back over the week ... It has been a blur of oven firings, dough mixing, baking and cleaning.

In some ways it has been a week of major milestones ... the FIRST bake!

... but now that I am test baking everyday in the oven it really feels down to business. I have entered into a relationship with this wood burning beast and I need to tame it.

I now often think of something that Chris Bianco said about woodfired ovens - he said they teach you about heat.

Perhaps I understand that a little more now - it's not just the feeling of radiant heat when you stick your arm in a blazing hot oven, its also about heat transfer, how it moves through objects and is stored.

The lesson probably also extends to losing most of the hairs on my right arm and burning off part of my fringe ... I am also drinking a lot more water these days :)



Though we are baking small loads in the oven it is not fully operational. A lot of water is used to build these masonry ovens and for the first few weeks that moisture needs to be pushed out of the oven so it can dry thoroughly - the oven has been literally dripping water. But everyday I see improvements in its heat storing ability and the water patches in the render are slowly drying up ... but it could still take a few more weeks until it "comes good".

As has been said so often, the biggest test is having dough that is ready when the oven is ready ... I have many, many, many more weeks until I have a firing schedule nailed down. This will be my biggest test. We can work the bread schedule around the oven ... but the oven NEEDS to be right.


First Sourdough bake

Bread and basket

Sourdough and Walnut Levain

Sourdough crumb

2kg Miche

2kg Miche

Miche Crumb


So now the test baking phase begins ... over the next few weeks many varities of breads will be baked, tested and improved upon then baked again and again ... the whole time aiming for consisent results that taste delicious.

All the breads in this post have been baked in the woodfired oven. Apart from the ciabatta, all are sourdough and have been hand mixed, plus they contain a proportion of freshly milled grains. The biggest batch I have hand mixed so far has been 30kgs - It is easier than it sounds and is incredibly satisfying.

As Eric Kayser says, "It is a dream!  It is a dream to make the dough by hand, to make the energy with the hand!"


Scoring practice

Restaurant Ciabattas

Boldy baked bread!


Sorry I have been so slack with replies in my previous posts ... I will aim to answer any questions that you have or just say hello :)

Happy baking,



PiPs's picture

Hey Byron,

Love the ethos behind your bakery ... is that a turtle rock masonry oven (or similar design) that you are using?

I am lucky in some respects as we are not positioning ourselves as a 'bakery' ... we will be much more than that ... the bread is just one aspect of the whole. This means I have some leeway over the breads and can focus the oven planning on hearth breads and the like. Pastries (if they are even done at all) will be baked in a combi oven in our kitchen. 

Ideally we would like the wood oven available for the chefs but that will be tricky and a suitable firing schedule needs to be sorted out.

Thanks so much for the information ... I may contact you again via pm if that's ok?


byronfry's picture

Hey Phil,

You are more than welcome to pm me and maybe best to converse via email, or phone if we can get our sleep schedules to align. 

Yes the oven is adapted from a turtle rock design. I would encourage you to try baking pastries in the WFO. Combi ovens are infinitely useful, but I've found their heat to be very dry. The moist radiant heat of the brick makes lovely pastries and if the heat is there, then use it!

We've been able to use the oven for braising meats. In the afternoon bakes when the oven is cooler, we put in covered pans of beef brisket or ground meat mixes or whole chickens. Just put them in at the back of the oven and the steam from them will help the bread.

Hope all is well,


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Thank you.  I have been thinking a lot about your drying oven and ventilation.  Always amazed how much one or a few simple room fans can help dry things out.  The air movement over the surface literally pulls the moisture out as it evaporates on the surface.  Not so good for the cement in the beginning but after the crystallization (3 weeks standing) it might help to have a few fans running after the fire is gone, blowing inside and out, around the base and thru half the oven opening, in the window, etc.  The more circulation the better!  

Yummy loaves!  Super photos!  You shocked me with the b&w so soon, thought I was looking at something charred for a moment there.  The basket edge brought reality back to "taste" the rest of the bake, a feast for the eyes!  Lovely!  


PiPs's picture

Hi Mini,

We have had a small fan heaters pointed inside and out at the oven :)

Feeling like the oven is starting to turn a corner with the moisture ... its holding its heat a little better and needing smaller fires to get it back up to temp. Been playing around with steam the past few bakes ... got some glossy crusts!


ananda's picture

Hi Phil,

Thanks for posting to allow us to catch up on your progress; loads of good stuff here about the oven, and your beautiful breads too of course.

The problem with steaming systems in the brick oven is that they cool down the oven....and there is no thermostat to click in to provide more heat, of course.

Very best wishes to you