Hello & how can I use an Elizabethan oven?
Hello from England
I've just found 'The Fresh Loaf'. Most of you seem to be from way over on the left hand side of the map from me (at least the way we print them here), but I love the site and it's good to know that you are all out there baking
I used to bake an occasional loaf twenty-er-something years ago as a student needing cheap, good bread. I've just started again because I rarely can buy anything around here good enough to go with all the different flavours of honey my bees produce for me. I don't know why I ever stopped. I've turned out some good, basic stuff, mainly from memory and a little experimenting. I have a problem with uneven rising, but I'll have a look through the other strands before I ask, as I'm sure I'm not the first.
Here's what might interest some of you though. My electric oven is not nearly hot enough for baking bread really, but ... I live in a late 16th century Elizabethan farmhouse (not my own, I'm sorry to say) with an original bread oven. The style is fairly typical - the house is a timber frame and brick in-fill structure built around a central chimney with a large inglenook fireplace in each of the two downstairs rooms. The oven is at the side of one fireplace with an arched entrance through which the smoke exits into the same chimney as the main fire. This entrance has no door, but there is a lip at the bottom and sides, and I suppose a stone or board was placed over the hole during baking. There is a second, smaller, square entrance with an iron door in it at the back of the oven in the other fireplace. I assume this was used to help in stoking the back of the fire. The oven is a little irregular in shape, but about three feet across and about 15 1/2 inches high in the centre, with hardly any 'doming' of the roof.
The fire is lit often, but I doubt if the oven has been used since at least the 1920s when a small kitchen was built at the back of the house. I'm trying to persuade my landlady that it's a good idea to fire it up and have a go at real baking. Have any of you tried this with a 430 year old oven? Will the bricks be up to it after all this time? I'd rather the house didn't fall around my ears - it would make an expensive batch of bread! Any tips or links to online information gratefully received.
I've gone on a bit, so I'll stop here and see if I can attach some photos for you.