The Fresh Loaf

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New book (to me) The Bread Builders

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AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

New book (to me) The Bread Builders

I just got my used copy of this book which I had thought of sending to my son in Paso Robles as he is talking of building a clay oven. I thought maybe the brick oven would interest him, but having started to read it I may keep it. Fascinating book with lots of information, but I found one point that confuses me. The author claims that the internal temperature of a loaf should be at least 195*, though 200* is ideal. Then he goes on to say that bread baked to a higher temperature does not keep as well. Here I have been carefully baking to at least 205*! Who should I believe? I searched and found that several members have the book and like it - did anyone else notice the comment? A.

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merkri's picture
merkri

I have the book, and used it to build a brick oven (which is awesome, by the way).

Anyway, I love the book, although it's not perfect by any means.

It's much better with issues related to oven building, characteristics, and use, than creating and baking a dough per se, if that makes any sense. There are a number of comments like the one that you mention that seem contradictory, either with regard to other comments in the book, or comments in other books.

In any event, I always bake to about 185-190, if I'm checking, although the temperature rises slightly afterwards as it sits. I've never had any problems. 

My advice is use the book to build and use a brick oven. Use another book to make and bake bread.

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

merkri, thanks for your reply. Must admit I hadn't thought of building a brick oven myself, but hey, why not? Where do you live and do you have any problem finding wood for firing? What types of bread do you bake? I HAD considered a clay oven on my son's property but maybe I could persuade him to help me with the brickwork instead, A.

merkri's picture
merkri

I live in Wisconsin. Where we're at, there's no problem finding wood at all--it's in a very heavily forested region. I could see if you lived in a more urban area how it might be an issue, though--I guess it hadn't even occurred to me.

What sorts of bread? All kinds of them, actually. I prefer whole-grain breads, but my family usually prefers white flour breads, and when you fire the oven, it's hard not to make mass quantities, so it ends up being white flour most of the time. I'm not sure the bread I make has a name--I made up the base recipe I usually use. It's a pretty heavily hydrated dough, which I modify to make different things. We've also made pizzas, which are excellent, and I end up making lots and lots of rolls and things for family gatherings. 

One thing I've discovered in this whole process--something that isn't mentioned as much as I think it should--is that there are tons of parallels between building a brick oven and building a kiln for pottery. They're pretty much the same, except kilns are often built to much higher temperature specs and can be much larger.

The reason why I bring this up is because depending on where you live, you might be able to find a shop that specializes in masonry for kiln-building. It will save you a lot of time, as you can frequently find pre-formed firebrick for building arches, etc. It saved us a ton of work. 

As for brick versus clay, I'm not sure what to say. I actually think if you did it right, a clay oven might be easier to build. It might be less sturdy, but I'm not so sure about that. 

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

I lived in Brookfield for 2 winters! Moved there from Atlanta and the first winter was quite a shock. Our dear neighbors were the first people we had met in America who had lived in the same house for forty years! Now I live on Whidbey Island, WA, not too far from Seattle where there are lots of glass artists and maybe kiln experts. I think clay might be more forgiving for a beginner but it would definitely need a roof here in rain country.I haven't got permission for either yet. I can see that you wouldn't want to fire it up for one loaf. Was it difficult to learn when the temperature was right? Any burnt offerings? Thanks so much for your input, A.

merkri's picture
merkri

[Sigh]


AnnieT, if you're still reading, I apologize for not responding to your last set of questions. I'm not sure what happened.


I know it's almost like a year later, but I totally missed this for some reason. Better late than never...


You probably will need some sort of covering. We use a tarp after it's cooled down, but it doesn't rain in Wisconsin nearly as much as Seattle, so you would probably need some sort of overhang or something. On the other hand, it might be fine, depending on where you put it, how you build the exterior, etc.


The temperature took awhile to get used to, but after awhile we learned the specific characteristics of the oven--the spots it gets hotter in, the spots it gets colder in, etc. You just sort of get used to what the oven does, what heat different types of fires produce over time, etc.


An infrared thermometer is almost necessary, though, and what I use to check the temperature with. People insert internal thermometers into the masonry, which we talked about, but decided against. In retrospect, it would have been nice, but isn't really necessary.


Things do get burned all the time, but not often relative to how much bread is baked (maybe like a roll here or there, or a spot on one loaf every so often). People have a lot of fun just hanging out by it, so there's very few complaints.


I really love that oven. You have to be a bit prepared for a big time investment when you fire it up (unless you just want to light a fire in it, which is fine too).


It does throw off a ton of heat out of the front as you're firing it, so you have to be careful where you put it. Also, be aware that the oven will weigh a bit, so don't be afraid to be extra safe in reinforcing the base. I haven't had any problems, but there are things I could have probably done realtively easily that would ease anxieties about it.

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

Hi Merkri, it was a nice surprise to see your reply, and no problem with the delay - I keep mentioning the oven idea but my son doesn't jump up and down with enthusiasm. On the other hand my son from Paso Robles is visiting and he is quite keen to build one and had some experience helping friends construct theirs. He went to see the first firing of the cob oven at the South Whidbey Tilth Farmer's Market yesterday but as the temperature was over 100* there weren't many people there and he didn't get to see any baking. He did say the top of the oven was painted for protection - it is visible from the highway and doesn't have any sort of shelter. Maybe when the weather cools down I'll check it out. So glad you are having fun with your oven and thanks for the answers, A.