Every year, in the beginning of summer, my three brothers and I gather for a weekend at our parents' summer cottage to eat, relax, and create something together. As we all love to create things and try out new ideas, we usually end up creating something out of the ordinary.
This year, I suggested creating an oven using materials found in the nature and bake some bread in the oven. Although I have been reading The Bread Builders by Alan Scott and Dan Wing, I can't say I know much about ovens. Just that we need to collect heat in it and then try to keep that heat as well as the steam from the breads inside. That didn't stop us.
We dug a hole in the ground (had to stop when it started filling with water—we were too close to the lake). Then, we used small rocks to build a small oven inside. Then we heated the oven.
As we were ready to put the bread in, we realized we hadn't planned for an oven door. There was an old wheelbarrow standing next to our oven, so we put it on top of the oven door to keep the heat inside. Not the best of choices, but it does look fun in the photo!
The first version lead to a loaf of bread that baked a bit unevenly, but rose nonetheless and tasted very good.
I wasn't very happy with the big holes in the crumb, but I suspect this didn't have anything to do with the oven but rather the fact that I was a bit sloppy with the dough as most of my attention was in creating the oven. My
Last weekend, we went back to the summer cottage, this time taking all of our families with us.
My son, Oiva, was excited about the oven and wanted to bake some bread in the oven, so we heated it up again. But before that, we did some improvements based on the previous weekend's results: we added another big rock on top of the oven to distribute more heat on every side of the bread being baked and changed the structure to be more oven-like with a door and all. After three loads of wood, we baked the first loaf.
This time, the results were very good, and the loaf of bread disappeared from the kitchen table in less than five minutes! The oven was really hot at the beginning, as you can see from the bottom of the loaf.
Right after taking the loaf out of the oven, I put in another. The heat left in the oven wasn't very strong, but after baking the second loaf for about two hours, out came a loaf that was well worth the effort. It didn't have much crust and it didn't rise quite as much as the first loaf, but tasted good, and everyone liked it too.
What more can a baker ask for? ...except, maybe, a real masonry oven...