The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Mud oven midwinter

breadnerd's picture

Mud oven midwinter

Fired up the oven today for the first time this year, and the first time since late october. I had imagined baking on a wintery January day, but as it happened, we had record highs of nearly 50 degrees (in wisconsin) so it wasn't that much colder than the last time. Today's breads: Ciabatta and the Columbia French bread


I started the columbia dough (which has a 3-5 hour first proof) at 9:30, and lit the fire at 10:15. Ciabatta dough followed after that. I let the fire start to burn down around 3:30, and shoveled out the coals by about 4:00. This is a little longer than I usually go, but I wasn't sure if the cooler weather would effect things or not. Turns out I had PLENTY of heat, so I did overdo it a little. Fortunately with a cool kitchen and 2 slow-rising doughs, I wasn't in a rush. After cleaning out the coals and "soaking" the oven with the door shut for a half hour or so, the oven was a lovely 550 degrees. I put the ciabattas in, and they were done in 10 minutes. Turns out I should have left them in a little longer, they look great but softened up a bit after cooling--so the crust is not as crunchy as I normally like:

In the oven:


And out:



After this the oven was still a bit too hot for the french bread--the recipe calls for a rather cool 375 degrees. I cracked the door for 20-30 minutes and loaded the bread when it had dropped to 425-450 degrees. I figured I'd just keep an eye on them and bake them a little less than the recipe called for. I had a TON of oven spring on this batch, and was very pleased. They were done in about 25 minutes---three loaves around 1 pound each.



Now, stay with me here--we got a little carried away. The thing with the mud oven is, you spend 5 hours getting it hot, you feel like you need to USE THAT HEAT. So, we stuck in a chicken to roast, and some sweet potatoes! The oven temp was about 400-410 degrees to start, and about 350-375 after an hour. The chicken was done in about an hour and 15 minutes! :)



Of course by now it was eight o-clock. We ate dinner, and I had one last thing to throw in---granola. I made two batches, 2 cookie sheets each, and they took about a half hour per batch. By 10:30 I was done---12 hours after starting the fire. Phew! A really long but really fun day. 






mountaindog's picture

Fascinating to see the inside of your mud oven with all that space for many loaves!


Looks like you got some nice big holes with your columbias this time too...I have some baking right now, but alas, my slashing still needs much practice, even after oiling the blade.


I really like how you make the most of your oven heat by cooking all that food, the chicken looks fantastic! We tend to do a lot of cooking on the weekends and we eat great leftovers all week since we don't have time during the week, so as long as you plan ahead like you did, the cooking all day thing is a great use of the relatively little energy in terms of firewood you used up.


I'd love to get your granola recipe sometime too, and that curry recipe you linked to on the Australian site looks really awesome! My mouth was watering at those pics, I love curry.

breadnerd's picture

It definitely makes you realize why villages used communal ovens and/or baked for the week. It's not a lot of work to keep the fire going, but it does take up a chunk of time, and the heat lasts so long you want to make those five hours of "labor" worth it. Yesterday I was also remembering reading about the french bakeries where they have "apprentices" (aka 12 year old boys) firing the ovens in the basement with piles of wood. I need an apprentice! :)


I did almost bake two chickens for LOTS of leftovers but figured I'd better make sure it worked first! 


Oh, and, the granola recipe is just from the Joy of Cooking. Very basic!

weavershouse's picture

weavershouseThose pictures are wonderful. I would love to have a bakeoven like that. I have bakeoven making books and I have stones and bricks and a great husband but not one that wants to build a bakeoven. Does anyone know of an Ohio oven builder?
Again, your breads and chicken look so beautiful. Thanks for sharing. weavershouse