The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Earth Oven - Early fall baking

breadnerd's picture

Earth Oven - Early fall baking

Still working on the nuances of oven temperature. It’s really a comedy of timing between two ancient processes—bread making and fire building. It seem like if I get it over 600 degrees at the start, it takes a good 45 minutes to reach a more comfortable 550 for bread baking, but then it holds the temps nicely for hours. Handy if you have multiple batches, less handy if you were hoping to cook your dinner at 350 degrees anytime soon. I do crack the door to bring the temp down a bit quicker.


Common occurrences when firing your mud oven:

  • If you think the fire is not hot enough, it will be MUCH hotter than you think.
  • If your oven is ready, and your bread is not, it will only get HOTTER if you wait to pull the coals out, and you will spend even more waiting for it to cool down. Fortunately, this will give your bread plenty of time to catch up!
  • By the time your oven cools to 350 degrees, you will be too tired and/or stuffed with bread and other roasted goodies to bake that last batch of cookies that you had planned.

Improvised proof box: Sunshine + moisture to keep it from getting a skin. Worked fine in a pinch...


Like opening a package, it’s always a thrill to open the door and discover loaves like these:


I guess there’s always this thought in the back of my mind that the loaves will be charred black, or pale little lumps with no oven spring. Even though it’s not that much different in the end than using my indoor oven, there’s something magical about baking in my little mud hut. It also smells better. Also? The low-angled sunlight of fall doesn’t hurt the aesthetics.

I just did a bit of bread this time--a batch of Columbia and some Multigrain loaves. After the bread came out (well actually, while the last multigrains were still in—I was hungry) I made a pot roast and some baked potatoes. Also roasted a butternut squash to make soup out of the next day.


JMonkey's picture

I'm speechless, aside from saying that I've got to take a class from Kiko now that I live just down the road from him.

browndog's picture

That is awesome.

mariana's picture


Beautiful loaves. Wow!

mkelly27's picture

Breadnerd, could you post a link to the photo's and story of the building of your oven.  I read it once but cannot find the link back to it.  It was inspiring and I'll be starting my oven before the snow flies here in Mi. 


Two wrongs don't make a right. Three lefts make a right

bwraith's picture


Those are some beautiful breads. I'm a big fan of the wood fire, and it's inspiration to try it. I have to admit that the timing issues you mention fill me with dread, though. Between the heat management problems and dealing with embers, smoke, and ashes, I'm more than a little hesitant. I must try to build up my courage, find a few more tools for wood and ash management, and go for it. Do you need special wood, and do you cut it to particular sizes?


susanfnp's picture

Breadnerd, thank you so much for posting these photos and info (also your previous ones). Your oven played a big part in my plan to build a mud oven for myself, which I'm hoping to get done this fall. I appreciate all your wonderful info and inspiration. Your oven and the breads it turns out are just beautiful!


precipice's picture

I'd love to see more about the oven itself.  I've been waiting to re-read "The Bread Builders" until I have a place to build an oven.  Probably the #1 thing I want to do for baking right now!

breadnerd's picture

I swear you could take photos of bricks in that light and they'd look good, ha ha.

bwraith, for tools i use an old hoe and a small garden shovel for coals, and a bunch of flannel rags wired to an eye-hook on a pole for my scuffle (or whatever you call it). So it doesn't have to be fancy! I can see the appeal of a hot hearth with no ashes on it! I usually sweep a couple of times right after the coals come out, and then again after it's soaked for a while. Anyways, I think it's the heat that counts, now how the heat is made.

Glad to help with inspiration, I looked a LOT of websites before I got up the nerve to make mine. Also the new edition of Kiko's book has updates on insulating and stuff, I'd recommend it (I built mine before the new edition, and might have done a couple of things differently).

I will try to do a write up on the oven building. One problem is that I originally used imagestation for photos, which is now on the way out--I need to transfer the construction photos to a new site, don't want to take up too much of Floyd's server space. I have been using flickr, which asks you to make the photo link back to them when you post on a website, and I can't figure out how to do it! Anybody using flickr?

zolablue's picture

Oh, my gosh!  Those are outstanding loaves!  Absolutely beautiful. 

edh's picture

Those loaves are things of beauty! I can't imagine life slowing down enough to explore oven building, but boy, you sure make a compelling argument with those pictures!



Paddyscake's picture

WOW!! The loaves look incredible..your pics are awesome...sigh..