The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Challenges Baking In A Wood-Fired Oven

donaldG's picture

Challenges Baking In A Wood-Fired Oven

I started out baking sourdough breads in my home oven with a combo cast iron cooker. I'm fairly proficient now and can get great results with crusty "ears" and all my scores opening, etc. etc. Last year around this time I took a job as a pizza maker in a restaurant with wood-fired Forno Bravo with a gas option. I got pretty decent over the 8 months we were open at baking pizza. Since I had the access to the oven I tested out baking sourdough loaves occasionally. Now that the place has closed I still have access and at least once a week (had to take up other work to supplement income) I try my hand at baking a boule or two or 4. I've tried going straight wood & straight gas to get the oven up to a high temp with a white ceiling. Swab the deck with a damp towel, close the door to let the heat even out, spray water with a lawn sprayer for steaming before loading the oven, then after loading the oven do another spray...yet all my loaves turn out the same with maybe one corner of a score opening up. Generally the scores do not open at all. I'm doing everything basically the same as I would at home in terms of time & temp but maybe in this more controlled environment I'm not proofing or bulking long enough? Maybe the oven should be hotter? I load it around 460ºF. It's really been a challenge to learn and any tips would be appreciated!

Using a basic formula:

1kg central milling artisan craft bread flour (it's malted)
800g water
200g starter
20g salt

• 3-5 hour bulk at about 70-75º (maybe this should be even warmer, my prep room has an a/c that keeps it at 68º so i take it to the kitchen to bulk and it's warmer there but not sure exact temp)

• 8-12 hour fridge proof in bannetons (i usually bake straight from cold but i've tried letting them come up to room temp a bit, these pictures are from that group which performed better honestly.)

Example of my best loaves thus far: