Saturday, March 3, 2018

Why Would Anyone Need Oven Temperature Control?

I finally gathered enough courage to fire up the oven to make a pizza*...I thought if they didn’t turn out, well–who would know except those nobody was invited over. I had made some pizza dough the day before and put it in the refrigerator overnight. I pulled the dough out the next day and formed it into small balls. As the dough warmed up, I threw some flour on a wooden peel and tried to form a round pizza skin...boy, was that a lesson in failure (and humility). I finally decided that a small, free-form pizza was the perfect way to go. I put on a minimum of toppings, actually just virgin olive oil, a bit of garlic, and some mozzarella. My first pizza was woefully lacking in almost every way except the fact that it was pizza from an oven I had built. Amazing how that one fact at the time made that pizza the best I’d ever had. So here’s the mandatory picture of my first pizza baked on the 19th of November, 2009, in my handcrafted brick oven at +670F (+350C).

Did you notice the price tag is still on the peel? And now we all know why it's important to stretch your pizza dough to an even thickness...

The next time I fired up the oven I decided that my stored heat needed to be used to bake a loaf of bread (again, since that was the reason I built this huge, hollow, chunk of masonry). I went through my normal routine of making a sourdough loaf and stressed about getting the oven at the correct temperature. Ultimately, my over-concern with getting the oven too hot, led to the oven being a bit too cool ~325F (~163C) for producing the golden brown crusty loaf I had envisioned. Truly, it was one of the palest loaves I’d ever seen, but was from a brick oven I had built and therefore absolutely terrific! (Thank goodness for toasters!) As with the first pizza, here’s a picture with my first loaf of bread (21 November 2009) from the oven.

In further retrospect, maybe wearing a lighter color shirt would have made the loaf look more like an artisan loaf of bread instead of ... that. But at least you now know I'm not trying to hide anything about this first experience with a WFO and the art of bread baking (or in this case, the lack of art)!

And as before, it was wonderful being able to pull the ash and still glowing coals into an ash bin (through the ash slot) just before putting formed dough loaves in the oven. Not having to deal with a hot & messy bucket of ashes at this point in the bake was a significant plus.

So there it was, a couple pizzas and two loaves of bread for a bargain price of $2,677 –who wouldn’t see that as a terrific deal? (Good thing there were no labor costs calculated in that price...hate to see someone shocked and put off doing something like this themselves!)

*In all honesty, even though everybody refers to our brick oven as “the pizza oven” – baking bread was (and still is) my primary goal/reason for having a WFO.