Saturday, 1 February 2014

Building a wood fired bread and pizza oven - first bread bake

Today we baked bread for the first time in our almost finished wood fired oven and as I have never baked more than about 2.5 KG of dough at one time before I thought it was about time I had a go at doing a larger batch.  The dough I was using today is my standard bake that I have been doing most weeks for the last couple of years.  It is almost the same every time but I do tend to vary the hydration.  This time I went to the wet end of the scale, which for this flour, which is not bread flour (as it is not readily available here) is about the following proportions;


  • 2 Kg plain type 650 flour
  • 2 litres of water

Final dough

  • 8 Kg plain flour type 650
  • 1.5% salt
  • 6 litres of water
The starter expanded from about 100 g to 500 g on Wednesday night and then again to 2 KG on Thursday morning. The final dough was mixed together Friday evening, rested for 30 mins and then kneaded by hand for about 20 mins. Fermentation was done for 5 hours at 15 °C and then retarded overnight at 6 °C.  The dough was degassed and stretched a few times during the initial fermentation.

I lit the fire before breakfast and did about 1 and a half burns over the space of about 3 hours, the slow burning embers were then spread out and took about another hour to lose most of their colour.  About the time of raking out the fire I divided the dough, a little shaping and then placed in plastic boles that had been greased with olive oil.  After 2 hours the embers were raked out of the oven and the hearth mopped with a wet rag wrapped around the rake.  This is a part I really need to refine as I currently do not really have a good way of cleaning the hearth after firing.

Towards the end of firing. 
 After about 2.5 hours of proving the hearth temperature was around 300 °C and the vault about 360°C so I decided to do a test bake with a single loaf.  This turned out rather well and after 30 minutes the internal temperature of the dough was around 98 °C, a little over baked.

Removing the test bake

Testing the internal temperature of the loaf

With only a little insulation on the oven and only a partial firing today, the oven was cooling quite rapidly, so the test bake was probably done at the best time for baking and the remaining loaves could have done with a little higher vault temperature.

The remaining dough was then put into the oven and due to a very wet dough that wanted to spread out and some very inexperienced oven work by myself, only 7 of the 8 loaves fitted.  These cooked well enough in about 40 minutes, but had a little less oven spring than the first and less colouration of the crust.

The main bake
The final loaf went in on its own and cooking in about the same 40 mins that the main batch took.  So in all there was enough heat in the oven to do 3 batches of bread.

Last few coming out
The test loaf was cooled on about 1.5 hours and then went to the family for testing.  As you can see from the photograph below it turned out exactly how I have been trying to get my bread to be but had never really achieved in a normal domestic oven.  The crumb was super light and soft and the crust nutty and aromatic the sort of bread that you can still taste in your mouth for a couple of hours.  Unfortunately I was only able to save one slice long enough to take a picture. Looking forward to finishing the oven and doing the next bake.

The last surviving  slice of the test bake.