FIRST LOAVE – the clay oven installed and baking bread.

Yesterday we got the oven installed and working for the first time. We built the structure using the collection of kiln bricks and architectural reclaim that we have in the garden. It is all loose laid so that we can change and adapt. The firebricks are the reclaimed remains of our saltglaze kiln at Bickley and will no doubt find their way back into a kiln in future. Some of them have lovely glazed sides from use in the old kiln.

The brick base was adapted from a barbeque already there (hence the ivy) – the firebricks have to be stored somewhere. The slabs are 12″ x 14″ fireclay coping tiles from a neighbour’s skip. 4 of them make a good top.

Plinth set up at waist height
Oven in place – it’s quite small – 50cm deep
In order to get good insulation around the oven we bricked up as closely as possible and then infilled with potsherds, stones and grit. Another fireclay coping-tile forms a flat top.
The fire lit reasonably easily – it is an enclosed space after all. Once a draft was established it burned well. The fuel is dry hardwood tree-prunings and sticks from the garden. Heather’s dough is rising nicely on the table.

 

The temperature went up more quickly that we expected. It was hot enough to burn off all the soot within 45 minutes to an hour. The theory as I understand it is that there are two ways of cooking. The first is to push back the fire and keep the fierce heat, the other is to rake out and use the residual heat to bake, using a door to hold the heat in and keep it even. We did a quick trial with dough and pushed back coals – the smell was good but the bread burned in no time!
For the second attempt we raked out the coals and brushed the floor clean. In went the bread with the door shut behind it to hold in the heat. It works!
Tomorrow we plan to try using the hotter ‘setting’ to cook pizza and see how we get on.
First Loave
(pun in honour of The Magnificent Leaven)
 
SUNDAY’S PIZZA LUNCH
 
All went well – still learning. We fired up for about 50 minutes keeping going until all the soot was burnt off. Then went straight into cooking with the coals raked to the right hand side. Yesterday it was probably at least 2 hours before we got to cook and it was much hotter. We made cardboard paddles to get the pizzas in and out!
Mozzarella, mushroom and pancetta (very good).

We managed four pizzas but it was getting slower and slower. Obvious really but the rapid cooling was because although we had burnt off the soot, the heat was only surface deep and was soon lost. A longer firing would really build up heat in the oven wall and the insulation behind. We had a great meal though and enjoyed the whole thing. Definitely up for more!
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