Baking Bread in Your Wood-Fired Oven
I will be turning over a new leaf, I mean… a new loaf, this year. I bought the popular bookArtisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Hertzberg and Francois because I wanted to try their method in two of my pizza ovens.
Simplifying the process of baking and cooking while keeping the taste and quality of the food has always appealed to me, so I was eager to experiment with this no-fuss bread baking. Yes, no sponge or starter, no proofing the yeast, no kneading, and a high moisture dough that can be kept in the fridge for up to two weeks. In other words, minimal output of time and effort. I used their basic recipe for artisan bread which they explain on a video (see link below) and involves:
- 5-quart food grade container with a lid (don’t use glass with airtight lid since it could explode)
- 3 cups of lukewarm water
- 1 1/2 tablespoon granulated yeast
- 1 1/2 tablespoon kosher or coarse salt
- 6 1/2 cups unsifted, all-purpose white flour (I used the 365 Whole Foods organic label), measured with the scoop and sweep method
- A bit of corn meal for the wood peel
You pour the water into the container, add the yeast and the salt, and then the flour. Mix with a wooden spoon until moisture is absorbed evenly by the flour. Let rise for 2 hours. Place in fridge overnight. When ready to bake, take dough out and dust with flour. Flour your hands so that the dough won’t stick. Divide dough into four 1 lbs balls. Shape each ball in your hands, by tucking edges under, no kneading involved. Dust corn meal on the wood peel and place bread loaf on peel and let rest for 40 minutes before placing in hot oven. Dust the loaves with flour and slash a few 1/4 inch deep cross or scallop pattern using a serrated knife. Slide directly onto the hot oven floor.
Now for the pizza oven temperature! I experimented both in over-baking and under-baking the loaves and they came out very tasty even though the higher temperatures burned the crust to a dark brown and the lower temperatures left the crust pale. Still, it was a good bread. So… beginners take heart! This is pretty fool-proof.
Fire up your wood burning oven (click here if you don’t know how). When the fire has burnt for about one hour (less for the smaller ovens, longer for the larger models), rake out the embers from the oven and store in a fire proof container. (Do not discard ashes until they are absolutely cold.) Check the temperature and close the door, sealing the oven. If you wish, you can at this time place a small metal container with water inside the oven, I like to use my small cast iron pan.
Bake your bread between 500 F and 450 F with closed door for 30 minutes. You may check midway after 15 minutes and turn the loaves if needed, but it is best not to be opening the door more than once. Use your round metal peel to slide your fresh baked bread out of the oven, let the loaves cool on a rack before you slice. I highly recommend this method, it is particularly helpful if you are a beginner bread baker or if you want to offer your guests and family a very delicious home made bread that will amaze everyone. When you make it in your pizza oven, the crust will be denser and chewier than if you make it in your regular oven, and the overall taste much better. The book: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes The video. Enjoy and please let me know how bread baking experience turned out!
Buon appetito from us at Los Angeles Ovenworks