The firing starts by lighting a small fire at the front of the door with newspaper and dry leaves/bark as kindling. I have found dry is very important! I've heard of some people using firelighters, but I chose not to, aside from my dislike of them, they may leave chemical residues in the oven where your delicious food is headed for...
Small sticks are added to get the fire going, still close to the front of the oven, to allow the fire to breathe.
Larger sticks and small logs are now added, and the fire can be gradually pushed a little further inward.
Once the fire has some 'kick' in it, big logs, even slightly damp logs can be added. Dry is best though. The husband managed to whip up a useful little door with a bottom vent in it, and we usually place this on for the whole firing time. Unfortunately I don't have a pic, but it's main purpose is to draw the air in for the fire, while at the same time keeping much of the heat in the oven and directing the smoke up and out of the flu - instead of puffing all back in the fire-stokers face. That picture will have to wait until next time..
I love this stage! The carbon (or soot), has been burnt off the inside of the dome bricks (because the oven is SO eyebrow-burningly hot!!). This can take anywhere between 2 1/2 -4 hours in our oven, depending on the weather, when it was last used, what type of wood we are burning and how dry it is and how often logs are added. If making pizzas, they would be cooked now by creating a 'horseshoe' of coals around the edges and placing the pizzas in the center, See here.
If baking bread, any coals are now raked over the hearth to distribute the heat. Leaving them like this for around 15 minutes (usually!) works for us.
The coals are removed with the peel and placed into a (metal - very important!!) bin. The floor is swept clean of ashes and the heavy door wedged in position.
A spare brick holds the door in place nicely. The oven can be left like this for 15-30 minutes until the bread is ready to be put in.
I'm finding it still a tricky business knowing when the oven is just right for the bread, not too hot and not too cool and actually timing the rising of the loaves as well. And burning my little thermometer in the fire today didn't help, so it was back to the flour test and waiting to see how long it takes to brown. Now, how long again is it meant to be exactly?
The result? Maybe it was a leeeetle bit too hot today with a bit of knife-scraping action going on, on the ahh, slightly crispy crusts, but still a good load of 10 (completely edible!) loaves for the freezer.
I guess that's why I love using the oven...it's always a surprise! And there is always the challenge to improve on what happened the previous time...
(split into two, 2kg flour quantities for easier kneading):
2400g white flour (60%)
1400g wholemeal flour (35%)
200g rye flour (5%)
16 tsp (55g) instant yeast
8 tsp salt
8 tsp bread improver
generous drizzle of honey
2800mls liquid (2 litres milk, 800mls water)
|Oooh, yes... Recognise the bread bag?|