The Wood-Fired Blog

Dough and Refrigeration

Longer fermentation times release more flavors from the grains we use and gives the yeast and enzymes in our dough more time to break down the carohydrates that are present. I recently read that a well developed dough can have up to 300 different flavor molecules. My guess is that we all pretty understand this at some level, but in general we might be too busy or rushed to actually do something about it. I know that all too often I simply decide to make bread and compress the entire mixing, kneading, stretching, folding, fermenting, shaping, proofing and scoring process down into a matter of hours.

But good bread needs more time. They keep telling us, and I am trying to listen. So recently, I have been starting to take the time to plan ahead and refrigerate my dough. Once I can internalize the processes and make them natural — and make sure that I do more planning ahead — I think this will be a big step forward in improving my bread.

Thinking for a minute, there seem to be a number of different places in the break making process where you can retard fermentation and slow things down. Off the top of my head, you can use ice water to mix your dough, you can mix your dough and drop it straight into the refrigerator, you can bulk ferment  your dough (and stretch and fold it), and then put it in the refrigerator, and you can shape your loaves and put them in the refrigerator. I’m sure there are other methods that I haven’t thought of.

The other day, I was behind in firing my oven and knew that waiting for my pizza oven to cool down into bread baking temperatures could take a long time and that my loaves would over-proof. So I put them in the refrigerator and only pulled them out right before I loaded them into the oven. It might not have been pre-planned or even the right way to plan things, but it worked out really well. I think it’s a new tool in my bread baking kit.

One thing I need to think about is how to best protect my dough from the air and things going on in the refrigerator. The loaves above were stored for 4 hours after they were shaped, and I covered them with a towel. You can see that they developed a pretty thick skill top. Though in this case, the “top” was the bottom, as I flipped the loaves onto a peel, and scored them. I think I need to think about a system with plastic covers. Well, maybe.

Of course there are lots of hobbyists and professionals who always ferment their pizza dough overnight, and sometimes longer. The extra time your dough matures gives it great flavors, and it improves how well your pizza “chars”.

So tonight, I just mixed a 1Kg batch of whole wheat oat and oat bran batch and it’s going to sleep overnight in the refrigerator. Tomorrow I will let it warm up, and stretch and fold my way into what I hope are a couple of nice loaves.

Pretty Good Wood-Fired Baguettes

These might be my best baguettes yet. There isn’t anything special about my dough prep (these at 70% hydration using Trader Joe’s AP flour), though I think I am getting better at baguette shaping. I think the biggest difference is that I am really getting my hands around my small pizza oven.

For these two loaves I only used to two pieces of wood broken down into 2″ pieces. I stacked all the wood in a single top-down fire and didn’t touch it after that. My old boy scout leader would be proud. After the fire burned down, I pushed the coals to the outer edge of the oven floor and closed the door. That was it.

Also, (you know this is coming) I was patient enough to let the oven fall to roughy 515F before I loaded the bread, and as was the case the last time I baked bread, the oven was still roughly 450F when the loaves were done.

I only sprayed the oven for steam twice, for only five seconds each time. This seems to fall in line with my thinking that I have been over-spraying and actually getting my bread wet.

The first loaf went with dinner, and the second loaf made some nice (with some really big holes) toast the next morning.


I’m feeling a little better about my bread baking skills, and I am feel really good about my small 24″ Forno Bravo pizza oven. I’m getting a first-hand feel for just how much you can do in a small wood-fired oven, and it’s exciting. More to come on this front.

Forno Bravo Does Honolulu

Interno’s Pizza opens at Ward Centre in Honolulu (thanks to the Honolulu Pulse) using their second Forno Bravo pizza oven. We want to wish them good luck — break a leg! Or as they say in Italian, nel bocca del lupo” (into the wolf’s mouth).

Owners John Wong and Kyle Okumoto and done a great job developing their business. They started doing portable wood-fired pizza using a smaller Forno Bravo oven, and now they have a second Forno Bravo and their own restaurant space — and they are going to continue doing Food Truck events. They use authentic Italian flour and tomatoes, along with local ingredients from Hawaii. Sounds good to me.

You can see what Inferno’s is up to, including where they will be catering, on the Inferno’s web site.



10 Incredible Mobile Pizza Operations

The good people at Slice put together a fun list of 10 Incredible Mobile Pizza Operations. Which is something interesting to read in its own right. But from my perspective, I thought the list was fun because 4 of the 10 use Forno Bravo ovens! Wahoo! Go Forno Bravo!

Here they are:

Roberta’s (New York)

Fox Pizza Bus (Los Angeles)

Bolla Pizza (Austin)

Pizza Pilgrims (London)

Whole Wheat Oat Bran Bread with Flax Seed

This is one of my better efforts so far. This is a standard whole wheat formula with 10% oat bran and 10% flax seeds.

Here is the formula:

800 grams whole wheat flour
200 grams white whole wheat flour
(that’s right, no refined flour)
100 grams oat bran
100 grams flax seeds
20 grams salt
10 grams yeast
25 grams olive oil
35 grams honey
750 grams water

I feel like I learned a couple of interesting things. As a general rule 10% seems to be a pretty good guideline for nuts and other hard, non water absorbing ingredients. I used 10% pine nuts the other day, and that also seemed to be a good ratio.

The second thing that worked out well was that I let my pizza oven temperature fall all the way to 515F before loading my bread. This required a bit a patience, which is usually not my strong suit, as well as timing for my loaves, and it all seemed to work out. My pizza oven was 515F at the start of the bake, and after a 25 minute bread bake, it was still about 450F. The bread’s crust is a warm brown and it is nice and thick and crunchy. That part is really nice.

Number three. I refrigerated my shaped boules in the banetons before loading them into my oven. Chilling down the loaves slowed down the fermentation process, and kept them loaves from over-proofing while the oven cooled down into a bread baking temperature zone. I’m gonna do that again

And finally, I really like the texture and taste of flax seeds. This is nice bread. Plus, flax seeds are supposed to be good for you. You can see the seeds, and how 10% distributed in this photo.

All in all, I am happy with the effort.

Cuisinart Mixer Update

A quick update on my Cuisinart mixer. First, I made the commitment of recycling the shipping boxes for the mixer, so I guess you could say that I have burned my bridges and I’m going to make this work. My wife asked if I was ready to get rid of the boxes, and my honest answer is that I’m not completely thrilled with either mixer and that both have serious drawbacks, and that I am ready to learn more about the new one.

I’m not certain whether it was the hassle of returning the Cuisinart, or the fact that I like the timer. Either way, it doesn’t matter. The next step up in stand mixers appears to be a $2,000+ small commercial mixer, and I’m just not ready for that.

The second piece of information is that I had something of a success in my “do not touch the mixer’ experiment. I pretty much successfully mixed and kneaded a 1kg batch of whole wheat with oat bran and flax seeds by adding the water first. As I sat there staring at the bread attachment going round and round, I realized that while the mixing motion does not seem to be as efficient as the KitchenAid (it takes a lot long to incorporate all of the flour into the dough), it did eventually get there. Without any intervention from me.

But. It took 15 minutes. There were still large amounts of flour not mixed into my dough after a full 10 minutes.

So for now, I am going to set my timer to 15. Leave the room, and hope that it works.

Dough and my Cuisinart Mixer

To catch up, I have been working with my new Cuisinart stand mixer to make easy, one-touch dough. So far, I have had trouble with loose flour not getting mixed in the bottom of the bowl, with flour building up on the side of the bowel, and the dough ball not getting completely formed. I also have some questions about the overall “quality” of the dough mixing. With my latest trials, it is better — though still not where I want it to be.

First, I added the water first. For a 1000 gram batch, it’s easy. Just decide on your hydration and weight and add the water — OK, that’s a no-brainer.

Then I added all my dry and moist ingredient. In this case whole wheat flour, rolled oats, honey, olive oil and molasses.

Here is where it got a little tricky. After a 10 minute mix on medium-low speed (5-6), there was a lot of flour build-up on the side of the bowel, and the dough had not fully shaped into a ball that full pulled away from the side of the bowel. I raised the mixer and lifted the dough ball up, and set it back down, along with the dough hook. It eventually formed a dough ball, but it wouldn’t have if I hadn’t intervened.

Flour build up on the sides.

Dough ball finally pulls away from the sides.

My bread turned out fine, of course. But I am still a little concerned about the best way of addressing this problem. Meanwhile, I am going to do some research on the Planetary motion on the KitchenAid. More to come on that.



Oven Size and Throughput

After posting about oven size and throughput and receiving a couple of email messages with questions on how oven size impacts throughput, I had an idea — I decided to lay out a series of simple drawings that show just how many pizzas you can fit into each size oven.

Here is a spreadsheet with the results and a couple of sample layouts.

Oven size 11” pizzas
24” 1
28” 2
32” 2
36” 3
40” 5
44” 6
48” 7
56” 10
56”x64” 12
56”x72” 14

You can see the Layout for Each Oven Size by clicking here.