The Wood-Fired Blog

Much Better

Phew. My reputation as the family baker is saved — at least until my next meltdown.

85% hydration — very wet, but some of the water was soaked up by 20% of whole grains (muesli). 80% whole wheat and 20% white whole wheat flour, with 1.5% honey and 1.5 olive oil. I pre-fermented the 80% whole wheat overnight, and added the remaining ingredients the next day. The dough itself was very moist, just holding together in the mixer and sticky to the touch.

The loaf is much lighter, and less dense, and the crust is chewy — not leathery. This is no hockey puck. If fact, it’s really nice.

One possible explanation for the nice chocolate brown color in the crust is that the enzymes in the flour were able to work overnight, before I added yeast the next day — allowing for more complete fermentation and dough development.

Feeing better.

That’s the upside. The downside is that my Cuisinart stand mixer is behaving very strangely. It is speeding up and slowing down on its own, right in the middle of mixing bread. Scary.


Forno Bravo Pizza Ovens in Red

With the introduction of the Strada60 this week, we are also introducing a fun new product strategy. Starting now, all of the Forno Bravo assembled residential pizza ovens are available as standard products, at the standard price, in two colors — we’ve added Red ovens.

Our stucco finished ovens, including the Primavera and Toscana are available in Giallo, a warm Mediterranean yellow with a brown glaze, and Red, a warm terracotta with a brown glaze.

Our powder coated metal enclosure ovens, including the Strada and Andiamo are available in Bronze and a gloss cherry Red.

Not only are we giving you more choice, I think the red ovens look really good!

The Accidental Hockey Puck

Sometimes it just doesn’t go according to plan. These loaves are small, tough and dense. You can see that the dough just isn’t happy when I was shaping my boules. Blah.

Was it that I let the dough rest overnight and it never really had enough time to warm up and become elastic? Was it that I used 100 grams of molasses, instead of a mix of honey, olive oil and molasses? Did my 300 grams of muesli just not work? Was my dough too dry?  Was the oven too cool?

Who knows. But I had better not do this too many more times or my reputation will fall inside the family, and everyone will start avoiding my bread. Not good.


The New Strada60 is Here

Exciting news. The new Strada60 oven is now available for sale!

The Strada60 is our smallest and lightest oven that fills an important niche in the wood pizza oven marketplace. It is small enough to fit in a truck or most SUVs and minivans, and light enough (though it still weighs a hefty 315 lbs) for two strong guys to set up — making it the first real pizza oven to be ready for tailgate season. And it is still big enough to bake real Pizza Napoletana, more bread than you could ever eat, and great grills.

I have used a Strada60 for virtually all of the wood-fired cooking done for this blog.

One quick note on naming. To avoid any confusion with the Presto countertop oven, we opted to name our new oven Strada — a name that I really like. It means road in Italian, and you can take the Strada60 on the road. Also, the root of the word strada is based on the ancient Roman road building technique, where roads were built in layers (strada). Not to take the analogy too far (OK, I am), but the Strada oven is designed and built in layers, with a dense, industrial-grade refractory, a space age insulator, and a powder coated enclosure. That’s how we pack so much capability in such a small package. Layers.

You can find the Strada60 on, and in the Forno Bravo Store.

Here are some fun photos.

TED Talks

TED, according to their tagline is about “Ideas Worth Spreading”. TED, short for Technology, Entertainment and Design is, in their own words:

“a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with two annual conferences — the TED Conference in Long Beach and Palm Springs each spring, and the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh UK each summer — TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Project and TED Conversations, the inspiring TED Fellows and TEDx programs, and the annual TED Prize”.

For me, TED Talks are one of the great parts of being a distance runner (that and eating a lot and sleeping pretty well). You can sign up for TED Talks through iTunes, and listen to at least 3-4 a week. So I am helping spread the word. Try one out and see if you like it.

TED Talks are inspiring, funny, insightful and usually pretty much amazing. People around us are working on remarkable projects.

A couple of my recent favorites are:

Ramesh Raskar: Imaging at a trillion frames per second

Reinventing the battery: Donald Sadoway at TED2012


More on Supermarket Bread

While buying King Arthur whole wheat flour and rye flour at my local supermarket, I saw their “bread” section out of the corner of my eye, and decided to swing by. For $1.49, you can buy an 8 oz “Sourdough Baguette”, and I couldn’t help myself. I bought one, just so I could read the labels and take a few photos.

My first impression is that word “Natural” needs to be regulated. There are no food labeling standards for the word Natural, and if this product can be called Natural, the word really has no meaning. They might as well say Carbon Based.

“No artificial ingredients or preservatives
All Nature
Same great taste
0g of Trans Fat per Serving”

My second impression is that the list of ingredients is just crazy. I am not a chemist, but as a consumer, I find this list scary. Don’t forget that real sourdough bread has three ingredients: wheat flour, salt, and water.

Here goes:

Wheat flour
Wheat protein isolate
Diacetyl tartaric Esters of mono and diglycerides
Calcium sulfate
Malted barley flour
Vegetable oil shortening (partially hydrogenated soybean, cottonseed, soy and or canola oil)
Acetic Acid
Fumaric Acid
Lactic Acid

I believe it was Michael Pollan (Omnivore’s Dilemma and other great books) who said that if something has more than five ingredients, it isn’t really good. It’s just an edible, food-like substance. I don’t think this is food.

And I’m curious. If this has partially hydrogenated oil shortening, how can it have zero trans fats?

My third impression is, clearly, that this isn’t something I would like to eat. Visually, neither the crust nor the crumb are all that appealing. I was thinking of putting it out to feed the birds, but I don’t think it would be good for them. So I just threw it away. I’m not really sure why I let supermarket bread bother me so much. After all, no one is forcing me to eat hit. haha. I guess I should think about that.


Using a Digital Kitchen Scale to Experiment

Here is a slightly different way of thinking about a digital kitchen scale. Years ago, when I first started baking, the single most important thing I did early on was to use a kitchen scale that I set to work in grams. At first it was a consistent way of getting my hydration right for pizza dough, and then it slowly evolved into my bread baking — and it led to the Forno Bravo “Perfect Pizza Dough by Weight” formula, and my constant advice to friends, “weigh the water”. But as a think-outside-the-box kind of person, I have always thought that there was a inconsistency between “weigh the water” and “do your own thing”.

Now, if I was a talented baker, and I could get my dough right every time using experience and feel, I could get the best of both worlds. But I’m not. haha. I know my limits — though I try to push out against them all of the time.

But recently, I’ve been thinking about a new approach. Thinking about whole wheat, whole grain bread, there are some basic rules that you need to stick with — probably most importantly is hydration in the low to mid 80%. My dense loaves with less water reinforced that in my mind. Also, I have been adding about 30% fun stuff (nuts, seeds, whole grains) and about 12% moist stuff (olive oil, honey, molasses).

So within these guides lines, I can totally mess around. One thing I will be trying to do is continually get difference in flavors and textures — to not make the same loaf of bread twice in a row to keep things interesting. There’s nothing worse than boring.

Up for today — 30% muesli. It should be interesting.

Making a Pretty Good Baguette with Pizza Dough

Everybody has leftover pizza dough. Two nights ago, we had company and made flatbreads to go with steak and salads, and we ended up with two 275 gram dough balls. They weren’t anything special; just regular 65% hydration dough using Trader Joe’s general purpose flour (embarrassing, but we ran out of both Caputo and Central Milling 00), and the dough balls sat out most of the evening and developed a thick skin. Just about everything you would expect. I threw the dough into an airtight container and popped it in the refrigerator.

But this morning, I was determined to make a pretty baguette with the dough — just to see if it could be done. So I folded it six times and put it back in the container to warm up. After a few hours, I folded it again.

By early evening, the dough was warming up and expanding, so I cut it in half, started shaping my baguettes. Because it was only 65% hydration, it was easier to work with than a more highly hydrated baguette dough; it felt like there was a lot of wiggle room working with the dough and it wasn’t too sticky. I tried hard to create a nice, tight outer edge on the dough as I shaped the baguettes and worked out the air holes.

Finally, let the loaves proof in a linen cloche, score them and popped them in my pizza oven — you can still see where I spilled olive oil from my flatbreads from last night. Overall, I am pretty happy. The loaves has some nice oven spring, though one of them burst out the side, not through the slashes (I seem to be having that problem recently), and a nice, warm brown color. The baguettes crackled as they cooled, and yes, I decided to not swab the cooking floor gain, though I did a through job of brushing the floor, so there only a little bit of ash on the loaves.

All in all, this was a useful experience. I got to work with 65% dough in an almost no-harm, no-foul environment, and my baguette shaping turned out OK.

One last note on white flour and baguettes in general. Like a lot of people, I am trying to constantly work my way into ever more complex carbs — which explains all of the whole wheat, whole grain bread that I bake. We’re started eating a lot of quinoa, brown rice and I’m even starting to eat Trader Joe’s brown rice paste; it’s not bad.

I have started looking at baguettes (and focaccia) as something to enjoy and appreciate as a treat. Everything in moderation means that you get to eat everything.

I stumbled across the Gawker universe yesterday, and thought I would pass it along. In their own words:

foodgawker is a photo gallery that allows you to visually search and discover new recipes, techniques and ingredients to inspire your culinary adventures. we publish food photography submitted by food bloggers from around the world. our editors review hundreds of submissions daily and choose the highest quality, most appealing images to showcase.

The photo below is from Jumping Rocks Photography from a resort in North Carolina. An outdoor fireplace and an outdoor shower. Cool. Be sure to check out the rest of the photos on their website — their work is great.