The Wood-Fired Blog

Raisin-Free Cinnamon Raisin Bread

What do you do when you are baking cinnamon raisin bread, and you don’t have any raisins? Punt? No. You use a mix of chopped, dried apricots and dried cranberries. And it came out really nicely.

This is my second attempt at Peter Reinhart’s Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin Bread, and it’s a keeper. I made a couple of modifications to my first batch, including adding more cinnamon to the dough, and more importantly, adding more cinnamon and sugar before I rolled the dough up into a loaf for the final proofing. It was a little more gooey and a little sweeter — but hey, this is a 100% whole wheat bread replacing cinnamon rolls, so I think we deserve a little bit of sweet. haha. Also, the pre-ferment was 400 grams of water, 350 grams of whole wheat flour, 10 grams of salt and 2-3 grams of yeast. The recipe calls for milk rather than water, and I will use milk next time for a softer dough, but I was sharing the pre-ferment with a loaf of whole wheat toasting bread. So I compromised.

Next time I am going to use more fruit, and maybe start adding walnuts or pecans.

If you look closely at the bottom of the loaf, you can see the melted sugar and cinnamon oozing out. Nice.

The Napolino is Here.

Exciting news. We have finished the Napolino and it is now available for sale. Wahoo.

The Napolino ovens are available in two sizes (24″ and 28″), with and without the black powder-coated stand — so that you can set it on a custom stand or a BBQ island, or use our stand and set it on your patio. It just looks so cool; we’re really excited.

It comes standard with the red and black pattern (above), and we are offering custom tile colors (and even custom designs) for an extra charge.

Here are some useful links:

More information on
Download the Napolino brochure.
Check prices or place your order in the Forno Bravo Store.


Critiquing my Baguettes

I had some fun trying new things yesterday baking baguettes. Sadly, it was raining, so I didn’t fire my outdoor oven, and had to do this indoors. In general, I have a couple of takeaways.

First, flour matters. I’ve been experimenting with different flours for my white hearth breads, and have been using a lot of Trader Joe’s All Purpose Flour, and try as I might, I just couldn’t get the crust to brown nicely. I tried hotter; I tried longer and it just wouldn’t cooperate. These baguettes were made using Central Milling Organic AP flour, which was really nice to work with, and I got pretty nice color. These took 15-20 minutes at 480F. You can bake your baguettes hotter than that in your pizza oven.

Second, you can’t be cautious and properly score your loaves. The three loaves on the right were scored first and put in the oven as a batch. I tried to carefully follow the scoring guidelines — keeping the slashes inside imaginary tracks on the sides of the loaves, overlapping by 1/3, a 30 degree angle, etc. But I scored the loaves so slowly that I didn’t really make a deep enough cut. The three loaves on the left were scored as a second batch, and I went wild trying to get maximum cuts using a much faster motion — and it worked a lot better.

This is daunting. You need to be fast and aggressive, and accurate and precise — all at the same time.

Third, I think I have been over-hydrating my dough. The really wet dough seems to sag sideways, and doesn’t give me a round loaf. These were only 65% hydration, with no pre-fermentation (yes, I know), but they came out nicely.

The family enjoyed these, which is always a good sign.

Mozzarella di Bufala on the Cover of the NY TImes

Talk about fond memories. We stayed at an Agriturismo in Paestum in Campania years ago, when the kids were still small, and we had a wonderful time. The grounds were beautiful, the food was great, the other families staying at the inn were interesting, the Magnia Grecia ruins were excellent — and the Agriturismo has a herd of water buffaloes for mozzarella di bufala. Makes me wish the kids we younger again, and we could do it all over again.

Today on the cover of the NY Times is the face of a good-looking animal, and the story of  a Silicon Valley consultant-turned-dairy-farmer named Craig Ramini, who is trying make world-class cheese from a small Marin community north of San Francisco. Near where I ran the Headlands 50. It’s a small world.

You can read the NY Times article here.

You can also read the Forno Bravo photo journal on Mozzarella di Bufala production. Lot’s of fun photos.

Getting Even More Organized

My Oxo storage containers arrived from Amazon today, and everything is looking pretty good. Mise-en-place gone wild. Still, everybody must have experienced the pain of dumping a bag of sesame seeds on the ground while rooting around trying to find the whole wheat flour. RIght? So I think it’s worth the effort.

These are flax seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, dark rye flour, sugar and raisins (empty) in the middle row. Flour, olive oil, and flax and oat bran on the bottom, and honey, salt and molasses on the top shelf. It’s feeling nice and calm, and organized.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

This is from Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Bread cookbook, and it came out really well. Peter describes this as a transitional recipe for a bread that lies somewhere between a nice whole wheat bread, and a sticky cinnamon roll. In general, you make a nice soft whole wheat bread using milk and an egg, plus honey, olive oil and cinnamon, and then flatten the dough and cover it with sugar and cinnamon and roll it up. It’s soft, it makes great toast and it’s still pretty healthy.

The Reinhart recipes calls for a long soak of the whole wheat flour, salt, raisins and milk, and a separate Biga pre-ferment with whole wheat flour, milk, oil, egg and yeast — which are combined with the last ingredients to make the final dough. That required one day more of pre-planning than I was ready to make, so I compressed the soaker and the Biga into a single pre-fermentation that I refrigerated over night. I added the ingredients for the final dough the next day and then shaped the loaf.

Next time I am going to add more cinnamon to the dough and a little more sugar and cinnamon before I roll up the loaf — to get a more pronounced swirl.

The loaf in the background is a whole wheat rye loaf with an overnight pre-fermentation. This is really starting to work well, and I’ve go the family on my side at this point. Now I just need to avoid a dense, brick-like meltdown.



Most people who bake bread or read some of the really nice bread cookbooks out there (and there are some really good ones) know how important pre-fermentation is. It extracts more complexity and flavor from you flour and it allows your yeast more time to work on your flour, giving your bread better flavor and better shelf-life.

Or, as the good people at Wikipedia (oh, wait. That’s all of us) put it:

A pre-ferment and a longer fermentation in the bread-making process have several benefits: there is more time for yeast, enzyme and, if sourdough, bacterial actions on the starch and proteins in the dough; this in turn improves the keeping time of the baked bread, and it creates greater complexities of flavor. Though pre-ferments have declined in popularity as direct additions of yeast in bread recipes have streamlined the process on a commercial level, pre-ferments of various forms are widely used in artisanal bread recipes and formulas.

For me, the tricky part of this has been putting what I know into real practice. I think it came to a head when I tried making a straight white bread dough the night before, and then putting it in the refrigerator overnight. I brought the dough out the next morning, hoping to revive it, and make a nice baguette. Sort of left-over pizza dough, but without the pizza. But it was really disappointing. The dough lost its elasticity, to where it seemed to break up into short strands and the baked bread was really pretty darn poor. It seemed as though the dough lost its life and its spring.

All of which forced me to actually think about the pre-fermentation process and how I could make it work with my day-to-day bread baking — which is when something important (maybe) stuck me. I could start my pre-fermentation very easily, without making a mess or really adding any time to the process. The trick was to put some basic proportions in place and stick to it, which would free me up to finish the dough the next day. That way I would get the dual benefits of simplicity and pre-fermenation.

Here’s how I am doing it. At the end of the evening (after cleaning up dinner but before I get too sleepy), I measure all of the water for the dough (80% by Baker’s Percentage in the case of most of my whole grain, whole wheat loaves), and 70% of the flour, which for me is all whole wheat. Plus all of the salt for the finished loaf and just enough yeast to get it going. Perhaps 4-5% — just enough to get it started.

For a simple 500 gram loaf, that is 400 grams of water and 350 grams of whole wheat flour, plus 10 grams of salt and 2-ish grams of yeast. Then, I mix it with the beater attachment in my stand mixer — not the kneading hook. Sometimes I go to bed and leave it out overnight, and sometimes I refrigerate it; I haven’t really worked out if one method is substantially better than the other, and if it is worth the extra steps and having to clean up an extra bowl.

The next day, I add the finishing flour — some combination of 150 grams of white whole wheat, whole wheat and AP flour to reach the 500 grams of flour, plus some nuts, seeds, oat or flax bran, honey, molasses and/or olive oil. No more yeast and no more salt. The extra flour gives the active, lively pre-fermented batter the fuel it needs to make a light and airy loaf using whole grains; and it all builds on the pre-ferment and the extended time the dough, the yeast and grains have to develop.

My bread has consistently been a lot better.

All of which reminds me of a story. A long time ago, we had a client who was a world-class authority on object-oriented software development, and his company often used skiing as an analogy for learning advance development methods, saying “you can’t learn to sky from a book. At some point you have to hurtle your body down a mountain in order for the intellectual aspects of the sport to become real”. For me, the is my hurtling down the mountain moment. I’ve made bread with pre-fermenats before, but I really only did it by following recipes. This time, maybe I really understand it. Maybe.

Napolino. It’s Almost Here.

One of the fun things about writing a blog, and hopefully for you reading blogs, is that we can give you access to our thinking and to some of the interesting things that are going on behind the scenes. As the writer, I get to bend some of the rules for what we share with our community — and when. We get to leak our own products and services before they are ready for the market as a whole, so that we get your feedback and you get to see interesting things before anybody else.

So, keeping with the tradition set by the Strada60 and the Forno Bravo Pizza Map, here is a fun photo of the yet-to-be-released Forno Bravo Napolino.