The Wood-Fired Blog

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.

Kitchen Sink Bread

It was one of those moments where you have lots of odds and ends of things lying around — so I made them into bread. It’s quite a list, but it came out nicely. Here goes:

300 grams whole wheat flour
600 grams white whole wheat flour
100 grams AP flour
30 grams honey
30 grams olive oil
30 grams molasses
10 grams yeast
20 grams salt
50 grams flax seeds
50 grams pine nuts
100 grams oat bran
80 grams durum semolina flour
750 grams water

It’s nutty and crunchy, and the AP flour and the honey/oil/molasses give it a nice lift. It’s a whole grain bread, but it isn’t heavy. Overnight fermentation and mid-day baking in a small yet-to-be-named pizza oven. It’s fun working out the idiosyncrasies of a new oven.

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.

Balancing Oven Dome and Floor Temperature

Every pizza oven is a little bit unique in how it absorbs and stores heat and how it cooks. That means that you always have to do a little bit of experimenting with a new oven (or a friends oven, or an oven at your vacation rental house) to work out how to be fire your oven and make it just right for the type of cooking that you are going to be doing — baking, roasting, grilling, pizza, etc.

I’ve been working with my prototype Presto oven (though we are going to be changing the name when we introduce the product) and I am really getting to know it. One of the issues I am working on with my new oven is balancing dome and floor heat. Unlike a larger oven, where the challenge can, at times, be keeping the cooking floor hot, in a smaller oven, because the fire itself spreads over a larger part of the cooking floor, I am finding that the floor is hotter than the dome.

To address this situation, I have started raking the coals toward the outside of the floor after the fire burns down. I keep the heat in the oven, without overheating the center of the cooking floor — where it can burn the bottom of my bread.

If you have trouble with your dishes cooking faster on the bottom than the top, you can try this technique.

Pizza Oven Size and Throughput

How many pizzas can you put in a wood-fired oven at a time? How many pizzas can you make per hour?

This is useful information whether you operate a restaurant or throw parties for friends and family. In general, throughput is based on concurrent places in the oven and the number of pizzas you can bake in each place per hour. I think it is fair to say that there is a theoretical throughput, as well as a practical throughput rate. For a mainstream 56″ commercial oven, you get the following:

The oven can hold ten 11″ pizzas at a time, with each position capable of baking up to 30 pizzas per hour, assuming a two minute bake time — yielding a theoretical throughput of 300 pizzas per hour. With a four hour dinner service running from 5PM to 9PM, that is a theoretical 1,200 pizza. Of course your mileage might vary. Here is the layout for a 56″ commercial pizza oven:

From a practical practical perspective, assuming that each position capable of producing 10 pizzas per hour, or one every six minutes, you can calculate a throughput of 100 pizzas per hour.

It is also worth noting that these are throughput limitations that are imposed by the size and speed of the oven; not limitations determined by the size and speed of your pizza making team.



Fox Pizza Bus

How cool is this.

A Forno Bravo pizza oven in a double decker bus roaming the streets of Los Angles. Here is more from the Zagat Blog.

“It’s the creation of chef Michael Fox who, somehow, installed a Forno Bravo wood-burning pizza oven on the truck, which he uses to cook pizzas that he hand-tosses at parties and events – and hopefully, sometime in the future, at food truck get-togethers. In the meantime, he’s also offering cooking classes, where you and your friends can learn the fine art of pizza making. For info, go to, e-mail or call 818-305-4722.”

Photo courtesy of the Fox Pizza Bus

You can also check out the Fox Pizza Bus page on Facebook. These guys are busy. We will be adding them to our list of Wood-Fired Cooking Schools on

Pizza Oven Bread Baking Temperature

There is a trade-off when baking bread between higher temperature baking, which gives you a lighter, crisper crust, and more moderate (lower) baking temperatures, which give your bread a thicker and denser crust. Of course not all breads are the same, and a sourdough miche typically sports a thicker, chewier crust, why traditional light, yeasted breads, such as baguettes and ciabatta’s, have the thinnest and crunchiest of crusts.

But I think you can take this too far. In my impatience to bake (and often real-world time constraints), combined with a slight (and totally unwarranted) bit of nerves that my oven will cool down too fast to where my bread won’t bake — I have been baking my light breads at temperatures ranging from the high 500F’s into the low 600F’s. Which means that my bread is baking very quickly. Sometimes as quick as 10 minutes. And the balance between the crust and the crumb is OK, with the inside of the loaf reaching 200F-210F while the outside is a warm brown.

Still, I think the crust on my loaves might be too thin and too light. Next step — I am going to make a conscious effort to give my pizza oven time to fall into the low to mid 500Fs before I load my bread. I know that the oven will retain enough heat for a very solid bake, so now all I need is the convictions and patience to actually do it.

Peanut Butter on Whole Wheat Olive Bread

No, really.

Here is a nice while whole wheat boule with kalamata olives that tastes great with peanut butter. The olives seem to give the bread a nice moistness, without overwhelming it. It doesn’t cry out for olive oil and red wine; in fact it’s a really nice bread for lunch. Or in my case, right after running.

The Forumula

800 grams white whole wheat flour
200 grams of general purpose flour
10 grams yeast
20 grams salt
20 grams molasses
20 grams honey
40 grams olive oil
125 grams of olives
730 grams water

This is a wet dough, so much so that after 10 minutes of kneading on KitchenAid 2, it was still basically a batter that was just coming together. So I gave it another three minutes on KitchenAid 4 and it just formed a dough ball. Phew.

Fold, two hour bulk fermentation, fold, secondary fermentation, cut in half, shape boules (and push out the big air holes), and one hour in the banneton.

Score, load and steam.

I am struggling a little with steam. As I noted a while ago, I have been using a new garden sprayer (no Roundup in my bread), and I am starting to wonder if I am over-steam my oven. With these loaves, I used the sprayer for 20-30 seconds when I first loaded the bread, and a second time at roughly the five minute mark.

As you can see in the loaves above, the crust is almost shiny, and there was very little oven spring. That got me thinking about some of my other bread baking attempts since I started using the garden sprayer — and maybe I’m overdoing it. I’ve been sticking the spray wand just inside the oven and only opening the oven door just a crack to keep the seam inside the oven chamber, so far all I know I am making a puddle on top of my bread.

More experimenting to come on the steam front. But for now, I feel like I am still making process and still improving, and (just like competitive running) as long as you get getting better, the sky is the limit. Besides, you get to eat every attempt.