The Wood-Fired Blog

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 www.foxpizzabus.com, e-mail info@foxpizzabus.com 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 www.fornobravo.com.

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.

Got Wood?

You might be wondering how much wood a wood-fired oven really burns and how efficient a modern pizza oven is with fuel. So today I made a test, and the outcome was really very good. The following photos show just how little wood my Prest prototype oven needs to reach pizza baking temperature and hold enough heat to bake a load of bread.

To get right to it, and the answer is 2 1/2 pieces of wood — though I am sure you could easily do it with just 2 pieces. In the photo above, you can see the three pieces of standard firewood that I picked. In the photo below, you can see those three pieces of wood split into small pieces that work nicely in a pizza oven.

Then, I stacked the wood with a nice top down fire layout — holding a couple of the larger pieces back to add after the initial fire burned down.

And finally, here is the wood that was left over. The oven quickly reached 800F+ as it burned all of the wood, and it took over 90 minutes for the oven to fall into the 500F’s after I racked out the coals. Plus, it took another couple of hours for the oven to fall from the 500F’s to the 300F’s — which is a great deal of usable heat from just a couple of pieces of wood.

One quick final note. Why is my oven so efficient? Like all of the Forno Bravo ovens, the Presto is very well-insulated. It uses 100% ceramic insulation to provide extremely efficient baking. The heat stays in the oven — it doesn’t leak out through the enclosure walls or stand. My oven also uses high-quailty materials in the dome and floor (I have blogged about this before). So if you have ever baked in an old-fashioned pizza oven or brick oven, I think you will be really surprised by how little wood the Forno Bravo ovens use and how well they retain heat.

My New (and very nice) Bread Peel

I have been struggling to find a good way to load multiple baguettes into my pizza oven off and on for years. With my recent round of bread baking, my struggles have come to a head. I’ve tried the back of baking pans, short wood pizza peels designed for (that’s right) pizza, standard metal pizza placing peels, my new baguette flipping board and a homemade attempt to making a true baguette bread peel (or bread boat). I tried loading my baguettes by sliding them down the front of the peel and across the side of the peel. Nothing worked.

My baguettes were often twisted or serpentine, like snakes — even after I tried to straighten them in the oven while they were still soft.

Then, I decided to get serious and I contacted the good people at Lillsun, the leading US manufacturer of wood bread and pizza boards and peels. Forno Bravo has sold a number of their products through the Forno Bravo Store for years. And they send me a 14″ wide x 30″ long bread peel with a 6″ handle and a bevelled front edge. To get right to it, it’s perfect. I ordered the 14″ wide peel hoping that it would fit nicely through the opening of my small Presto wood-fired oven and reach to back without having to put my hand inside the oven, and most importantly that I could slide my baguettes into the oven without messing up.

And I can happily say that it worked just as I planned the first time. This is great.

Todays’ bread (as always) had its flaws. The oven was too hot and it wasn’t cooling down as quickly as I had planned, so I had to wait longer that I had intended before loading my bread — so my loaves were over proofed and starting to lose their elasticity. But on the up side, my scoring technique is improving. I seemed to hit the mark overlapping my slashes by about 1/3, and I am getting my scoring deeper into my loaves. So you win a few and you lose a few. Such is wood-fired bread.

These loaves are 72% hydration and use Central Milling Tipo 00 pizza flour. The flour and dough were really nice. That said, I started the dough in the morning and baked it around 5PM, so I didn’t have time for any complicated techniques. 10 minutes knead on low (KitchenAid 2), six folds, bulk fermentation, six molds, second fermentation, cut in half, shape baguette balls, rest for an hour, shape baguettes, rest for over an hour (ooops), score and bake. I successfully used by baguette flipping board, moving my loaves from the linen to the baguette peel.

I used a garden sprayer to steam the oven twice in the first five minutes. More to come on steam later.

Overall, I am OK with my bread, and really happy with my new baguette peel. Onward and upward.

Bread in a Small Pizza Oven

I had a lot of fun working with a prototype of the not-yet-released Presto oven (it is coming soon, though) this weekend, and one of the capabilities I wanted to test was bread baking. Baguettes to be more specific. Spoiler alter—it came out great.

Here’s a little background information. I wanted to shoot for traditional, light, airy, crusty French baguette, so I choose general purpose flour from Trader Joe’s. For those of you who don’t have a local Trade Joe’s, or haven’t bought your flour there, Trader Joe’s used to sell King Arthur flour, including general purpose and white whole wheat. As TJ’s changed its strategy to selling home brands almost exclusively, the King Arthur flour disappeared and it was replaced by TJ’s brand general purpose and white whole wheat. Considering that the white whole wheat flour was a product that King Arthur developed and promoted, I have always assumed that TJ’s flour is still made by King Arthur.

I asked them by email a while ago, and while they answered my email, they didn’t answer my question (haha), so I guess we’ll never know.

You might also be wondering why I didn’t use bread flour. I have always thought of the baguette as a bread for the masses. It isn’t a work of art, it isn’t noble, and it doesn’t last. It’s the original fast food. It goes stale quickly, which is why French bakeries bake it in the morning and the afternoon, and I think it is stale baguettes which underlie the French obsession with buying bread. Morning, noon and night. A high quality general purpose flour is just right for the task at hand.

My plan was to make a simple dough. No pre-fermentation, no ice water, no sourdough. I weighed and mixed 1kg (2.2 lbs) of flour, with 10 grams of yeast, 20 grams of salt and 700 gram of water (70% hydration). I mixed the dough for 10 minutes on the level 2 setting on my KitchenAid stand mixer. The whole thing took only a minute or two to get started.

After a bulk fermentation of a couple of hours, and punched down the dough and then stretched, folded and shaped the dough ball. After a second rise, and cut the dough into four strips, and then shaped the baguettes—folding the loaves, stretching the outer edge of the dough, and sealing the fold at the bottom of the loaf.

But I’ve done that part before. The fun part that I wanted to see was how a small, 24” pizza oven would handle four 1 lb, 20” long baguettes. Sorry, another spoiler alter—it came out really well!

I have been curing (or am I doing a “dry out”?) my new oven for about a week, following the Forno Bravo curing instructions, and I am still baking water out of the oven dome. But today was the last day of curing, so going forward, my oven is ready for fast heat up to pizza temperature and for longer baking and roasting sessions. More to come on that later.

After bring the oven up to 1000ºF+, I shoveled out the coals and let the temperature moderate and then begin falling. One interesting aspect of a brick oven is that the moist baking environment allows you to bake bread at higher temperatures than you can in a conventional oven. In this case, I started baking my baguettes while the oven was still between 550-600ºF and the baguettes baked really well. If you tried doing that in your conventional oven, you would simply burn the outside of the bread, while the inside was still doughy.

I sprayed water inside the oven three times, and was rewarded with a really nice oven spring. The one thing I really need to work on is my slash technique—I have always had trouble getting a nice grigne (nice lip of crust) on baguettes. They are so light and delicate, that my slash never really takes hold. It’s a lot easier on a whole wheat miche.

The bread was really nice, and I did learn one thing about baking long loaves of bread in a small oven. Because the oven opening is so close to where the bread is baking, the back of the oven is hotter than the front. This became very clear in baking the long baguettes, which we done in the back, but still very pale in the front. Next time, I am going to turn them once.

We ate the bread for dinner the first evening, toast the next morning and sandwiches for lunch. In other words, pretty much the way your would eat a baguette while on vacation in France.

All-in-all, it was a very good experience. The bread was wonderful, far better than anything we could have bought from our local stores, and the oven experience was a blast. The oven performed like a champion (you could compare it to a Jack Russell terrier, who is convinced he’s as big as a Great Dane), and I learned more about my wood-fired bread baking hobby.

Time for more bread baking. Something with white whole wheat flour.