The Wood-Fired Blog

Innovating the Pizza Oven; Part II

In yesterday’s posting about the Ovens from Napoli, I found myself writing and thinking about the companies that make pizza ovens, and their underlying organizational and design philosophies. And whether they are innovative or traditional; pushing the state-of-the-art or still making their grandfather’s pizza oven.

One of the first things that struck me was how virtually every other pizza oven company is deeply rooted in the past, and how much Forno Bravo stands out as an innovator. Looking at US marketplace, with one exception, you really only see two types of company: importers and very small companies who do not do their own manufacturing. Which is pretty cool. This gives Forno Bravo the ability to create new products and open new markets where no one else can. This is fun. :-)

Today, the majority of Forno Bravo’s competitors in both the US residential and commercial pizza oven markets are importers of ovens made by small, family-owned companies located in Italy (and one in France). Even most of the ones who say their ovens are “made-in-the-USA” still buy the actual oven, dome, floor and vent from an European manufacturer. This most important characteristic of this dynamic is that the importer can only ever be as good and as innovative as the company they buy from. Typically, the Italian manufacturers are small, multi-generational companies where the current management took over operations from their parents, and their products are virtually unchanged over the past 20 years.

From a business perspective, this is a reflection of the Italian economy’s reliance on mom-and-pop businesses as source of it’s weakness in today’s connected global economy. Greece suffers from a similar problem — I wrote about the Greek pizza oven market in the past, where I found three different brick oven manufacturers within one mile of each of other in a small town on Crete.

A traditionalist might argue that it’s a good thing that the pizza oven has been virtually unchanged for the past 20 years (or perhaps 2,000 years, all the way back to Roman times), and that we should not mess with a good thing. While this logic has some nice appeal, it ignores the technical advances of the past 20 years. And while the technology of pizza ovens may not have not evolved as fast as, say, smart phones or computers, it has definitely progressed. Today we have access to cost-effective refractories and insulators that are more efficient and cheaper than the alternatives of 20, or even 5 or 10 years go. Technology is an irresistible force, where today’s $15,000 economy car is faster and safer than the $70,000 luxury car from the 1970′s.

At the same time, technology advances also enable design innovation. We aren’t just making the same products using new materials. New materials can also enable new ovens that can be used to make traditional Pizza Napoletana in new places and new circumstances.

Innovation in equally difficult for our very small US-based competitors. These companies do not have their own manufacturing facilities and they only have a few products. I will be blogging next about ventilation and the advantages of different venting methods that underscores the limitation of the designs of these smaller, less sophisticated companies.

But for now, we are happy to have the capacity and skill to develop fun and interesting new products that make pizza ovens better — and available to a growing audience. We really like the new Strada60 oven that is light enough to be moved around for parties and tailgating; and we hope that you like it as well.

And stay tuned for our newest small backyard pizza oven. In time for Christmas.

 

Anthony Falco Roberta’s in Brooklyn

We just received this from Joseph at The Fire Within, and wanted to share it with you.

Anthony Falco
Roberta’s in Brooklyn
Pier 17 south street seaport free concert sponsored by bud light lime. 600 pizzas in 4 hours!

In a portable Forno Bravo oven. That’s pretty cool.

You can read More About Anthony Falco.

 

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 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.