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Hello from Pennsylvania - Forno Bravo Forum: The Wood-Fired Oven Community

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Hello from Pennsylvania

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  • Hello from Pennsylvania

    Been visiting the main Forno Bravo site for a couple of months, and decided to join the forum to get some advice. I am a member of a growing church, and we are in the planning stages of a major renovation of our kitchen. We feed about 1200-1300 people on the average weekend, and we are contemplating the addition of a brick oven to the renovation plans. We have increased our bread making capacity over that past few months (using a commercial convection oven), and we are currently producing about 20-30 loaves of bread per weekend. We have even discussed the possibility of making our own fresh dough pizza, which has spurred my interest in the designs mentioned on this site.

    I joined this site primarily to make sure we build/purchase the proper oven. I read out on the main site that the question one needs to ask, is if they intend to bake bread or make pizza. How much difference is there between a bread and pizza oven? On reading the "why round" section, I'd be compelled to think that a round "pizza" oven would be superior to a rectangular "bread" oven. Is this the case? I'm not sure why a rectangular oven would be better suited for bread, since on of the main drawbacks of a rectangular oven is that they have a wide temperature variance across the floor of the oven. I have read on another site that a "falling" oven is perfect for bread baking. Does the temp in a rectangular oven drop at a faster rate than a round oven?

    Thanks for any help that you folks can give.

  • #2
    Re: Hello from Pennsylvania

    The Pompeii design is an excellent all around oven.
    It will cook pizza, bread, and roast/smoke meats. (brisket, pork shoulder, turkey, etc.)

    I've had a ham, a turkey, 2 dozen rolls, and squash in mine (a 42"Pompeii) all at the same time.

    I regularly cook meats up to 36 hours after firing the oven, so the heat retention is awesome.

    I love mine.

    As for a barrel-type oven, I have no experience there. But Jim, our excellent baker, has experience with many different ovens.
    I am sure he will be happy to offer his opinion on that subject.

    Good luck and welcome aboard.

    I'm sure we would all enjoy pictures when you decide to build.

    Dave
    My thread:
    http://www.fornobravo.com/forum/f8/d...ress-2476.html
    My costs:
    http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?k...Xr0fvgxuh4s7Hw
    My pics:
    http://picasaweb.google.com/dawatsonator

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Hello from Pennsylvania

      My favorite saying that it's easy to make bread in a pizza oven, but difficult to make pizza in a bread oven. :-)

      If you are looking for a general purpose oven, for a range of cooking, I think the round Italian design is the best one. If you are setting up a commercial bakery, then I would go with the low, barrel vaulted oven. I would even considering doing a white, French oven design if I was thinking of starting up a commercial bakery.

      My two cents.

      I love the idea of building a brick oven for community use. Excellent idea.

      James
      Pizza Ovens
      Outdoor Fireplaces

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Hello from Pennsylvania

        Generally, I agree with James. It can be done, but it's not as easy, to bake pizza in a rectangular barrel vault oven like mine, because it is not designed to have flame licking up to the dome for pizza baking. I'll be doing it this weekend, so trust me. Is one superior to another across the board? Humm, don't think so, and I've used and installed both. Both will bake a huge variety of foods, from bread to fish. Don't know where you got the info that there is a wide temp variance across the floor of a rectangular; it's not so if it's properly built and well insulated. Any wood fired oven will be cooler near the oven mouth, though, and hottest at the back wall. The former can be a good thing for some dishes, calzone for example.

        The choice depends on intended use. I can get more loaves per bake in my oven than I could if it was round, hearth bread or pan bread, sheet pans or pita, and that's why I chose the design. For me, pizza is secondary, bread primary for my bakery. If I wanted an oven for general use, I'd probably opt for a round design. If my primary intent was pizza, I'd definitely go the round route.

        From a speed and ease of firing stance, I'd use a white oven for a commercial setup, though they can be difficult to find and tricky to build (read expensive). Alf, the builder in England, could guide you there. For traditional look and feel, I'd go with a fire in the oven design. One of the larger, commercial FB Ristorante ovens might be what you want.

        The most important thing about any design is to build it carefully and insulate to the point that you retain as much heat as possible--and beyond. There's a wealth of insulation information on this forum. Whether it's modular and purchased, brick by brick and hand built, round or barrel, these things don't change.

        To answer your question directly, both styles of oven will retain heat for a very long time (how long depends on construction) if they are properly built. A poorly built oven, no matter the orientation, will not.

        You haven't told us what the primary use will be; that will affect orientation choice. After that, either one will perform flawlessly for general cooking and baking, so long as the provisos above are kept in mind.

        It's important not to get hung up in the many, many, many contentious opinions out there about superiority of one over another. The French don't use a round design and bake awesome bread. The Italians don't, generally, use a rectangular design and bake awesome pizza. Point is, either one is good, works well. The choice is based on intended major use--and somewhat simply on historical tradition.

        Contact me directly by email if you want to discuss details further.

        Jim
        "Made are tools, and born are hands"--William Blake, 1757-1827

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Hello from Pennsylvania

          This is always a "hot" topic. :-)

          There is a lot of good content in the Forum. Look around, and you will find a lot of info.

          James
          Pizza Ovens
          Outdoor Fireplaces

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Hello from Pennsylvania

            Originally posted by james View Post
            This is always a "hot" topic. :-)

            There is a lot of good content in the Forum. Look around, and you will find a lot of info.

            James
            Which is a hotter topic?

            Barrel vs Pompeii

            or

            Cure before insulating/after insulating?!
            My thread:
            http://www.fornobravo.com/forum/f8/d...ress-2476.html
            My costs:
            http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?k...Xr0fvgxuh4s7Hw
            My pics:
            http://picasaweb.google.com/dawatsonator

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Hello from Pennsylvania

              Interesting topic. Makes me wonder if there's a pefect oven somewhere between the two styles for this group. One that takes a bit more wood to get up to pizza temps, but also retains heat for multiple loads of bread. For whatever reason, Dave's oven sounds like a perfect solution. His heat retention seems to be higher that that of other pizza ovens built.

              I questioned the type of bricks he purchased second hand previously (Dave, correct me if I'm wrong), wondering if they were medium or high duty bricks vs. low duty.

              Just a thought.

              George
              GJBingham
              -----------------------------------
              Everyone makes mistakes. The trick is to make mistakes when nobody is looking.

              -

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Hello from Pennsylvania

                Originally posted by gjbingham View Post
                Interesting topic. Makes me wonder if there's a perfect oven somewhere between the two styles for this group. One that takes a bit more wood to get up to pizza temps, but also retains heat for multiple loads of bread. For whatever reason, Dave's oven sounds like a perfect solution. His heat retention seems to be higher that that of other pizza ovens built.

                I questioned the type of bricks he purchased second hand previously (Dave, correct me if I'm wrong), wondering if they were medium or high duty bricks vs. low duty.

                Just a thought.

                George

                I really don't know what they were....
                Fire bricks from ACME....
                Beep Beep

                But I think there are several reasons I retain heat pretty well.
                I added a 3/4 - 5/8 layer of high heat mortar on top of my hearth insulating layer.
                I had plenty of mortar on the outside of the dome. Maybe 3/4 inch in most spots.

                I topped the dome with a couple layers of 1/2 blanket. Then I built a cage out of wire and screen so that I could pour verm/perlite. (I didn't want to mix it with cement, i figured it would lower the insulating properties....)
                Although I was shooting for 4 or 5 inches of verm/perlite, the cage kind of expanded and verm/perlite keeps creeping down the sides. I think I probably 6 inches or more of the dry stuff all around the sides.

                I do need to add more, because the top is now pretty bare, other than the blankie.

                But more insulation, i think, is the key to good heat retention.

                I think I just got lucky because my cage "expanded" all on its lonesome~!!!

                Fate I guess.. Sometimes it smiles on you.

                as you were

                Dave
                My thread:
                http://www.fornobravo.com/forum/f8/d...ress-2476.html
                My costs:
                http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?k...Xr0fvgxuh4s7Hw
                My pics:
                http://picasaweb.google.com/dawatsonator

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Hello from Pennsylvania

                  I have to add...

                  It does take up to 2 hours of firing sometimes to hit pizza temps.

                  Makes me wish I had a smaller oven for 2 or 3 pizza nights!

                  I might try a 30 incher this summer.

                  Because I need a new project soon!
                  My thread:
                  http://www.fornobravo.com/forum/f8/d...ress-2476.html
                  My costs:
                  http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?k...Xr0fvgxuh4s7Hw
                  My pics:
                  http://picasaweb.google.com/dawatsonator

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Hello from Pennsylvania

                    I want to thank you all for the replies to my post. To have so many of you reply so quickly with relevant responses, sends a message that this is a healthy & viable board. My sincere thanks and best wishes to those who manage this forum.

                    To answer a question from above, the main purpose for the oven will be for bread, but we would also like to prepare pizza from time to time. To really explain what we need, perhaps I should share some background. My church was founded in the 1830s, and we remained in the original building until a space crunch forced us to pursue an alternative location. Having purchased a parcel of property, we were prepared to build on this new land until a very unique situation presented itself. WalMart opened a store just outside of town, and a stand-alone department store on the opposite end of town could not compete. It was then that we began to investigate the possibility of converting a 59,000 square foot building into a church. 5 years later we have nearly doubled our congregation and food has become an important fixture; because when people share a meal together - they talk. In the last 4 months, we have embarked on a multi-site expansion, and have opened up 2 additional worship locations in the region. We serve free meals at all of our services, with hot breakfast meals being served in the mornings and hot main courses at the afternoon & evening services. This main location also is the site where food is prepped for the additional 2 locations. I've always wanted to bake bread, so this past fall I started preparing bread for the Saturday evening service. What started out as an experiment, has evolved into my purchase of "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" book, in which there is a chapter on baking bread in a wood-fired oven. With the creation of a new kitchen in the opposite corner of the building from where our current kitchen resides, I have made the pitch for the addition of a brick bread oven to the plans. The idea has been met with immediate enthusiasm. I'm not sure how to judge the size of the oven we will need, but I average about 20-35 pounds of flour per week in the creation of dough for Italian, French & sourdough breads.

                    I hope that the above gives you a bit more background as to what we will use the oven for. As for the type, I'm still not sure about the design, but as I read through the threads on this board and share thoughts with you folks, the vision should become clear as to what we will need. The bottom line is that we will require an oven that will potentially be able to bake enough bread to complement a meal for a crowd of 1000 people, or kick out the occasional batches of pizza to feed a crowd of that size. What that looks like is a thing that I hope you folks can help me out with. We originally were going to search for a used natural gas fired commercial unit, but I am starting to feel rather strong that a wood fired unit is the only way to go. We have several members who are brick layers by profession, and I feel confident that we can build a unit that can do the job. My only desire is to make sure we build it right - the first time.

                    Thanks again for your willingness to assist us with our adventure in wood-fired baking!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Hello from Pennsylvania

                      Dave,
                      I'm not saying your brick is bad or good. It just seems to have different qualities. I sure as heck don't care what it is either. I'd love to retain heat like you do, even if it took a bit more wood. I find it interesting, and possibly useful to these potential builders. Remember, I used 2 - 4 inches of insulating blankets, and inch of vermicrete over the blanket. Now I've got a minimum of an inch of stucco base coat over that. My oven is down to 250 - 275 degrees 12 hours later. Something's different.
                      Hang in there bud. I love ya! (can I have some of your Miller Light?)
                      GJBingham
                      -----------------------------------
                      Everyone makes mistakes. The trick is to make mistakes when nobody is looking.

                      -

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Hello from Pennsylvania

                        Wait a minute! That last post came up while I was typing. Feeding a 1000 people? Probably one of each type of oven. That's a baking nightmare in my book. I'd start with the barrel vault first, then add a pizza oven later if that doesn't suit your needs entirely, especially if you have masons available. I think they could make pretty quick work of both types.
                        GJBingham
                        -----------------------------------
                        Everyone makes mistakes. The trick is to make mistakes when nobody is looking.

                        -

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Hello from Pennsylvania

                          1000 people does sound like a large number, and we do not expect to reach that number for quite some time. We just want to make sure that what we build won't become too small too fast. Right now, we average about 400 people at our Saturday evening service on our main campus. This is the main focus for our bread, but we also prepare enough food on Saturday during the afternoon to serve at noon and in the evening on Sunday at our two other locations. Last week we served chili with corn bread, and tomorrow night we are making ravioli and Italian bread. It's a gas making food for so many people, so the addition of a bread oven has started a buzz within the church. While we will more than likely make pizza for the Saturday evening service every 5 or 6 weeks, the main intent is to make bread. Don't want to be redundant with respect to the previous posts I've made, but I just want to make sure that we build the correct unit - at least initially. It is beginning to sound like we are going to have a ton of fun with this project!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Hello from Pennsylvania

                            McLane,

                            I, too, have The Bread Builders. The section on bread is interesting but hardly exhaustive. You might want to download the free Wood Fired Bread e-book from the main FB site, as well as the other titles. They have a lot more depth. Most home oven bread formulas can be adapted to WFO baking with a couple of provisos covered in the e-book. I would be quite willing to guide you here, if required. Let me know if you want a list of the bread books I use.

                            I purchased plans for my 4'x3' oven from Alan Scott at ovencrafters.net. They're pretty basic, though, and you'll need the interpretation of your bricklaying associates to carry it off if that's the way you want to go. The schematics and photographs need a lot of work, and the text should be revised and edited.

                            Point with an AS oven is that you will need a fair bit of cladding so it will retain heat for a long time; lots of insulation is a must, above and below. Cladding thickness translates into longer firing times. It might take me six hours to fire my oven from cold, but I can get 10 bakes out of it after that. You could haul bread out of such an oven all day long. Too, you can fire it overnight, so the oven will not need a long firing on bake day. If it's used a lot, it will never really cool down to room temp.

                            Pompeii style ovens typically come to pizza temps in an hour or so, but will not retain heat as long. As has been pointed out, the compromise is to add cladding to the outside of the bricks, but then firing times go up to two hours plus.

                            I think George has got it right. With so many people to feed, it would be wise to build both types, starting with a barrel and then a pizza oven; side by each, but they can't share the same flue. Bread baking and pizza baking have different requirements (one retained heat only, the other fire in the oven), and it would be next to impossible to juggle both in the same oven with a hectic schedule. With two ovens, you could bake bread and cook pizza at the same time. Now that's a dream a lot of us have, including me.

                            Keep asking, and we'll try to keep answering. I'm pretty familiar with the eastern section of PA, but I don't recognize your town name. Where is it?

                            Jim
                            "Made are tools, and born are hands"--William Blake, 1757-1827

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Hello from Pennsylvania

                              Originally posted by CanuckJim View Post
                              Keep asking, and we'll try to keep answering. I'm pretty familiar with the eastern section of PA, but I don't recognize your town name. Where is it?

                              Jim
                              We are located about 20 miles due south of Erie.

                              I will be asking MANY questions!

                              Comment

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