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Underground...Sort of! - Forno Bravo Forum: The Wood-Fired Oven Community

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I'm Peter Reinhart! Ask Me Anything! Monday, February 15, 2016 7:00-8:00 pm EST

To kick off our AMA feature, we have invited author, chef and master bread maker and host of Pizza Quest, Peter Reinhart, to be our first host! Peter will be in the Forum on Monday, February 15th, from 7:00 - 8:00 pm EST. If you are unable to be online during the live session, you can post your questions in the sticky post. Peter will answer those questions during the live session on February 15th. You can view Peter's answers to your questions as well as what happened during the live session in the session thread.

Ask Me Anything New Forum Feature

You will notice a new forum at the top of the main page called, "Ask Me Anything". This forum will be used for live one hour "Ask Me Anything" (AMA) sessions hosted by people who are knowledgeable in different areas pertaining to wood fired ovens. How it works:
- Each AMA will have a "sticky" thread where the community can post questions they would like answered during the live session. This will allow everyone to participate even if you can't be online for the live session. These questions will not be answered by the host until the live AMA; if you need an answer quickly, you should post it in the appropriate Forum area for the community to respond.
- Another thread will be posted for the live AMA. Registered users who are logged in during the live session can interact with the host by asking questions and receiving responses.
- The live thread will remain in the AMA forum to view after the session.

We hope you enjoy this new feature! Please let us know if there is a topic that you'd like to have as an AMA and we'll look for a host!

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  • Underground...Sort of!

    I'm thinking of building a round oven on the side of an existing stone foundation. The bakery will end up being on one side of an existing basement(lower level). I'd like to dig away and then build the oven at the correct level for use inside and then cover it all up again??? Sort of like an old city bakery on a lower level... As I'm also heavily interested in bread, how would the natural thermal mass of earth on all sides of the oven affect the oven heat? Does anyone have any experience with this?

  • #2
    Keep it dry

    Idealy, the oven should be so well insulated that it won't know whether it's next to air, masonry, or earth. An important point: Stone foundation implies an old foundation. Most old foundations I know about are almost always damp. You probably want to work with the sort of thick plastic used for moisture barrier to keep your oven dry. If you had to drive the ambient dampness out of an old foundation on every firing, you'd have trouble attaining and keeping pizza temperatures.
    My geodesic oven project: part 1, part 2

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    • #3
      Wow! Sounds like you have a great deal of excavation ahead of you if this basement is completely underground. Not only do you need the area of the oven footprint excavated but room on all sides to work, plus extra room to shore up the dirt to avoid collapse while you work. Will you remove the existing basement wall, (or a large section of) while you build the oven? Seems like you'll need to do that too which of course requires some sort of beam in place to carry the load above.

      The finished product would be great though! I'd expect the earth would be fantastic insulation. As dmun suggested, moisture might be a real concern. Also, what part of the country do you live in and how much soil shift do you encounter?

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      • #4
        "Das Alte Backstube"

        Originally posted by mylesonic
        I'm thinking of building a round oven on the side of an existing stone foundation. The bakery will end up being on one side of an existing basement(lower level). I'd like to dig away and then build the oven at the correct level for use inside and then cover it all up again??? Sort of like an old city bakery on a lower level... As I'm also heavily interested in bread, how would the natural thermal mass of earth on all sides of the oven affect the oven heat? Does anyone have any experience with this?
        (M) While teaching in Vienna, my wife and I would occasionally visit "Das Alte Backstube", an underground bakery from 1697 that had been upgraded to include regular above ground seating. But the basement was our favorite spot. It featured a real resident mouse. The basement was a popular spot for visitors. It featured a wood fired masonry oven. The URL for that site is http://www.backstube.at/lage.htm

        There are some pictures in black on white of the underground oven at

        http://www.backstube.at/histo.htm

        and at http://www.backstube.at/ambie.htm

        A great old wood cut of the round oven can be enlarged by clicking on the thumbnail at http://www.backstube.at/museu.htm

        (M) All text is in German but the pictures are a good indication of where your basement excavation could lead

        Auf Wiedersehen,

        Marcel
        "Everything should be made as simple as possible, ...
        but no simpler!" (Albert Einstein)

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        • #5
          Backstube

          Marcel,

          Zehr gut, mein Herr. Great woodcuts, fine restaurant. Must be fond memories for you.

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

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