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DavidK 02-10-2006 02:13 PM

Bread Making - Questions Galore!
OK, so I baked my first loaves of bread. Tasted great but left me with many ??? Bear with me...

The facts:
It was raining miserably, and the oven took a while to come up to temp but, when it got "white hot" (about an hour) I raked out the coals and set about baking. The air temp above the floor was between 4 & 5 missisippi's, the air temp in the dome (above door height) was "OUCH!!", and the reading on my door thermometer was 260 (I installed a grill thermometer through the wooden door-it's accurate, I checked!).

In goes two loaves of a basic hearth bread. Within 10 to maybe 15 minutes I had a beautiful brown crust on very squat loaves. I left it in a full 45 minutes tented w/ tin foil and the door blocking the outer oven opening but not the chimney vent to drop the temp. After that batch, I threw in a Pillsbury french loaf and let it go normally.

hearth bread never really rose so the inside was very dense. Tasted great.

French loaf baked very slowly but turned out well.

My deductions.
I needed to let the oven temp even out before throwing in the bread.
By leaving the vent open, the heat dissipated quickly leaving the temp. cooler than optimal for the french loaf.

Questions :confused:
Should I leave the fire blazing longer so that more heat is stored in what thermal mass I have? (since my mortar layer over the bricks isn't more than an inch, that's not much v. a alan scott oven) Or when I get to "white hot" bricks, have I reached max thermal storage potential (more or less)?

How do I guage the "correct" temp/time to throw in the bread? The oven seemed perfect at cooking height but clearly, the "ouch" temps above are radiated down when the door is closed.

What else should I know???

Sorry for the long post and many thanks if you got this far...

james 02-13-2006 12:09 PM

Day of baking bread
Hi David,

You inspired me to bake yesterday and I had a great time. I will make a another couple of postings on recipes and how the oven worked, but here are some general ideas.

1. You should continue to fired the oven after the dome has gone white if you want to bake for longer periods of time. I always think of the dome as a heat resevoir that you continue to fill up. The more heat you put in, the more there is to take back out through baking. You oven has more than enough mass, and heat holding capability for home baking. This of it this way. When the inside face of the oven, the part the comes in contact with the fire, turns white, the outer edge of the oven dome is still only moderately warm. And the way equillibrium behaves, the heat at the inner wall will migrate to the outer wall, until the entire mass is the same heat. With that in mind, you can continue to heat the oven, with the outer mass getting hotter, for a long time.

I fired my oven for 2+ hours, which got it into the 700s, then let it cool for 1+ hour until it fell into the mid-low 500s. I did the 4-5 Mississippi test, then used my Infrared to double check, and the floor was about 525 and the dome was a little higher.

Then, I baked three batches -- baguettes at 525 for 15 minutes, rounds at 425 for 20 minutes and loaves at 400 for 25 minutes. The bread is good, and we have a week's worth. We took the baguettes to a dinner party, have the rounds for dinners and the loaves for school lunch and toast.

2. Brick oven spring should very good, even without any steam in the oven. Compared with a pizza stone in a regular oven, it's huge. I am going to experiement with steam next (a wet towel on the door and a cast iron pan and water inside the oven). If your bread didn't spring, it might be your dough.

I will post some recipes and photos on the bread I made.

Hope this is helpful.

helenb 02-13-2006 06:17 PM

mississipi test
Can you please explain what the Mississipi Test is?



DavidK 02-14-2006 08:13 AM

One mississippi equals (roughly) one second, two mississippi equals two seconds and so on. The longer you can hold your hand in the oven while counting mississippis to get a consistent time measurement, the cooler the oven... The shorter the time, the hotter...

DavidK 02-14-2006 08:26 AM

OK James, that makes a lot of sense. I know I was rushing to get the bread in so I didn't build up enough heat, which lead me to rush the bread into a too hot oven. As for the bread not springing, it had two good rises before I threw it in and it tasted great coming out. I think it was more the fact that it cooked so quickly that it didn't have a chance to spring. I'm curious, when I slid the peel under the bread (I had it rising on the counter) it deflated quite a bit from its second rise. I wouldn't think that was an issue but since I know next to nothing of bread making outside a bread machine...

james 02-14-2006 01:31 PM

I grew up with a Weber kettle charcoal grill, and I remember being taught to count mississippi (as David notes are roughly equal to a second). My brother still uses an old Weber kettle (I think he has replaced just about every piece on it) and swears you can't beat charcoal. I would argue that real wood coals are better, but people stay hooked. I'm digressing.

The counting method translates perfectly to brick ovens.

David, on your bread, if the shape dough really sags on the peel -- almost goes flat, it is probably too moist. The ciabatta is an Italian bread that uses a very most dough, where you basically fold it in thirds, like a letter, and slide it in the oven. It's flat on the peel and springs in the oven. You can't even slash it. It ends up light, with big holes.

For a baguette or round, your shaped dough should hold it's shape on the peel, and take the slash.

Keep going. I don't think anything you can buy beats home made brick oven bread.


DavidK 02-15-2006 07:55 AM

Any recipies you recommend? I used King Arthur white and wheat for my bread. It's called "bulgarian buttermilk bread." I had thought about using caputo but assumed it's too fine for bread. I see you use it from your other post. How does it affect the final product?

Here are the ingredients I used...
1 package yeast
2 cups warm (110F) buttermilk
2 teaspoons oil
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon sour cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup light rye flour - replaced with wheat
5 cups flour -- (5 to 5 1/2)


james 02-15-2006 10:24 AM

Try a lean bread
One idea to get the feel of the oven and the dough would be to make a lean bread -- flour, water, salt and yeast. It makes a traditional hearth bread, such as a baguette or ciabatta. You get a crisp crust and a crumb (inside) with a nice texture and big holes. It almost minimizes the number of moving parts, so you can concentrate on the oven and on technique.

This is from The Bread Baker's Apprentice


2 1/2 cups bread flour (King Arthur or similar)
1 1/2 cups room temp water
1/4 tsp yeast

Mix to a pancake batter consistency, cover with plastic wrap and let ferment for 3-4 hours, or over night. Refrigerate after 3-4 hours.

The poolish
3 cups flour
1 3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp yeast
6 tbls - 3/4 cup water

Mix the dough to where it is well hydrated (almost sticky).

Stretch and fold (like a letter) and let rest covered with plastic for 30 minutes.

Stretch and fold again, and let rest for 1 1/2-2 hours covered. (The strech and fold lines up the gluton to give the dough structure).

Cut the ball into three pieces, strech and fold for the final shape.

Proof for an hour then bake.

It's a very moist dough, and you don't slash it. The final shape almost looks like a dog bone. The final bread is crusty with big holes in the crumb.


arevalo53anos 03-15-2006 05:44 AM

Hi, James:

Where you said proof for one hour, do you mean to proof in a bannetton covered by a fluored linen or in a container covered by plastic sheet (preserving the dough humidity)?
I did both before and when using the bannetton approach the dough shows a too dry surface after prove, becoming in lower ovenspring. However some recipes ask to do it.
Where I am wrong?
Do you have any insight about this matter?


CanuckJim 03-17-2006 07:10 AM


There are many variables in proofing, but maybe the following will help. I use bannetons to proof my hearth breads; no linen liner, just dusted with flour. In winter, I find that the atmosphere in my kitchen is too dry because of forced-air gas heating, so I put a big pot of water on the stove and let it simmer away while the dough proofs. I cover the bannetons with towels, which you might want to moisten slightly with a sprayer at first, until the humidity in the air takes over. Most important, I've found, is to lightly spray the exposed part of the dough with spray oil. All these will improve the dry bottom syndrome.

Hope that's some help.


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