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BCiliberto 01-22-2009 04:37 AM

Cold weather baking outside

Thought I'd share a humility check experience i had SUnday. I have been baking pizzas in my self-built pompeii (forno plan on Scott base) since MAy-- ;) thought i really had it down, having nearly 400 pizzas and stromboli's to great reviews.

I have always kept my banked fire on the side of the oven after firing up, but for having read some fire management suggestions recently I decided that since I was doing a batch of premade pizzas quickly (23 people) I'd try the fire in the back.

It was pretty cold out-- about 28 F, and oven about 750 dome, 675 floor when i started. What a disaster!.. The cold seemed to draw the water to the surface of the dough (i use a pretty wet dough) and in retrospect i think the cold air flow on the deck cooled it quickly-- result, first 3 pizzas i put in stuck to the brick. what a mess! In all i lost 5 of 20. :o:o:o

What saved me was parchment paper-- I had made up the pizzas in the house on parchment, but didn;t expect to actually put it in the oven.

giving the pizzas a couple minute start on the parchment to firm up, then sliding off to crisp, saved the day.

Also with the fire in the back, and cold air entering front, the front portion of the oven was definitely too cool for satisfactory results.

So-- my next cold weather bake-- fire on the side as usual, a little hotter to start than my typical, and keep them on the parchment if they are sitting a little while before baking.

Any one else with cold weather tips?

roncut 01-22-2009 11:02 AM

Re: Cold weather baking outside
I have had the same results, the front of the floor gets cool quick. I have found out that after closing the door if my oven is about 450 degrees, the next day about noon I have only lost 100 degrees. The next day it is about 200. The temps here in Utah are about 25 during the day and in the teens at night. Is that pretty good at holding temperature??

pwcoppard 01-22-2009 12:07 PM

Re: Cold weather baking outside
i have an oven in Calgary, Alberta, and i use it all winter. last New Year it was about -30 C, and i got hte oven up to 1000 F, using primarily elm - quite a soft wood.

if you think about the floor of the oven as a clock, with the door at 6, then I have found that if i build a fire that runs from 8 through to 2 -in other words down the left side an all the way past hte back, i can maintain really solid temperature, with less cold-weather drafts. i also will start the fire in the middle of the oven, move it forward closer to the entrance, and then arrange it around the side and back. a bit of work, but who doesn't like to play with the fire?


70chevelle 01-23-2009 05:46 AM

Re: Cold weather baking outside
My last cold weather bake was 2 weeks before Christmas. Needless to say, I baked my bread in my indoor oven with a pizza stone on the lowest shelf and another on the highest. It wasn't the cold that killed me it was the uncommon east to west wind that was blowing at 15-20 mph directly into the oven. It burned for about 5 hours and I had about 15" in diameter of the ceiling that turned white. It just wasn't in the cards that day. My other cold bakes turned out fine, I just have to be aware of the wind direction! On a good note, the bread turned out fine.

MoonshineBaker 03-06-2009 06:48 PM

Re: Cold weather baking outside
This is my first winter baking with my fornobravo oven. Since November, I've had problems with retaining enough heat for baking for more than an hour or so if I use the same amount of wood (oak and madrone) as I used in the late spring through the fall. Day temperatures now are in the 40-60*F range during the day and 30-40*F during the nights vs 80-100*F during the day and 50*F at night in the summer. I've been using a little bit more wood than during the summer this winter but with the oven cooling off so rapidly and maybe over proofing my bread, my oven rise has been minimal and the surface carmelization has not been good. With extended baking times I can get the internal temperatures to 200-205*F. Today I used twice the amount of wood that I normally use and kept the oven going 6-7 hours before baking (about 2-3 hours longer than during warmer times). I got dome temperatures of 900*F which dropped down to 600*F an hour after the coals were taken out of the oven. The results were quite decent. I guess that the cold evenings and cool days create a lot of "coldness" in the oven's mass which takes a lot of wood being burnt to overcome.

gjbingham 03-07-2009 07:56 AM

Re: Cold weather baking outside
That sounds like a good explaination Moonshine. All that brick/mortar/concrete at ambient temps somewhere around or well below freezing takes a heck of a lot more calories to heat through and through than the same oven started at 60 degrees. Six hours sounds like a lot fuel. I wonder if you would have had similar results with three hours of firing??

MoonshineBaker 03-07-2009 09:13 AM

Re: Cold weather baking outside
gjbingham, I have fired my oven for 3 or 4 hours with 8-9 oak and madrone pieces of firewood ( ~16 inches long and roughly 6-8 inches in diameter). What I got doing that amount of heat input was an initial high wall temperature of 800-900*F and a floor temperature of maybe 600-700*F. The temperatures then dropped off quickly; within an hour of removing the coals, floor temperatures were 500*F and wall temperatures were 600*F. After an hour of baking 8-10 loaves of bread the floor temperatures were 400-425; after two hours the floor temperatures were 300*F. As you said, it takes a heck of a lot of calories to get rid of all the coldness stored in the thermal mass of an oven. After the bread was baked yesterday, I was able to bake a roast for two hours at 375-400*F and some whole grains overnight. This morning after yesterday's firing and baking where I used twice the amount of wood for 6-7 hours to overcome the coldness, the floor temperature are in the 150-200*F range. Another consideration is that the days are a bit warmer and longer and the nights are just as cold but shorter. Managing all the variables is a challenge and a lot of fun for me. As I gain more experience, hopefully I'll be able to compensate for them...?

gjbingham 03-07-2009 09:33 AM

Re: Cold weather baking outside
Great report Richard. Your "working notes" clearly illustrate the point at hand: Plan on spending quite a bit of additional time firing the oven in colder weather. I'm really surprised that you needed twice the amount of wood for firing the second day, espcially so when using oak and madrone. You'd think that it would take substantially less fuel, having the dome already pre-warmed to 200 degrees or so.

MoonshineBaker 03-07-2009 09:47 AM

Re: Cold weather baking outside
George, What I was writing about was just one firing after the oven sat outside in the cold for a week. The 200*F residual temperature was on the day after the firing with the double load. I would guess that the mass of the oven and floor temperature before I fired the oven was probably 35*F or so - again a lot of coldness to overcome.

gjbingham 03-07-2009 07:47 PM

Re: Cold weather baking outside
Gotcha. Sorry my bad. Good point made. I can't remember if you used extra cladding or mass for additional loads of bread. That would obviously make it that much more difficult to heat thoroughly.

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