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cynon767 04-10-2010 09:37 PM

forays into wfo cooking
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So as I mentioned in my oven build thread, our initial attempt at cooking was with our Thanksgiving turkey. Thanks to all the good advice from this thread, it was an outstanding success. We got one of those fancy-schmancy free range heirloom turkeys, and brined it with apple juice, salt water, juniper berries, bay leaves, and sage. Moist, tender, perfectly cooked and juicy. It was, quite frankly, the best turkey I've ever had.

Over the rest of the winter, though, the oven was dormant. Between the cold and the wet and being otherwise busy, we just never got around to lighting it up.

That changed a couple weeks ago. We have, since then, done three pizza parties. I am finally getting the hang of the dough handling and turning out pretty consistently good pies. We've done all kinds of different toppings, but so far the favorites have been the potato/gorgonzola/carmelized onion and the pesto/mushroom/prosciutto, but there have been so many variations on the theme I've started losing count. I am consistently surprised at how easy it is to turn out good pizzas.

This evening, after the last pies, we made our first tentative forays into other baking: one small loaf and a pineapple upside-down cake made from a modification of one of those Amish Friendship bread sourdough recipes. The cake was rich and moist, but just a little doughy... possibly due to the extra liquid from the pineapple together with egg custard ingredients. The bread was good for a first effort- decent oven spring, good crust texture. It could have sprung more, but I'm not gonna complain. I was still proud. Overall, we were pretty happy with the results.

Unfortunately, I have no pictures of the first efforts, and only a few of the more recent ones. Being the cook kinda precludes photography...

Of the pizzas pictured the first is purple potato, roasted pepper, pepperoni, mushroom, onion, basil, and mozzarella over pesto. The second is similar, subbing out more pepperoni for the potato and peppers and with red sauce instead of pesto. The salad is arugula and romaine with red onion, raisins and avocado with a mustard vinaigrette.

Jed 04-11-2010 05:34 PM

Re: forays into wfo cooking
Hey Jamie,

Good story, and glad to see you back with your oven! It does take some effort to heat the thing up, but the effort is consistently rewarded with good times and good food!

There is a whole world of possibilities of foods that can be well prepared in a wood oven. A long term study I figure... roasting - baking - grilling - all variety of flora and fauna! Many possibilities..

Keep up the good work!


texassourdough 04-12-2010 04:13 AM

Re: forays into wfo cooking
Hi Jaime!

If it is doughy the interior it needed more baking. Heavy, wet cakes and breads take longer. It pays to check the interior temperature. While lean breads need 205 plus, breads containing sugar have a lower finishing temp - typically around 190 to 195 as I recall. Someone else will give you advice. I don't bake bread with sugar and cakes.

Good Luck!

cynon767 04-12-2010 09:26 AM

Re: forays into wfo cooking

Jay, that makes sense, and kind of what I figured. The cake was doughy and moist, but the outside was quite brown. I think the oven was too hot for it. The bread came out good, though. I will keep it up. Thanks, too, for all the good information. I foresee a lot of time spent looking through the archives of baking posts.

egalecki 04-12-2010 11:48 AM

Re: forays into wfo cooking
Cake does require a lower temperature than lean bread dough. Too hot will give you over-browned and underdone. I've never taken a cake's temperature, but usually if it's started to pull away from the sides of the pan a smidge or if you stick a skewer into it near the center and it comes out clean, it's done. I've not baked a cake in my wfo, as I think they need a much more even temperature. If it fluctuates it causes all sorts of trouble with the cake. (this is why you shouldn't open your oven door whilst baking cake until it's set and you think it's done!)

I cook enriched bread doughs (with added fats or sugars) to 195 internal temp.

My experience with the Amish friendship bread stuff (years ago, mind you, and I found it to be one needy son of a gun!) was that I preferred it in more of a "quick bread" format (muffins and bread baked in pans) than as a cake. If you like to bake (or eat) cakes, I recommend Rose Levy Beranbaum's Cake Bible- it's got EVERYTHING you need to know, with some lovely recipes, using some interesting techniques she's developed.

cynon767 04-12-2010 12:17 PM

Re: forays into wfo cooking

Originally Posted by egalecki (Post 87005)
I've never taken a cake's temperature, but usually if it's started to pull away from the sides of the pan a smidge or if you stick a skewer into it near the center and it comes out clean, it's done.

That's been my (albeit limited) experience as well. When it looked good and browned, was pulling away from the pan, and passed the toothpick test, I pulled it out... and still found it to be just a little dense. I still suspect the extra eggs and liquid and such... my wife had prepared the recipe, which it turned out contained pudding, along with 3 whole eggs and most of a can of crushed pineapple. :eek:

I may yet try more cakes, but for now plan to stick with bread, pizza, and roasting. We just don't have enough of a collective sweet tooth to go to the trouble.

We had such great success with our turkey that I think general roasting will be our next direction. Em just bought a large clay roaster which I have a feeling we will be breaking in soon.

texassourdough 04-12-2010 01:17 PM

Re: forays into wfo cooking
Hi Jamie!

I have recently put several fairly detailed messages online about oven management and it is probably best to not do so again. The basic pattern is fire the oven to load heat into the refractory - at least 45 min to an hour after the oven clears. Then close the door and kill the coals. Open about 45 minutes to an hour alter and remove the coals. Hearth temp should be near 600. Close it back up and let it cool to baking temp (or leave it open five minutes if really hot then close and let it reequalize. Start to bake with it about 20 degrees above target temp. Opening the oven to load and swabbing it to remove ash and humidify the oven will drop the temp pretty good. Also spraying will further cool the oven.

Lean dough breads (like artisanal sourdoughs should usually be started at about 575 degree oven temps (though loaf size is a factor)(This means start swabbing and stuff at about 590-600). Doughs with sugar and stuff need lower temps (and out of my experience but probably 450 to 475 as a guess. (they burn too easy).

Good luck!

cynon767 04-12-2010 01:46 PM

Re: forays into wfo cooking
That's basically the procedure I followed; I just put the cake in before it had cooled enough (since it was already getting late, and I knew that we would have to put a toddler to bed soon).

I have looked over your temp control posts, and found them highly informative. I plan to give them a more thorough reading over the next few weeks.


texassourdough 04-12-2010 02:55 PM

Re: forays into wfo cooking
Sounds like you are on the right path, Jamie!

It is REAL easy (especially at first) to not want to wait and it is also a pain for timing of bread and oven gets squirrely, and sometimes it is inconvenient to wait. It is important to close up and let the oven equalize somewhat (i.e. the 800 degree hearth/1000 degree dome) warm up the refractory several inches in. But if you are in a rush you can reasonably dump a lot of heat after the soak by leaving the door off for five or ten minutes. The trick is you can easily dump too much so be cautious.

My one oven mantra is always have something to put in the oven the next morning. Roast beef, chicken, lamb, meatloaf, stew, anything. I try not to waste that heat. Especially in the summer when it is HOT down here in south Texas!

Good Luck!

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