Forno Bravo Forum: The Wood-Fired Oven Community

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emmashouseinportugal.com 09-02-2009 02:00 PM

Hello from central portugal
 
Hi
I'm living in a tiny village in central portugal. WFO are an essential fixture to every home here. The owners of the old stone house I bought had 3 ovens and used to make the bread to sell in the local town. The oven I have is HUGE - a whole cow would be comfortable in there if only she could fit through the door.

I've had only 3 tries at getting the oven going. It's an all day exercise and it requires a tree's load of wood. But each time has been great fun and so far I've had success with chicken, paella & biscuits but sadly, not bread.

I'm looking forward to going through the forum and getting wiser about how to tame my mammoth beast. I must say, construction-wise, it's a work of art, especially considering they just used the stone and the clay under their feet. I'll post a couple of pics - but I'll be taking more tommorrow now I've found people who'll appreciate them! ;)

Janine M. LeGrand 09-04-2009 03:04 AM

Re: Hello from central portugal
 
Hello EmmashouseinPortugal,
Welcome to the forum. You are so lucky to have the WFO's already built! I am in rural Uganda and am in the process of building my own WFO. I am really looking forward to my WFO as I don't have a "regular" oven. Here in Uganda most people cook over three stones or using a small outdoor charcoal stove. Since WFO's are common where you are, you will likely have lots of people who can show you things to make. Sounds like you will have a lot of fun!
--Janine

emmashouseinportugal.com 09-04-2009 05:03 AM

Re: Hello from central portugal
 
Hello Uganda!

I don't have a regular oven either, (or stove for that matter, I cook on the fire and I love it) and I really miss lasagne and lemon pudding!

The trouble is, all the neighbours have upgraded to modern WFOs, just like the ones on this site, and while there's some old people who remember how it's done, I think they might be out of practice, because so far their advice hasn't been too good!

They do bake a mean bread though, which I could never compete with, so I wont try. But pizza...mmm... I need to have a pizza party... I could cook ten big ones at once!

I've just taken some new pictures, which I'll put on the gallery.

P.S. In my initial plans for the house, the remaining oven was going to become a water tank... but now, no way! It's a treasure.

dmun 09-04-2009 07:34 AM

Re: Hello from central portugal
 
Your ancient oven may not be insulated: Unless you heat it up and keep it hot, as in a commercial operation, it may never produce enough heat to cook. Can you get it hot enough to burn the carbon off the dome?

dbhansen 09-04-2009 08:13 AM

Re: Hello from central portugal
 
Cool pictures in the gallery - thanks for sharing!

emmashouseinportugal.com 09-04-2009 09:20 AM

Re: Hello from central portugal
 
Insulated? Are you kidding? The house doesn't even have foundations! The 1930's in Portugal is like, medieval times!

I've had success cooking with it, provided I don't take the fire out (and nor can I "close the door" with a stone, as it should be done). It's been great for chicken and paella, but not for bread or pudding, because the temperature doesnt remain stable enough. And it takes at least 4 hrs to heat up, at which point you can barely get near it... it's still fun though!

DrakeRemoray 09-04-2009 10:07 AM

Re: Hello from central portugal
 
I looked at your site/blog...really nice work there. Looks like a lot of fun and a lot different than what we are dealing with here. Did you rebuild the oven or part of it?

Drake

emmashouseinportugal.com 09-04-2009 01:21 PM

Re: Hello from central portugal
 
Thanks a lot!

There were three ovens, one was dismantled shortly before I bought the house, the second has been demolished by me (that's the one in Floor & Dome photos) and the big one (in Finished Ovens) I'm keeping. It had a couple of nasty cement patch-ups, so I'll try to remove that and restore it (maybe I should add a chimney so it's more usable - what do you people think? The room it's in is going to become a laundry, so...errr)

It's so good to "demolish" something and have no rubbish to get rid of. The clay mortar went straight into another wall and all the "pre-selected" stones are waiting in a pile to go back into a new wall on the same spot. It feels like a modern building practise and a traditional one at the same time...

emmashouseinportugal.com 09-04-2009 02:13 PM

Re: Hello from central portugal
 
Dmun, I've been thinking about your insulation comment. While I didn't find any porous or ashy layers when I was taking apart the little oven, maybe the builder was using a dirt and clay blanket above the stones to trap the heat. It wouldn't be much good on it's own, but if they've got 20-30cm clay-rich stone (heat absorbing), followed by 10-20cm clay soil and then cap it off with 10cm of layered hard schist layed flat (heat deflecting) - there's quite a lot of thermal bulk there. Slow to heat up initially, but then slow to lose the heat. What do you think? (apologies for my facetious little reaction btw)
Re the carbon - would it go white when it was burning off?

dmun 09-04-2009 03:53 PM

Re: Hello from central portugal
 
It's been shown that dirt, sand, broken glass, gravel, and the like are not good insulators. On the other hand, a huge commercial oven like that might never have cooled off, and thermal mass could have kept it hot enough for normal baking. It seems odd: from what I remember of the Iberian peninsula, it's pretty dry, and firewood would have been hard to come by. You would think they would have wanted to use as little of it as possible.

The outside view of the big oven shows that you could excavate the top, replace the dirt with vermiculite concrete, and put the rustic stone top back on (maybe with a pond liner to keep the insulation dry). You'd have a much better performing oven.

Yes, when the carbon burns off we call it going "white", and you've got your oven hot enough to start radiating heat back into the cooking chamber. After I saw your pictures, I saw the oven interior wasn't black, meaning you'd gotten it plenty hot.


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