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UnConundrum 06-28-2009 03:57 PM

Bread vs. Pizza -- Thermal Mass?
While I make and love pizza, I bake far more bread. Then, Christmas Eve, we bake bread for our friends and family, usually around 56 loaves. Currently, I bake them in a convection oven, 4 loaves at a time.... takes forever :-/ We've decided to build a WFO, and I've been studying the theory of different plans. I understand that the favorite plan here is directed at pizza baking and not bread, thus less thermal mass. If I understand the plans right, that equates to 2.5 inches of brick on the floor of the oven, and nothing under that. I've seen 4.5 inches of brick on the floor with the support slab directly below it as additional mass, followed by the insulating deck. I'm looking for a compromise.

When I bake bread, it's at least 6 hours after I start before I'm ready to bake, so a longer than an hour preheat time doesn't bother me. Usually close to the same with pizza, or longer, if I'm making the dough for same day use. If I can get 12 loaves of bread in one batch in the oven, I'd still need 5 batches for Christmas Eve. They would probably be staged about an hour apart (maybe just a little less), and I'm pretty tired come the end of the baking. I'd like to worry less about the fire/temperature at that point. So, what do you think about thermal mass in this situation. Put the bricks on end and get 4.5" and quit there? Stay with 2.5" brick and add a pad of refractory cement below? If so, how thick? 4" ?

What about the dome? I was thinking of using full bricks (9.5"). Is that way too much? I'd appreciate your thoughts and comments.

texassourdough 06-28-2009 05:31 PM

Re: Bread vs. Pizza -- Thermal Mass?

I built my pizza oven to do bread also by adding an extra inch to inch and a half of cladding over the dome to give it more mass and by putting my insulation below the hearth slab so I can heat load the slab. In my configuration my oven clears in 45 minutes to 1 hour for doing pizzas. I find that for bread it is better to go for 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours and that I can get two bakings - which may not be enough for you from what you describe. (If I went three hours I MIGHT be able to get three batches but I haven't tried.)

My one meter oven will do about 18 pounds of bread in a batch and it sounds like you need three batches. One choice is to add a good deal more cladding to your oven - probably in the league of 3 to 4 inches.

If you really want a bread oven I would suggest you consider the Alan Scott plans available at Ovencrafters - Alan Scott - OVENCRAFTERS. Alan's ovens are optimized for bread and his smaller ovens are IMO small for pizza but are great for bread. They do have about a 3 to 4 hour firing period to heat load from a cold state. (much better to use them every day and keep them hot!) A pizza oven with enough mass to keep going and going will take a similar load (but will probably be ready for pizza in an hour and a half or two hours).

The book The Bread Builders describes Scott ovens and firing pretty well.

Hope this helps!

DrakeRemoray 06-29-2009 07:51 AM

Re: Bread vs. Pizza -- Thermal Mass?
You do sound like you could be a candidate for a barrel vault oven (the Alan Scott version). But I would suggest that if you only bake that much bread once a year, then a pompeii dome still might be the way to go. I have baked as much as 32 lbs of bread off a single firing and could have done more. I added about an inch of refractory mortar on the dome but just have a regular (flat side of brick) floor.

It will be much easier to get the pompeii dome up to temp when you are doing regular baking. I understand what you are saying about time not being the issue. Most of the bread I bake is two or three days in the making. But it costs a lot more to fire one of the barrel ovens as well. You need a lot more wood to get that mass up to temp.

If you still think you want a barrel oven, check out threads by Dutchoven and CannuckJim, they both have barrel ovens. Look at one of Dutch's latest threads to see how much bread one of these bad boys can turn out:

Hope that helps.


UnConundrum 06-29-2009 08:09 AM

Re: Bread vs. Pizza -- Thermal Mass?
I forgot to mention, wood is no issue. I live in a very rural area, and my son lives on an abandoned farm that is now overgrown with trees....

Thanks for the suggestions.

texassourdough 06-29-2009 10:48 AM

Re: Bread vs. Pizza -- Thermal Mass?
Hi Drake!

Just as a curiosity, how large is your oven?? I can probably get more bread in mine if I put things close together!

Good comments and I agree with your analysis. I think the Pompeii should work well with additional cladding (but I can't say that with confidence because my oven is FB refractory shell and I don't have experience with the Pompeii).

It seemed appropriate to suggest looking at a the Scott/barrel design IF pizza was a very secondary concern.


DrakeRemoray 06-29-2009 11:25 AM

Re: Bread vs. Pizza -- Thermal Mass?
Mine is a 38" oven. I have nearly killed myself trying to use all the retained heat in it. As you can see I have done multiple bread bakes, but only with breads that require different temps (start with Baguettes, then focaccia, then smaller sourdough loaves, then rye breads.

If I wanted to bake 4-5 bakes of baguettes, I think the temp would fall off too quickly for that...


texassourdough 06-29-2009 02:17 PM

Re: Bread vs. Pizza -- Thermal Mass?
Yeah, I have the same issue of sorts... Good to know I really can pack more bread in my oven if I need to (though I find 15 pounds or so intimidating enough). When I do use my oven for bread I typically do one batch - followed by slow cooking.

I certainly have to plan your baking to have the right loaves ready in the right sequence if you want multiple bakes for the temperature does decline...

Thanks for the comments!

Dutchoven 06-29-2009 03:08 PM

Re: Bread vs. Pizza -- Thermal Mass?

Originally Posted by DrakeRemoray (Post 58694)
If you still think you want a barrel oven, check out threads by Dutchoven and CannuckJim, they both have barrel ovens. Look at one of Dutch's latest threads to see how much bread one of these bad boys can turn out:

Hope that helps.


You can very easily get what you desire from a pompeii design perhaps with the floor laid on edge and a bit more cladding. Although we usually do bake our market bread in a barrel vault, the bread that Drake is referring to was actually baked in a rather large pompeii style oven that I constructed for our wood fired restaurant and bakery. We decided this week to try it there to see how it cooks. It is about 54 inches in diameter, bricks laid flat for the floor. I fired it at 7:30 am Friday, we did our schiaciatta at 11:00am and breads began baking at about 1:30 pm. The last load came out of the oven at about 7 pm. And the oven still had more heat. Even today at about 4 pm the inside oven floor was 150F. Insulation is the absolute key in my opinion!
Oh and the number of loaves in the days bake was about 100 averagind 1.5 pounds

DrakeRemoray 06-29-2009 03:18 PM

Re: Bread vs. Pizza -- Thermal Mass?
Dutch, do you find it more difficult to fully load the round oven? It seems like a rectangular oven would be easier due to it's depth. When I bake baguettes, I can load 8 at most since the door is narrow and I cannot go two loaves deep.


UnConundrum 06-29-2009 07:06 PM

Re: Bread vs. Pizza -- Thermal Mass?
Thanks for the comments everyone. I think I'm leaning towards the barrel format. One of the things I didn't mention is that I'm trying to retro fit and abandoned stone smokehouse, so my size is restricted by the existing walls. Since there isn't much option on the base, I dry set the block today (didn't pour any cement yet). You can see pictures HERE . The base is about 64" square. I'm still thinking about how to lay out the landing area and, of course, researching the thermal mass issues.

I'd love to make baguette for the annual delivery, but since they're small, I'd want to give everyone two, and there was no way I could get that done in my current situation. That would be phenomenal to do about 120 baguette this year :)

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