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Old 12-17-2008, 11:51 PM
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Default First successful full load - thoughts & questions

Well I've been busy this week baking bread for a xmas craft show we have in the lunch room at work. I had a pretty good result with yesterdays bake, and sold out within 14 minutes of arriving at work today! I made lepinja, sourdough boules in both wholemeal and white, and rosemary & onion foccacias.

Earlier in the week, I did a load of bread but found that the oven temperature dropped very quickly, and while they came out cooked the crusts didn't have much colour. I fired up the oven until the dome was clear, a bit under 1.5 hours from the first twig igniting. Then I spread the coals and left for another 10 minutes before raking out and baking. Initially the temperature was over 250c (that's all I can say as I am using a standard oven thermometer until I get an IR one). However after doing just 1 load of 12 small baguettes, the temperature dropped to around 160C. My thinking was that the inner surfaces of the bricks must have been nice and hot but the not the outer parts, and as soon as I took out the heat source the temperature started to equalise and cool down overall. Does this make sense/seem likely?

My oven has a 100mm floor (4 inch) of clay pavers, and the dome is made out of halved heavy clay pavers. I have minimum 80mm of castable insulation under the floor and outside the dome. It's has never been uncomfortably warm to touch on the outside so far. My door is just pine plank until I put a better one together, and I stop it burning by soaking in water in advance.

With my second bake yesterday I built a bigger fire from the start, and probably used marginally better wood as well. The dome was clear after around 1 hour, and I made a little space to do a few quick pizzas using scraps of dough. They cooked in around 60-90 seconds as usual. Then I raked the fire back to the middle and built it up again using 6-8 quartered small logs. This started to die down after another 30 minutes and I cleared a space again and did my 4 foccacias. I spread the coals over the floor and left them for 10 mins before cleaning out the oven.

First I cooked 4 lepinja, which were done very quickly as in the pictures below. Then I gave the oven a good burst with a mister hose to get some steam, and put in 8 x 850g sourdough boules. These were done fairly fast as well, maybe 25 minutes. After taking these out the oven was around 170C, so I don't think I could have pulled off another load of hearth-style breads at this point.

I guess my question after all that rambling is whether this is typical behaviour for a pompeii oven? Do I need to look at refiring if I want to do more than 2 small-moderate loads, or could I get more retained heat if I fire it even longer? This lot came out well and I wouldn't often need to do more but a lot of people are asking me for more at work so you never know.

Of course my thermometer sitting on the floor might not be that accurate and it will be good to get an IR model soon to get a better idea about temperatures. I almost wish I installed thermocouples now, would have been interesting at least!
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First successful full load - thoughts & questions-bread-1-6-.jpg   First successful full load - thoughts & questions-bread-3-6-.jpg   First successful full load - thoughts & questions-bread-4-6-.jpg   First successful full load - thoughts & questions-bread-5-6-.jpg   First successful full load - thoughts & questions-bread-6-6-.jpg  

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Old 12-18-2008, 05:37 AM
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Default Re: First successful full load - thoughts & questions

Wow, nice bread! I'll bet they are asking for more!

I think you're on the right track with a longer firing time, and I have also noticed that my oven starts cooling quite fast once I start baking bread. The trick is getting the first load of bread in early enough, say at 290C.

Yours does seem to be cooling quite fast though... What are the clay pavers in your oven out of? I'm thinking that they maybe don't retain heat for as long as classic fire bricks?
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Old 12-18-2008, 05:47 AM
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Default Re: First successful full load - thoughts & questions

Tim
You should fire the oven a bit longer than usual and also let the coals sit longer spread out across the floor. We have sometimes fired our oven overnight and had the coals spread out for 30 minutes to an hour. Then you should also allow a few minutes in between each load with the door on and the oven empty to allow the bricks a chance to recover a bit. Although they won't recover all of the lost heat used to cook the bread, they will recover a bit. Remember the bricks want to find equilibrium so when firing you have to think of getting the outer surface of that brick to the temperature you want to cook at...if you don't the outer side will always cause the inner side to cool...inverse when cooking as the breads cool the inside surface you have to give it a little time to allow the outer heat to reheat the inside
All the best!
Dutch
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Old 12-18-2008, 06:30 AM
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Default Re: First successful full load - thoughts & questions

those look great, Tim. What's a lepinja? Did you use those baskets to proof the boules? I'm still trying to convince my family I need bannettons- I just about have my husband convinced, as I think he's tired of washing up all the bowls I keep using instead... Your loaves look much better than my first ones did.

How long have you been using your oven? If it's fairly new, it's still settling in and the firing will change a bit over time. I'm still fighting to learn the best way to heat mine up for bread, and I've been using it for a couple of months. It's hard to get the dome and the floor evenly heated without burning a big fire for longer than you really need to "go white". I don't think the bricks (and I don't think it has anything to do with the kind of bricks you used) get saturated enough to hold enough heat if you don't fire for a while. I can go white in just under an hour, but if I don't keep a good-sized fire for at least half an hour longer and then spread the coals over the floor as Dutch suggests, it cools off too fast and/or I don't get good color. Strange as it may seem, I still have to let the oven cool off a bit before I load bread, or I incinerate it. It just won't stay at the temperature I need long enough if I don't fire it way up and then let it cool off a bit.

It's an exercise in patience, which I haven't got tons of to begin with... but I'm learning!
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Old 12-18-2008, 11:44 PM
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Default Re: First successful full load - thoughts & questions

Thanks for the replies and advice! I will try firing for longer and leaving the coals in for longer in future for big batches. Definitely need to make a better door too. It sounds like what I have seen in my oven is not too atypical. I was actually wondering whether it might be better better to fire it for longer but not necessarily with such a big fire to start off with - to give the bricks a chance to really absorb some heat. If you start off with a massive fire are you wasting some of that heat if it can't be absorbed by the bricks quickly enough - is there an optimum rate of heat transfer through bricks?

I think this was the 6th time I've fired it so I guess it's might even be plausible that there is some moisture in the insulation still? I certainly have lots to learn regardless!

The lepinjas are a turkish style of bread, usually large flat breads. Mine puffed up more than I planned though. I didn't use a very traditional recipe, it was just a mix of bakers flour and all purpose flour, 80% hydration, 0.7% yeast, glugs of oil, with a 24 hour fermentation in the fridge. I topped them with some nigella and sesame seeds. However looking on google, lepinja pictures look different to what we usually get in SA so maybe it's a regional thing? The nigella seeds are the key in my opinion.

I do use those wicker baskets for proofing, at $1.30 each plus half a tea towel for lining each one they come out a lot cheaper than proper bannetons! (although they would be nice)
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Old 12-19-2008, 07:33 AM
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Default Re: First successful full load - thoughts & questions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim F View Post
If you start off with a massive fire are you wasting some of that heat if it can't be absorbed by the bricks quickly enough - is there an optimum rate of heat transfer through bricks?
That's a really good question. I don't know.
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Old 12-19-2008, 11:31 AM
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Default Re: First successful full load - thoughts & questions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim F View Post
I was actually wondering whether it might be better better to fire it for longer but not necessarily with such a big fire to start off with - to give the bricks a chance to really absorb some heat. If you start off with a massive fire are you wasting some of that heat if it can't be absorbed by the bricks quickly enough - is there an optimum rate of heat transfer through bricks?

I think this was the 6th time I've fired it so I guess it's might even be plausible that there is some moisture in the insulation still? I certainly have lots to learn regardless!
Tim
Check out the post on the top down burn...if you have nice dry wood you can do it that way since the fire naturally gets bigger and hotter as time passes...I have posted links to the threads...the first is a video james made of a top down burn...and in the second there is a wealth of information including posts about the top down method...if it is not too cold outside and you have a well cured oven the timing is really not an issue...I think heat is heat...and your oven should improve in its performance over time...keep at it...
All the best!
Dutch
http://www.fornobravo.com/forum/f41/...ideo-5294.html (Top Down Fire Video)
http://www.fornobravo.com/forum/f16/...-fire-488.html (Starting your fire)
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Old 12-19-2008, 10:31 PM
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Default Re: First successful full load - thoughts & questions

Thanks for the links, will have a read.
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Old 01-18-2009, 04:26 AM
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Default Re: First successful full load - thoughts & questions

I think I am getting better at managing the fire now. I have been using a semi-top down method where I sit a bed of bigger logs on the bottom, then build a fire as usual on top. This seems to help with air flow as well as letting the larger logs catch without smothering the starting fire.

Tonight i fired up with some very nice dry wood, a few years old. I kept a nice fire going for an hour and 45, moving it around the dome a bit to get even heat. Then I spread the coals and left for half an hour before putting the door on for a while longer. I'm still using my makeshift wooden door, but have almost finished an insulated metal version.

I made 9 loaves tonight, 5 wholemeal sourdough with sunflower and linseed, and 4 white sourdough. I think I need to focus on my slashes next - they were a bit sloppy and some weren't deep enough. I think the wholemeal would have expanded better if I slashed them a bit deeper.

Does anyone have tips for the best way to top with seeds, by the way? I ended up shaping, then applying a water wash and the seeds, then coating in flour before I put the loaves in baskets to rise. Then I washed them with water to remove the flour before baking. Happy to hear if there's a better way

After baking those 9 loaves for 35 minutes, the oven was still at about 180C so I could have probably got away with another load - or fired again briefly to bring it back up.
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First successful full load - thoughts & questions-bread.jpg   First successful full load - thoughts & questions-bread-2.jpg   First successful full load - thoughts & questions-bread-3.jpg  

Last edited by Tim F; 01-18-2009 at 04:29 AM.
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Old 01-18-2009, 10:31 AM
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Default Re: First successful full load - thoughts & questions

I made a pumpkin bread with pumpkin seeds on it yesterday- I rolled the top of the boule in the seeds when I shaped it and put it in the basket seam side up with the seeds down. I did use some spray oil and flour in the basket first, but not much. The seeds released nicely after the overnight retard. It did put a lot of seeds on the bread, though- if you want fewer, I'd spray it with water out of a spray bottle and sprinkle them on.
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