Mud oven baking

We've actually been meaning to do this for a while, it's just a busy time of year.  But,  the weather turned lovely, a breeze blew the mosquitos away, and the thought of a month's worth of bread in the freezer during the last of the harvest and preservation season seemed like a good idea.

Lest you think a wood-fired oven HAS to be a huge production, please note our low-budget beauty (portable seating and all):

We used about three milk-crates worth of small diameter wood to fire the oven for around 5 hours.  We use wood from our pruned apple trees, some bushes we took out, and sometimes neighborhood brush that we see on the curb.  

Indoors, by the time the coals are out, bread is getting ready to go in.  Sourdough on the right, plain french demi-baguettes on the left.  One more batch of sandwich bread is on its first rise elsewhere, so that I can stagger the batches in the oven.  I use plain canvas for rising my loaves (and one cool banneton basket). Timing bread for a wood-fired oven can be a little tricky--I find sourdough is pretty forgiving as the proof times are long and somewhat flexible.

Partial end result:  (2 baguettes were eaten almost immediately, and some things were in the oven yet.)

We ended up with 14 loaves of bread, a simple dinner, and some roasted garlic to use later in the week.  The fire was started at noon, was 600+ degrees at 5:30, and when the last loaf came out at 9-ish it was still about 375 degrees or so.  This baking session was really about bread, but I could have done a few more things (especially with an earlier start).  There is definitely a motivation to use up all the stored heat, and some days I am throwing all sorts of things in there (granola, veggies, DESSERT).  But, I do find if I focus on a smaller goal, I am better organized and make fewer mistakes, and ultimately enjoy the whole process more.   And when I keep it fun, I tend to want to do it more often  :)

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  1. I love low-budget!
    Youre boules are beautiful. Makes me want to bake. The weather has cooled enough this week to make it a reasonable proposition, but my mixer is out of comission.

  2. Your loaves are so TIDY and pretty! And I do indeed know what you mean when you say you'll enjoy it more if you don't complicate things too much: I enjoy it all, maybe too much, so I can be a little scattered and therefore not giving everything the attention it deserves. And yeah, let's hear it for sourdough. Definitely much more forgiving than regular yeast....

  3. hippie: maybe one of those no-knead recipes? The cool weather is here too, it's such a nice break, I actually accomplished some things in the garden besides dashing-out-to-harvest.

    El, thanks. My loaves are neat, the rest of the production is not! I get the scattered feeling too, especially the first few baking sessions. And forget it if I try to do it with company over. You'd think it would be a great party activity, but not for the baking host, ha. This was the first time I baked without an elaborate schedule and scribbled notes, I just winged it and it turned out pretty well.


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