Now that the oven has been built, we're anxious to start baking. Pizza and focaccia are the first items we'll be making. But before we begin, lets take a look at the tools that are required.
Left to right:
Round Metal Peel for turning and removing baked items from the oven.
Shovel for removing coals and ashes.
Rake to move the wood and hot coals.
Metal Peel is used to place the pizza in the oven.
Oven Brush to clean the oven floor
Richard starts a fire.
He checks the temperature with a digital thermometer. When the oven reaches 800F, it will be time to bake the pizza. At that temperature, pizza will bake in less than 2 minutes. Then we will wait for the oven to cool down to about 700F before adding the focaccia.
We have found that making pizza in a wood burning oven is much harder than it looks. So many things can and do go wrong. For one thing, the dough has to be just right, wet, but not sticky. Our first attempt went awry when we couldn't get the dough off the peel and into the oven. We ended up with a total mess on our hands. It was frustrating, so we looked to the internet for some problem solving. I was thrilled when I stumbled upon a wonderful blog by Jeff Varasano, who spent 6 years perfecting his recipe and technique for making authentic Neopolitan pizza in a wood burning oven. I followed his advice to the best of my ability, and this time it worked. We were able to release the pizza from the peel onto the oven...success! But clearly there is a learning curve, and hopefully with practice, our technique for making, baking, and forming the dough, will continue to improve.
Focaccia is a different story. Baked in a pan, there is no anxiety about it sticking to a peel. It's a matter of getting the dough and oven temperature right.
Removing Focaccia with the peel. The baker's smiling and that's a good sign!
The focaccia was very good, but still a work in progress, so a few days later I tried a different recipe. My Bread by Jim Lahey, is a phenomenal bread cookbook that I've used in the past with excellent results. His focaccia recipe calls for the addition of boiled and mashed Yukon potatoes in the dough. I gave it a long cold rise in the refrigerator overnight before the final rise in the pan. Once assembled, I knew we had a winner.
For recipes and technique, see Baking in a Wood Burning Oven - part two
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