Monday, May 18, 2015

Temperature and Time: baking bread in a wood-fired oven

There are many variables when it comes to producing good bread.  Modern baking practices have reduced those variables considerably.  Ovens with temperature dials and proofing boxes with controlled thermostats are among the most significant reducers of variables.  Set temperatures for proofing, and especially for baking minimize differing results in the final loaves.  

One of the joys of baking in a wood-fired oven is not having a dial to control the oven temperature.  Once we remove the coals from the oven we are working with a "falling oven": the temperature is steadily declining until it reaches ambient temperature.  All of our batches are baked at different temperatures.  The first batch of the day bakes at 525 degrees and the last batch bakes somewhere close to 425 degrees.  The length of time each batch stays in the oven varies due to the temperature difference.  We are not able to set the dial to 450 degrees, set the timer for 30 minutes and walk away.  This is what makes baking bread in a wood-fired oven so enjoyable.  Every batch is different and the only way to know that the bread is finished baking is by checking the loaves.  

French Whole Wheat just loaded in the oven