There is nothing to compare to the smell of freshly baked bread and if you have a wood fired oven you can enjoy the aroma even more often and enhance your baking experience. Home baking in all forms is on the rise as people are rediscovering the pleasures of using traditional methods and good quality ingredients, to produce better bread, healthier and tastier loaves and rolls than are available from the supermarket.
Wood fired ovens
When it comes to homemade bread, nothing beats bread baked in a wood fired oven. While there are many commercial bread ovens out there which are suitable for pizza, multiple batches of bread and other baked delicacies, we recommend Vitcas range of wood burning ovens.
Wood fired ovens each have their own individual characteristics and to get the best results, you need to developing a good understanding of your own oven's performance. Practice makes perfect, they say, and there are a few basic rules to set you on the right path to producing a range of tasty food such as hearty breads and delicious rolls.
Bread bakes in the residual heat of the wood burning oven after the fire has died. To ensure there is heat retained inside, it is vital that your oven has a door. Ovens designed specifically for baking pizza do not always have one, because pizzas cook so quickly. But without retained heat which is ensured by sealing the oven and minimising the heat loss, your bread won't cook properly. If you already have a pizza oven, you can buy cast iron doors separately or have one made to fit, and create a tight seal with fire rope and an appropriate adhesive.
How to bake bread in a wood fired oven
You first need to fire up your wood burning oven to higher temperatures of 450°-500°C, with the door and flue open to create a good draw, and then let the fire die down. The oven needs to cool to an oven temperature of 100°-190°C (which is the desired temperature range) before you put the bread in. As far as possible, this needs to coincide with the time your dough has proved and is ready to go.
To check the temperature and heat of the interior of the oven including the oven floor, use Vitcas thermometer which is suited to high temperatures and high heat. Therefore, an infrared thermometer in this case is unnecessary.
With the oven door and flue vent closed, put your bread in. During cooking you can rotate the loaf and check its progress but do not open the door for the first few minutes to allow a crunchy crust to form. As a rough guide, cooking in a wood fired oven takes about half the time of cooking in a conventional oven. Tap the bottom of the loaf and if it sounds hollow, then it is done.
If you find you bread does not rise well, it may be because the oven is too dry. Adding moisture in the form of a spray or a roasting pan with an inch of water will help to correct this, and give a extra crisp to your crust. If your oven gives off a lot of smoke or doesn't seem to get hot enough, this is most likely a result of using green or damp wood with too high a moisture content. It is important to buy your logs from a reputable source and have a dry place to store them.
For a more precise recipe, follow the instructions below.
A delicious white bread recipe
You do not need to be a professional baker in order to start baking bread. Just follow our steps and you too can master the art of baking bread in your very own wood burning oven.
NB: You can adjust these steps and ingredients according to your taste and depending on whether you are baking large loaves or smaller loaves.
- Active dry yeast
- Sunflower oil or extra virgin olive oil
- Bread flour
- Heavy whipping cream
Instructions on how to bake bread:
- Combine your buttermilk, honey and yeast. Stir gently and let this mixture stand for 30 minutes to activate the yeast.
- Add your egg, oil, salt and a full cup of bread flour while stirring. Add enough extra flour to create a "tacky" and firm ball of dough. Place your formed ball on a lightly floured surface. Knead for 10-15 minutes. This activates the proteins in the bread and creates the desired consistency.
- Put the dough back into the bowl, sprinkle a little extra flour on top and then cover the bowl with a damp tea cloth. Let it rise for 3+ hours.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and cornmeal. Shape your dough into your desired shape. You can form baguettes or rounds to bake these loaves. Cover it loosely and let it proof for up to 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 190°C (375°F) baking temperature.
- Brush cream, butter or olive oil over the loaf. Slash the bread with a knife and make the slashes about an inch deep. Place a pan of cold water on your oven rack or in your wood burning oven to create a steam-filled environment. Stick your bread into the hot, preheated oven and allow it to bake for 30-40 minutes or until the crust is browned.
- Final Tips: Always use fresh yeast. Check the expiration to guarantee freshness. Make sure you have a slightly wet dough that is a little sticky to the touch. You can even use a cast iron pan if you are using a regular oven. Your bread should sound hollow when it is done. Allow your bread to cool completely before you cut it.
Having prepared your own loaf is bound to be satisfying! Now, it is time for eating and enjoying the fruit of your labour! Bon appetit!
Once you gain baking experience, there are all sorts of different bread recipes to try and other dishes you can bake. Whether you want to bake white plain loaves, rolls with olives and sundried tomatoes, focaccia, baguettes, a satisfying granary or a rosemary and garlic flat bread, you can experiment with many different ingredients in your bread baking. There are a wide variety of baked goods you can make in your wood fired oven including pizza. You will have artisan bread at the fraction of the price you would pay and the satisfaction of your own creation from your home oven. All you need to get started are flour, yeast, salt, water and a sense of adventure!
Vitcas wood burning ovens and related refractory materials can be found in the Wood Fired Ovens section.
Happy baking! :)