Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Brick Oven Builder's Geneology

Kiln shed and wood pile a lot like my old one

Almost identical kiln to my old one
I can trace my interest in building brick ovens back almost 40 years. In the mid-1970's I was making wood-fired stoneware and porcelain pottery. As a ploy to lure customers down the back road and quarter mile path to my pottery, I made a large batch of bread dough. On the morning following the 2100 degree (white hot) firing, the kiln had cooled to 500 degrees and using fireproof gloves, I removed the pots from the top kiln shelf and slid the bread pans of dough into the kiln. Twenty minutes later I and my customers were enjoying the most perfect bread. Whether I sold any pots doesn't stick in my memory as well as the bread.
A recent 48" oven I built
Fast forward 30 years. I'm still baking bread. I've been a professional landscape designer and stone mason for a dozen years. The bricks from my old kiln have been gathering moss. A few friends talk about building ovens. I have an old work trailer capable of carrying a ton or more.
My first oven (still in use) was built on the Pompeii model, a style I still advocate. Those old bricks, some of which were witness to bread baking many years ago, now see dozens of meals, bread, roasts, pies, pizzas as well as the people I feed.
My first brick oven

As a potter, I burned 12 cords of softwood a year. As a baker I burn an armload of hardwood each firing. If anything, the bread has gotten better.

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