Sunday, November 24, 2013

Authentic Brick Ovens

Call me weird, but whenever I see the term, "authentic brick oven" on a restaurant, or business and what they have is a cast-refractory oven with a few bricks adorning the face, I reflect on how traditions get 'modernized'.  I once saw an add for organic bricks:-?
So, who wants to build or have an authentic brick oven and why?





Be forewarned, really, true, authentic brick ovens are more work or more money than cast-refractory kits.  The differences exist on many levels:
  1. An oven built with fire brick is far more durable than cast refractory because the structure is integral, each brick supported by the ones on either side and the ones below, locked in place by gravity and by the traditional wedge shape of each brick.
  2. An authentic brick oven looks authentic. When you look inside, you see staggered jointed bricks.  You'd see this same pattern in ovens 100-2000 years old.
  3. Authentic brick ovens, built from 4.5" thick fire brick have heat coefficients that match the purpose and contain sufficient mass for a long baking cycle.
  4. True brick ovens can be built by anyone with the attention to detail, the time, and common materials.
I chose to build brick ovens with authentic brick because there is a tradition that makes the work satisfying.  One might say that cast-refractory has it's parallel in the book industry, where you can purchase an Ebook rather than have the tactile experience of a printed, bound, volume.

But Ebook sellers don't represent their digital version as an authentic book.  Or do they?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Brick Oven Dome Building Revisited

Brick Oven Dome Building

Three years ago I posted this subject and it has been the most visited of all posts (1480 visits).  I can only assume that either 1480 potential brick oven builders looked at it, or one guy checked the details a lot:)
Since then, a number of details have changed in my approach to building brick ovens. 



They are:
  1. The mouth of the ovens are on average 20" wide while the face arch is about 32". Rather than angle the walls from back to front, I build the side of the face arch perpendicular to the face creating a wide flat surface larger than the mouth for the door to set against.  This simplifies the masonry but still allows easy access to the interior of the dome.  Nearly all precasts have a straight tunnel-like face and mouth creating blind spots within the oven
  2. The floor of the oven is laid herringbone style with standard firebrick but unlike the previous post illustration, the ovens today lay the pattern diagonal to the face.  Aside from a good looking pattern this avoids the possibility of the metal peel used to handle baked products from catching on a brick edge, however minute. 
  3. I no longer cut the arch angle on bricks but use #1 and #2 manufactured fire brick.  In combination, this allows me to perfectly predict how many of each brick is needed for each diameter oven.   I cut the a fit the bricks dry, number them, and then take them to the project.
I still cut the wedge and skew, angles that make the mortar joints very thin and the dome strong.

Current domes using these materials and techniques are beautiful inside and out.

This is very similar to the bakery ovens I found on my visit to the excavated ruins of Pompeii, in Italy.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

From Concept to Cooking: Part Eight- Oven, Grills, and Pot-boilers

A recently complete project in Maine illustrates how a wood-fired brick oven can be combined with modern appliances.



Conveniences like, propane grills and two-burner range-tops were cut into the granite ledgers.
Now, every level of cook can stand side-by-side and turn out a feast.

We were fortunate to have a source, through the owner, of rare, reclaimed fish-scale slate roofing.

Other details include oak beams cut from a single tree and milled locally.