Friday, August 31, 2012

Ancient Brick Ovens

Touring the Dordogne offers the opportunity to see many castles, chateaus, and tiny villages.  Castelnaud has excellent exhibits of middle ages activities.
That the views from the castle walls were spectacular didn't hurt either.

The medieval brick oven is built into the fireplace and is under the mantel.  The flue for the oven can be seen above exiting into the fireplace chimney.
Pheasant, rabbit, and quail are optional.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

French Living

Having arrived in Dordogne, life has slowed down, giving us time for outdoor eating and visiting with Jose (yes French) my Audrix boulanger friend.
I have a lot of video footage of the baking that will be attached later as a YouTube opportunity. 
Sent from a cafe in Les Ezyies in the Vezere valley, location of Lascaux.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Brick Oven Contrilbutors

On Friday, September 21st, I will be speaking at the Common Ground Country Fair ( on Community Brick Ovens in our Future (
In order to present this in the fullest possible way, I have spoken with, visited, Googled, and oogled community brick ovens around the western world.

As a visitor to this blog, your contribution to my presentation would be greatly appreciated.  With over 25,000 visits to this blog, I am fairly certain that some of the visitors from around the world have photos and/or information to share that would expand my talk to give the attendees the best possible insight into the history, current use, and future potential of promoting a community brick oven wherever we live.

Please send me stuff!  Whatever source (i.e. email, etc) will never be used for any purpose.  The information and photos will show people what is going on around the world.

Thanks in advance for your contribution,
David Neufeld
True Brick Ovens

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Four Banal- the community brick oven in France

By this time next week I will be in the Dordogne countryside surrounded by villages with community brick ovens.
My previous visit allowed me to explore small villages in the Dordogne region that had working brick ovens or ones that were the core of community life in the recent past.

I will be staying just a short walk from Audrix where every Tuesday the four banal is fired up for a market day.
Also in the visit, my travels will take me along the western coast of France and I hope to meet and photograph brick ovens in operation.

And of course, the food and wine...

Friday, August 17, 2012

Before and After

Brick ovens will certainly change your way of cooking and eating. 
They will also change your environment (not related to carbon footprint).
What began as an outcrop ledge became a cooking and entertaining environment.

Both the patio and the oven were designed together.  A reverse view of the home puts the project in context.

Handmade door and custom keystone makes these ovens personal.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Brick Oven Grilling

The mouth of a brick oven is an ideal location for wood-fired grilling.  The throat (the area above the mouth where the chimney exits) acts as a hood for the smoke from grilling.

By placing half bricks in four locations and setting a standard section from a gas grill atop these bricks you create a grilling location.  A small fire of hardwood sticks will give you grilling coals in 15 minutes and by feeding a few small sticks towards the end of grilling you will get smoke and flame that will perfect the grilled product (meat, fish, vegetables).  If you have a vegetable grilling tray (the one with lots of holes and tabs for holding on each end), the process will be super-easy,

At the end of last week, I grilled steak tips one night and added small sticks of apple wood for the smoke.  The next night I grilled chicken and threw in fresh rosemary stems for their smoke.  Then on Sunday, I made pizza.  Monday morning I cooked breakfast and off I went to a week of building a stone garden house for a customer.

I use seven pieces of quarter split firewood for all this cooking.

In comparison to our gas grill, the smoked meats were spectacular.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Brick Oven Details

Customizing the exterior of a brick oven allows the owner to enjoy their cooking device from a purely aesthetic view.  Since the oven will be part of the visual environment and since brick ovens by nature are ancient, it makes sense to me, that they should reflect both the personality of the baker and have a cultural context.

Two features that merit special attention are the keystone and the shelf.  These most often have materials that differ from the rest of the oven and become 'standouts'.

The above brick oven has Irish limestone shelf and keystone.
The below oven has natural river-smoothed stone and mosaic.

Each oven I build has a guiding theme.  The function of the oven is determined. The appearance can vary greatly.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Johnson and Wales University in Maine

Richard  Miscovich with Chris French (foreground)

tool used to score loaves
basket for forming loaves

Johnson and Wales University was represented at the recent Kneading Conference by at least three expert bakers.  Richard Miscovich and Chris French demonstrated the use of sprouted wheat flour for 100% whole wheat loaves that are moist and sweet.

These photos illustrate how much more there is to baking beautiful bread AND, for some, what a  science it is.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Artisan Bread: The Crust

Having started my bread-making life in the 70's, I had certain outdated (or not updated) assumptions on what makes a great loaf of artisan bread.
The recent Kneading Conference put me straight.  The bread oven needs an injection of steam immediately following the introduction of bread loaves.
At the conference, this was done with a plant sprayer.  Commercial ovens have built-in injectors.  The sprayer is aimed at the dome roof.  Cast refractory oven owners may want to spray onto a metal pan in the oven as spraying the cast refractory may shock it.  Brick ovens are more durable.

bread on left, sprayer on right
The result is a glossy, golden crust, the kind we may wonder at when we purchase a loaf from a local bakery.

The second aspect to great artisan bread is what is called, 'the spring'.  This is when a round of dough, placed on a 500 degree hearth, rises so that the resulting loaf curves upward.  The pleasing shape of the boules, batards, or baguettes, is as organic as our bodies.