Sunday, July 14, 2013

From Concept to Cooking: Part Five----bricks and mortar

The word "to"  between 'concept' and 'cooking' is where the physical work takes place.
This is also where material considerations are given their due weight (pun intended).

A high-quality, long-lasting brick oven can only be built from materials designed to take the heat.
Other materials may work but, in this case, the equation works.

Fortunately, I have posted at least 50 articles on this part of the process.  I recommend a search with the key words: 'specs',  'building', 'arch', insulation. or whatever you have a question about.

I am also available via my website link, to answer gnarly questions you might have after you have started the project.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

From Concept to Cooking: Part Four

Kneading Conference bread from my oven
Audrix on market day
Inspiration for your brick oven can have any starting point.
For many in America, their first introduction to wood-fired brick ovens is a via a pizza.

Although pizzas from wood-fired ovens are remarkable, artisan bread holds the place of ancient tradition.  The upcoming Kneading Conference in Skowhegan, Maine (, where I brought my portable oven last year, illuminated the variety and techniques of artisan bread making.  A number of professional bakers made breads in my oven and I learned more than can be written in a year's worth of blog posts.  Recently, I had the pleasure of having Michael and Sandy Jubinsky of Stone Turtle Baking and Cooking School (, whom I met at the KC last year, present a artisan bread workshop with my oven at the Northern New England Home and Garden Show (‎).

Also, previous posts describing community wood-fired brick ovens in Europe also centered around bread.

Naturally, when I design an oven project, I take into account the experiences and cultural contexts of the people for whom I am working.  The project at Pietree Orchard in Sweden, Maine (see featured project on sought to bring a European influence to New England. 
exterior of Pietree oven

exterior of Audrix oven

This sometimes involves 'transliterating' styles.
Style is an essential part of brick oven design.  The interior of the oven may be built in any way you wish (see a ton of previous posts) but the exterior should reflect your aesthetic taste.
After that, whatever else that may come out of the oven will taste better for it.
Face of Pietree oven

Friday, July 5, 2013

From Concept to Cooking: Part Three

This oven was part of a patio/house/oven splice.  The pattern of patio bricks and the placement of the oven were determined by the enclosed outdoor space created by two porches on the house.

The brick pattern was laid to converge in front of the oven mouth and meet in the corner of the two porches.  Extending the brick motif from the patio to the oven and the granite usage from the ledge upon which the oven was built to the patio edges and the oven face also seemed natural.

 Combining brick for the upper part of the oven enclosure and stone veneer for the lower portion (wood box) gave the project a break from all brick or all stone.  The oven has a faux slate roof.  As with all my projects, one central goal is to make the whole new part seem like it has always been there.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

From Concept to Cooking: Part Two

I'll use the Ventura, California brick oven as an example here.  Because the project was across the country from where I live, the conceptual work was limited to discussions of size, location, and materials.

Influences such as actual location, special materials, and additional aesthetic choices were left until the day of my arrival or later.  The project launched immediately following a rough sketch of the proposed oven.  The location was marked out and my helpers arrived to help lug materials up the 35 steps to the work site.

But even as the concrete block base and the poured floor slab were in progress, I began conceptualizing how the roof and face would be designed and executed.  This was to be an oven of arches.  It was intended to combine multiple types of stone and stucco.  And it needed to be artistically cohesive.

Good weather (December) helped.  The brain works well when it is 68F and sunny.

Part three next...