Saturday, January 19, 2008

Homemade bread in a homemade oven

I mentioned in a previous post that one of the things I'm interested in doing is building an earth oven. I first got excited about the topic when I read Build Your Own Earth Oven for an Eco-Art class that I took here at the university. Unfortunately, we couldn't get the go ahead from the administration to actually build the oven on the university-owned organic farm. It's still something I want to do on my own time, and an earth oven is certainly something I would constantly use in my self-sufficient life.

A quick image search uncovers some of the amazing artistry that can go into building an earth oven. I think that's part of what intrigues me: not only is it something practical, but it's something you can also get crazy with artistically.

The book I mentioned is a great resource. It covers the science behind both constructing and cooking in an earth oven, explains different types of earth ovens, and then gives instructions for building an earth oven for yourself. Basically, you create a form out of sand or some material you can burn out of the oven, and then you cover it with a mixture of sand, clay, and straw. But it can get way more complex as you add insulation and surface area for trapping heat, chimneys, storage for wood, a little chute for disposing of ashes, etc. And the book is fully illustrated to boot.

Even if you have no intention of building your own oven, the section on making your own bread with natural yeasts is superb. It covers making the dough, and then how to cook it to get pita, pizza dough, and artisan breads. This section alone is worth it, and I'm constantly using the information I gained to make bread in my conventional oven here in my apartment.

Keep your eyes peeled for any other books you see on the subject... I'm certainly interested in reading them. Also, if you find any good pictures, I love to see how artistic people get with their ovens (or innovative for that matter, as I've seen people use waste heat from earth ovens to heat water pipes).

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