Thursday, August 7, 2014


If you're not baking sourdough breads, then there's a good chance your breads are rather bland tasting. Of course, you could always jazz them up with molasses, toasted sesame seeds, honey or whatever.
Instead try this. Simply add about a quarter cup of sourdough starter to your flour, yeast, salt and water mixture. I used to think that the sourdough fought a nasty battle with the domestic yeast and no one was the winner. Now I believe that they get along fine and can benefit each other. The domestic yeast (and we're only talking about 1/4 teaspoon per 500g loaf) will take some of the guess work out of the process when added to the sourdough starter, and everything becomes more predictable.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Oven In Progress part 6

Our oven builders are back on the job. They've decided to build a brick arch at the mouth of their oven, and that's a good idea. The brick will protect the opening of the earth oven from be whacked by firewood and oven peels.

Catenary Arch Form and Brick Arch Form

Brick Arch in Place

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Oven In Progress Part #5

In preparation for rain, the canopy is the way to go. There are lots of things you can do in the rain, but constructing an earth oven is not one of them.

The Kneading Conference 2014

Join us at the Kneading Conference in Skowhegan, Maine in July. You won't be disappointed.
I'll be leading an earth oven workshop.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Bread First

For the past several months, my son and I have been working on a beginner's guide to bread baking, and we have come up with this slim, yet complete book. If you know of an easier way to make bread, I'd sure like to hear about it.
Bread First is a book for beginners. Everything a beginner needs to know can be found here. You can expect to bake great bread the first time. The process is simple, and the ingredients are readily available. "No knead" baking is for everyone. No experience is required. Clear instructions with photos make everything extra easy.

Download an ebook here 
Order a print copy here

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Oven In Progress

Here's a good photo of the top slab completely surrounded by perlite insulation, ready for firebrick and sand mold.
Our oven builders are taking off for awhile, and they probably won't get back to the oven until mid-July.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Oven In Progress

It's a new day and the temporary metal ring to support the top slab has been removed. Probably insulation will separate the slab from the stone base because it would make no sense to transfer heat from the slab to the base.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Oven In Progress (con't)

The family is back at it today, and they completed a top slab upon which the firebricks will rest. The top slab will give the oven more mass, and it is essential for serious bread baking, but if you were just making pizzas and flatbreads, you could skip the top slab.

 Temporary metal enclosure to support the sides of the slab

The little red beast beautifully mixes the concrete for the slab

There is nothing like watching the work get done

The top slab is done and the metal ring will be removed when the concrete hardens

stay tuned for the next installment

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Oven In Progress (con't)

The happy oven builders (I hope they're) are at it again for another session. They have just finished filling the void between the stone base with rubble and topped off with perlite insulation. They used 8" of perlite insulation with some bottles in the middle which may add to the insulation value. 
It looks like they mixed Portland cement in with the perlite, but none is necessary. Portland cement creates thermal pathways for the heat to escape, so it is best left out of the base. The perlite alone will easily support a top concrete slab. 
If you're insulating the outside of the dome with perlite, then you need some Portland cement to hold it all together. 6 parts perlite to 1 part Portland.


 Stay tuned for the next work day

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Permit To Build

Before spending any time designing an oven for your property, find out if you can legally do this.
In two weeks I was prepared to build an oven for someone, and it was suggested that it might be a good idea for the property owner to speak to the code enforcement officer first. The officer gave an emphatic "no." He said the location was too close to the lake. That was it. No oven. Do your homework