I used some leftover pizza dough as the pate fermentee for a pain de campagne today.
The bread turned out ok, but plenty of room for improvement.
I started baking at around 425F. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the oven hot enough by the time the dough was ready, so the crust isn’t very brown, and it took about 30 minutes just to get where it was.
Also, I wasn’t careful about getting all of the coals out of the oven. Some of the remaining coals continued to smoke after the door was closed and the loaves were baking, giving the bread a little bit of a smoky taste. It’s not bad, but not great either.
Final tally, 12 pizzas cooked to perfection and 1 fumble. The crowd pleasers were a pesto, goat cheese, and prosciutto pizza, and a provolone, olive, artichoke heart, and roasted pepper pizza.
I poured the perlite insulation into the top of the oven housing today. The builder-grade perlite really flows like water. It didn’t stop running out of the tiny joints in my hardibacker panels, so I sealed them up with duct tape! When I’m ready to stucco, I’ll have to either just stucco over the tape, or pull the tape and slap some mortar on there in a jiffy.
The first pizza was just sauce and cheese (and crust). It cooked in about 3 minutes, with a dome temperature of 750F and heart at 550F. I’m sure there’s still a little water in the structure, especially in the bottom layer of insulation, as we’ve had a lot of rain lately, and the enclosure is not weatherproof. A nice wide roof will help a bunch. When the cooking was finished, I could feel the warm, moist air coming up out of the loose perlite.
Here’s some pictures of the pizzas, a Four-Cheese, a Sausage-Onion, and a Pepperoni.
Here’s my cooking area. I haven’t completely traded the trowel for a peel yet. There’s still work to be done!
However, some hairline cracks appeared in the mortar on the outside of the dome. There are several, and they form a more-or-less continuous network over the entire dome. I understand it’s to be expected. As long as great big chunks of masonry don’t fall into my food, I’ll sleep pretty well at night.
I took down the lath and perlcrete that I had put up over the chimney, because frankly, it looked terrible. It was sagging, out of square, and lopsided. I built a steel frame for the chimney facade, which I will attach hardibacker to, then stucco.
I’m starting to get away from my drawing design just a bit, either to save time or to make a better structure. I don’t want to take any chances on water getting in, so after getting the chimney up, the next task will be to put a shed roof on. Nothing fancy, just plywood and shingles. Then, a little stucco around the top, limestone around the bottom, a hunk of granite for a countertop, and we’ll be all set.
The curing fires must be driving out the moisture. I got the dome of the oven up to 950F today. The outer surface of the dome was up to about 275F, indicating that most of the moisture must be out. Once I get a sturdy roof over the oven, all will be well.
I didn’t have any dough, so I decided to put tonights dinner into the oven. Since I initially fired it with pallet boards and cedar, I waited until there was no smoke, and only coals remaining. These were pushed to the side, and I threw on three smallish oak logs.
Tonights dinner was oven-roasted chicken, oven-roasted asparagus, and oven-roasted curly fries, with some sweet-potato fries as well. I put the chicken in a cast iron skillet, and put it into the oven when the dome was at about 800F and the floor was 650F. The skin started burning after about a minute, so I covered it up and moved it halfway out the door of the oven.
Here’s that chicken.
The asparagus was tossed in a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. I’ve never roasted asparagus before, and this is now my favorite recipe! Much better than steamed or boiled.
The frozen fries did great too. Not as good as homemade, but certainly adequate.
Three walls are on. The chimney is covered in lath and perl-crete. I just found out that the masonry store has perlite for 1/3 the cost of the hydroponics store, so I’ll be filling the entire enclosure with perlite, rather than messing around with chicken wire or partitions.
The dome has had about a month to cure on its own. The evenings are getting warmer, so it’s time to get moving. I lit the first fire tonight. Just a pile of sticks, really. Probably a little larger than the “1 newspaper” fire recommended by the fornobravo folks, but the oven seemed pretty dry.
It burned for about 30 minutes. The smoke went right up the chimney, not much was escaping out of the front. After it was finished, the outside of the dome was slightly warm to the touch. No cracks yet.
I’ve got the steel frame put together and anchored down. Studs are about 16 inches on center, although I got a little creative with the front, since I couldn’t run track across the opening.
I initially built the frame with a 0.25/12 pitch, planning for a flat roof covered with ceramic floor-tiles. I later decided to just use some leftover metal roofing. This called for a steeper pitch, to keep water from pooling or running back under the overlapping pieces. So, I cut a 2×4 on the slant and screwed it to the frame from below.
The walls will be stucco. I’m debating whether to use a backerboard, or expanded metal lath. Does it matter?
I poured the perlite layer over the entire hearth slab. I mentioned in a post on Fornobravo that I was not sure how to anchor the steel frame of the oven enclosure into the perlite layer. Here’s what I ended up doing:
I snapped a chalk line to give me about 5 inches of perlite insulation from the hearth brick to the inside surface of the future wall. Then, I used a wide putty knife and a hammer to cut out blocks of perlcrete. The blocks came out easily, and will come in handy when filling the enclosure with loose perlite.
Some photos of the process:
Having exposed bare concrete, I used a powder-actuated nailer to shoot 1-inch nails through the steel track and into the concrete slab. It was a lot of fun!