Thursday, 29 May 2014

The brick oven – part 1






My husband’s bread obsession started while we were living in India. Being the North European that he is, he cannot live without three things: bread, butter and coffee. These seem like pretty basic needs, but if one of these things is not available, it’s a crisis situation.

We were living in South India, where coffee is cultivated, so good coffee was readily available. The butter he found ‘acceptable’. But good bread was a real challenge. Of course there are many delicious types of Indian ‘flat’ breads, but finding a good baguette or decent loaf of ‘leavened’ bread was not easy.

Since he couldn’t find good bread, he took matters in his own hands (literally) and decided to make his own. We bought an electric oven (a rarity in Indian kitchens) and months of experimentation followed. He must have tried every brand of flour available in Bangalore, looking for one with enough gluten content. In the end he was buying bags of gluten which he mixed with flour to give the dough enough ‘rising power’. Finding fresh yeast was another challenge – dry yeast did not do the trick – but he eventually found a bakery where he could buy it.

After many many months of experimentation, he was baking some pretty good bread. Pretty amazing bread. As well as pizza, baguettes, bagels, brioche and croissants!

So it’s not too surprising that part of our house renovation project here in Istria would include a brick oven in the courtyard. Which he would of course build himself from scratch. What followed was extensive research on thermal conductivity and refractory building materials and even a computer-generated model of the oven modelled in 3D. For months I’ve been hearing about the pros and cons of Pompeii versus barrel vault ovens, refractory bricks, thermal insulation, perlite, calcium silicate boards, infrared thermometers, stone-cutting machines and diamond blades...

The 3D model of the brick oven

The 3D model of the dome

Very recently the first stage of the brick oven building project started to take shape. The foundation of the oven has been built with some help from our majstor for the stone-cutting and brick-laying, followed by the laying of a layer of perlcrete insulation. The next step will be the careful building of the oven’s dome out of refractory bricks.

Here are a few pictures of the brick oven building process so far:



Stay tuned for part 2!

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