Build Your Own Earth Oven: A Low-cost, Wood-fired Mud Oven, Simple Sourdough Bread, Perfect Loaves

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Hand Print Press, 2007 - Cooking - 132 pages
2 Reviews

Earth ovens combine the utility of a wood-fired, retained-heat oven with the ease and timeless beauty of earthen construction. Building one will appeal to bakers, builders, and beginners of all kinds, from:

    *    the serious or aspiring baker who wants the best low-cost
bread oven, to
    *    gardeners who want a centerpiece for a beautiful
outdoor kitchen, to
    *    outdoor chefs, to
    *    creative people interested in low-cost materials and
simple technology, to
    *    teachers who want a multi-faceted, experiential project for students of all ages (the book has been successful  with
 everyone from third-graders to adults).

Build Your Own Earth Oven is fully illustrated with step-by-step directions, including how to tend the fire, and how to make perfect sourdough hearth loaves in the artisan tradition. The average do-it-yourselfer with a few tools and a scrap pile can build an oven for free, or close to it. Otherwise, $30 should cover all your materials--less than the price of a fancy "baking stone." Good building soil is often right in your back yard, under your feet. Build the simplest oven in a day! With a bit more time and imagination, you can make a permanent foundation and a fire-breathing dragon-oven or any other shape you can dream up.

Earth ovens are familiar to many that have seen a southwestern "horno" or a European "bee-hive" oven. The idea, pioneered by Egyptian bakers in the second millennium BCE, is simplicity itself: fill the oven with wood, light a fire, and let it burn down to ashes. The dense, 3- to 12-inch-thick earthen walls hold and store the heat of the fire, the baker sweeps the floor clean, and the hot oven walls radiate steady, intense heat for hours.

Home bakers who can't afford a fancy, steam-injected bread oven will be delighted to find that a simple earth oven can produce loaves to equal the fanciest "artisan" bakery. It also makes delicious roast meats, cakes, pies, pizzas, and other creations. Pizza cooks to perfection in three minutes or less. Vegetables, herbs, and potatoes drizzled with olive oil roast up in minutes for a simple, elegant, and delicious meal. Efficient cooks will find the residual heat useful for slow-baked dishes, and even for drying surplus produce, or incubating homemade yogurt.

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It's inspiring and fascinating to read. If you want to build an earth oven this will make you want it more. That said, this is not an instruction manual in the normal sense. It doesn't say "Step 1. get clay from supplier. Step 2, mix clay with sand .... etc."
The instructions are more in the (wavy gravy) sort of style. The bread recipe for sourdough bread states that the ingredients are water flour and salt. Use 1 tsp salt for each loaf. Nothing about how much flour for a loaf, or how wet is too wet. Very loose instructions.
The reality is that if you are going to build an earth oven you should plan on reading more than this book, and also plan on making more than one oven. you will probably want to build a better one after you've used your first one for a while, but then again if you want an oven like this you probably are willing to put up with some minor problems along the way.

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About the author (2007)

Kiko Denzer is an artist, teacher, and author in the earthen building revival. He serves as artist-in-residence in schools in his home state of Oregon, and has muddied tens of thousands of hands with his popular oven and bread manual, Build Your Own Earth Oven.

Hannah Field baked for organic bakeries in the UK. She lives in Oregon with Kiko Denzer, with whom she shares a home, garden, & two sons.

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