I decided to make some dough this morning to bring to Knockvicar Organic Garden for baking in the clay oven. The fire had been lit early this morning by the lovely Laszlo and allowed to die down to embers.
I've never baked bread in a clay oven before. It is very different to using an oven obviously, a fierce heat - dry and quick to burn bread.
I tried a focaccia. We only placed it just inside the door - not even into the main chamber, and within minutes it was going brown on one side.
With plentiful turning and watching and even flipping, it came out lovely in the end and was devoured in minutes. (Complete with butter. How Irish are we!?)
There were a couple of delicious pizza-type concoctions cooked and then I put in two loaves of bread at the end, when things had cooled down a bit. I put them in the main oven for about 10 minutes and then brought them out to the door, shifting them back and forth every few minutes until I found the spot where they would cook and not burn. I found leaving the door ajar helped too.
Eventually it was just me and the dog in the pouring rain, keeping a watchful eye on the bread, and shifting tins back and forth continually. Well, that was me, the dog just lay on the ground trying not to get rained on, more successfully than me!
It seems to be that there is a lot of experimenting with clay ovens, learning how the oven fires - it reminds me of firing pottery in a wood-fired kiln some years back - learning how the kiln reacted to being fed with wood, what happened to the temperature each time more wood was added. Learning and responding to the fire.
Overall a great success, and lots of lovely eating happened today. There is a slight smokiness off the bread, and the crust was gorgeous too - crispier and crunchier than an electric oven.
The oven was hot for hours too, I can see why they are used communally - you can get so much baking out of one firing. I'll certainly be back with my dough again. Thanks Knockvicar!