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Bread Builders: Hearth Loaves and Masonry Ovens
     

Bread Builders: Hearth Loaves and Masonry Ovens

by Alan Scott, Daniel Wing
 

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Creating the perfect loaf of bread--a challenge that has captivated bakers for centuries--is now the rage in the hippees places, from Waitsfield, Vermont, to Point Reyes Station, California. Like the new generation of beer drinkers who consciously seek out distinctive craft-brewed beers, many people find that their palates have been reawakened and re-educated by

Overview

Creating the perfect loaf of bread--a challenge that has captivated bakers for centuries--is now the rage in the hippees places, from Waitsfield, Vermont, to Point Reyes Station, California. Like the new generation of beer drinkers who consciously seek out distinctive craft-brewed beers, many people find that their palates have been reawakened and re-educated by the taste of locally baked, whole-grain breads. Today's village bakers are finding an important new role--linking tradition with a sophisticated new understanding of natural levens, baking science and oven construction.

Daniel Wing, a lover of all things artisinal, had long enjoyed baking his own sourdough bread. His quest for the perfect loaf began with serious study of the history and chemistry of bread baking, and eventually led to an apprenticeship with Alan Scott, the most influential builder of masonry ovens in America.

Alan and Daniel have teamed up to write this thoughtful, entertaining, and authoritative book that shows you how to bake superb healthful bread and build your own masonry oven. The authors profile more than a dozen small-scale bakers around the U.S. whose practices embody the holistic principles of community-oriented baking based on whole grains and natural leavens.

The Bread Builders will appeal to a broad range of readers, including:

  • Connoisseurs of good bread and good food.
  • Home bakers interested in taking their bread and pizza to the next level of excellence.
  • Passionate bakers who fantasize about making a living by starting their own small bakery.
  • Do-it-yourselfers looking for the next small construction project.
  • Small-scale commercial bakers seeking inspiration, the most up-to-date knowledge about the entire bread-baking process, and a marketing edge.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Review from Ecology Action Newsletter-

The Bread Builders: Hearth Loaves and Masonry Ovens, by Daniel Wing and Alan Scott, is a serious book, written for people who take their bread baking seriously. It is not a cookbook but one whose object is to help the baker understand all parts of the process that go into creating an excellent loaf. As such, it is a technical journal that thoroughly details natural fermentation, bread grains and flours, leavens and dough, and dough development. The second part is about masonry ovens and their construction, since both authors agree that such an oven is a necessary part of creating the excellent loaf. Each chapter of the book includes a visit to a commercial or private venture which is using some or all of the processes being described. The book is not a light read but should prove inspiring to those wanting more information about the baking process, how to construct a masonry oven or anyone who is glad to see that these traditional methods are being nurtured rather than forgotten.

"This book is ice cream for a baker! We visit legendary bakeries, meet wonderful people, learn all sorts of fascinating scientific information with practical usefulness in bowl and oven--and best of all, get the skinny on masonry ovens, that cherished fantasy of us all."--Laurel Robertson, author of Laurel's Kitchen

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781890132057
Publisher:
Chelsea Green Publishing
Publication date:
07/01/1999
Series:
Polyface Titles Ser.
Pages:
250
Sales rank:
232,976
Product dimensions:
8.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.70(d)

Read an Excerpt


The Right Kind of Flour

I wish I could just tell you what kind of flour to buy to bake bread, but I can't. Not because I'm in the hip pocket of a flour company, but because I don't know enough about you. I don't know:

  • where you live -- the local all-purpose flour in New England will make good bread but not good biscuits, while the local all-purpose flour in Alabama will make good biscuits but not good bread.

  • what kind of bread you like -- hearth bread, pan bread, white bread, dark bread

  • whether you only eat organic foods

  • whether you have a grain mill

  • whether you will hand-knead your dough

  • whether you use natural leavens (sourdoughs)

  • I would need to know the answers to these questions, and others, before I could recommend a flour. "Wheat" is many varieties of grain, each lot of grain is different even within one variety, and a miller can make many types of flour from one lot of wheat. This chapter will give you enough of a background about wheat to enable you to ask the questions you need to ask to get the flour you need for the baking you want to do. Let's start at the beginning -- the beginnings of agriculture.
    Oven Considerations
    You will be more familiar with masonry materials after you have read the chapter on materials (chapter 8). If you are going to build your own oven, you need to buy a basic book on masonry construction or get one from the library. It would be wasteful to duplicate all of that information here. After educating yourself you must still make several decisions:
    1. Do you want a slab and block walls as your foundation (as is presented in this book), or some other arrangement, such as a heavy-duty welded metal stand?
    2. Are you in a cold climate, where the foundation should be insulated or placed over a rubble footing to prevent frost heaving?
    3. Do you want an ash slot in the hearth? They are convenient for bread ovens but optional for pizza ovens, where the fire is pushed into the back or side, not raked out.
    4. What is your comfortable working height? For most people it is a little below elbow level. Remember that this is the height of the finished hearth, not the height of the ash-dump walls or the height of the top of the hearth slab. The traditional height of a European hearth is 90 centimeters -- about 351/2 inches; however, many bakers like a higher hearth. A lower one will not do, unless children will be actively involved with the oven, as at a school.
    5. Will you use firebrick or red brick for the walls and dome? If you use firebrick for the walls and dome you need 10 percent fewer bricks than the standard plans call for, because firebrick are larger than red brick.
    6. Will you use Portland cement or alumina-based concrete for the hearth slab and cladding of the oven, and how thick will the cladding be? Use alumina and a thicker cladding if you are going to be baking every day, or if you want to bake more than three loads per firing.
    7. Do you want thermocouples, and how many? I recommend at least one in the wall or dome, and one in the hearth, but having a series of three of them in line somewhere in the dome is even better.
    8. What will the facade of the oven look like?
    9. What type of arch do you want at the opening of the chimney recess, and what type of brick, stone, or tile is to be seen on the facade?
    10. Do you want a stone slab or bricks for your outer hearth?
    11. Will you insulate the bottom of the hearth slab to save heat? This will be worthwhile if you plan to use the oven more than once a week, and it adds little expense or labor.
    12. How will you insulate the dome and walls of the oven?
    13. If outdoors, what kind of roof and enclosure do you want? If indoors, what kind of outer oven finish do you want? Brick, stucco, stone?
    14. Will your flue run straight up, or does it need to snake around somewhere to get out of the building?
    As you can see, there are many questions that must be answered -- and this list is by no means complete. Building a masonry oven requires a certain amount of forethought, but remember, the more consideration you devote in the planning stages the more smoothly the construction processes will proceed and the more satisfied you will be with the final outcome.

    What People are Saying About This

    Laurel Robertson
    This book is ice cream for a baker! We visit legendary bakeries, meet wonderful people, learn all sorts of fascinating scientific information with practical usefulness in bowl and oven-and best of all, get the skinny on masonry ovens, that cherished fantasy of us all. (Laurel Robertson, author of Laurel's Kitchen)
    Thom Leonard
    Wind and Scott do more than get the details right: they get the right details. It is difficult for me to imagine any baker, amateur or professional, coming away from this book without having learned something significant, even profound, about the art of bread baking. (Thom Leonard, author of The Bread Book)

    Meet the Author

    Alan Scott was a craftsman and metaphysician who combined a lifetime's experience in metalwork, farming, and masonry oven-building with a constant awareness of the spiritual dimension of our activities on this earth. Originally from Australia, Alan lectured and led workshops throughout the U.S., under the aegis of his oven building and consultation firm, Ovencrafters, which is based in Petaluma, California. He returned to his native Australia several years ago after becoming ill. He died Jan. 26, 2009, in Tasmania. He was 72.

    Dan Wing, a biologist and physician by training, has written for publications as various as Fine Homebuilding and The Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. He travels out from his home in Vermont in a gypsy wagon of his own construction, and naturally he built his own bread oven on wheels.

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