Our Wood-Fired Cob Bread-Baking Oven:
An Experiment in Progress, Part 1


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Making the oven base
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Our friend, Steve, cuts a soapstone boulder he found.
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Soapstone slabs for the oven floor (1)
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The interior mold
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Starting the layers of cob (2)
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Three layers later
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Cutting the door
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Opening the door
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Firing the oven as a rocket stove with a stove pipe and an air tube (3)
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Lighting the fire with the fuel fed through the air tube
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The first fire in the new oven
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First the flames come out the air tube
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Then, as the oven warms, the direction of the flames reverse
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Taking out the coals in order to bake
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Let's see if this will work
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The first experiments
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Trying to make French bread
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A more successful batch
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The experiments continue
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This is more like it, but a lot more experiments are needed.
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Go to Part 2
After these initial experiments, we realized we had an oven that had the potential for baking some really great bread, but bread is more than just the oven. We read Daniel Leader and Judith Blahnik's Bread Alone which gives detailed instructions on making bread.

(1) The first time we fired the oven with the soapstone floor, one of the slabs cracked and spalled. Perhaps there was a fault in it. We have since experimented with lining the floor partially with fire brick. We have been reading that fire brick works well for bread, while soapstone is good for pizza, so we will have to try that out.

(2) In making this oven, we followed Kiko Denzer's book called "Build Your Own Earth Oven." His website is http://www.handprintpress.com where he has other books, as well.

(3) We learned about rocket stoves from our friend, Ianto Evans of the Cob Cottage Company, and decided to play around and see if we could make a rocket oven. One of the holes in the oven takes a removable stove pipe, and the other the air tube, which extends to about an inch above the floor of the oven. The intense heat focused on the floor of the oven may have contributed to cracking and spalling the soapstone slab. The normal way of firing the oven, however, by stacking all the wood inside, and having a stove pipe whose hole we close off when baking, and no air tube, seems to work just as well, or better, because there is more fuel burning in the oven at one time, but we need to experiment some more.

Check out Masonry Stove Builders

Part 2