Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Oven Progress

By the time that I'm writing this I've come along way since my first post and why not...it's been almost two years. Everyone that I promised pizzas are probably thinking that I should have just ordered out and be done with it.   Let me go through the process with you.

In the end I decided to take all the information on oven design and make my own. My design was a quick and dirty design. Meant to be a temporary proof of concept that I would use to familiarize myself with the ins and outs of oven building. To keep costs down I used a limited number of firebricks and commercial grade high-strength cement.

First I drew out my plans, dimensions and dome firebrick placement. The rest of the oven would be 2-3 inch thick concrete.

Oven Plans

The base of the oven was built from metal stud material.   I then built a platform to where I poured an insulating layer of vermiculite and cement. Then with rebar to reinforce the oven baking surface I was ready to pour.

Oven base with insulating layer poured
Now the baking surface has been poured and it's redy to start on the dome construction.

Oven base with baking surface poured
This is the inner-dome frame.  The idea was to put firebrick on the flat and angled top section, where the fire would be most intense, leaving the sides to be just cement. I really didn't want cement chipping off onto my pizza.

Oven inner-form
The next layer of the dome was the outside. I made the outside walls and a chimney opening. After the cement was poured I could remove the outside frame and the inner frame would just burn away.

Oven inner-form and outer-form 
At this point I'm ready to pour the cement. The firebricks are in place and I've added some wire fencing to add some extra strength. It doesn't look like a lot of area to fill in but I ended up using about 10 bags of cement in all. Which meant this little oven weighed way more than I thought it would. I needed to add some extra supports to my base. I didn't want the oven toppling over and killing anyone.

Oven forms, firebricks ready to pour cement
Probably the most exciting day to date was when I built the first fire. I let the cement cure for about a month and then each day built larger and larger fires in the oven. I had been building fires in the ovens for about a month and then we had some rainy days. I didn't want a bunch of water soaking into the cement and undoing my curing process. I know it's not pretty but this works well until the permanent solution is built.
First fire!
Oven with phase-one protective walls and roof
Two summers ago I dug out the area who I wanted the oven to go. That means two autumns and two springs have passed where I've thought about pouring the pad and cleaned away leaves just to let it fill back in again. In the beginning, I planned for a larger oven and so designed a large pad. This pad is much larger than I need and therefore took a lot of cement to fill. I mixed 33.5 60 lbs bags of concrete by hand. This is not something that I would ever like to repeat. But, it's done and I'm very glad to finally have the hole filled in.

Oven pad
Yesterday I moved the oven into place and would have put it down directly onto the pad but it started to rain. It still is, so it looks like I'll be doing it over the weekend when it clears.

Oven ready to lower into place
So here I am.  I have scheduled a pizza party for the end of April as much as a pre-Farmers' Market party as motivation to finish this project.  My next post on this subject, oven-willing, will have pictures of awesome pizzas and much fun had by all.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

2012 Update

I left you at the end of 2011 with a sense of relief that the farmers' markets were over and a time to work on new ideas. I thought I could get back to you sooner and before I knew it I'm already starting to think a about this year's markets. How time does fly!

One of things that I wanted to work on during the break was a pie crust. Mixing and forming by hand is very different than in a scaled up environment. With the equipment that I have, especially my Rondo machine, I think that I might have a better-than-home method.

Three pies I made at home with dough that I made at the bakery.  Apple,  Apple/Rhubarb and Pear/Rhubarb
I also made a couple of pork pot pies but I ate them before I had a chance to take any pictures.

In the near future I'd like to offer fruit pies, savory pies and even just plain dough for anyone to make what ever kind of pie that they'd like.  I'll definitely be keeping some in my freezer this summer to take advantage of seasonal fruit for a quick dessert.

Other projets on the burner are gluten free buns and pretzel buns.