Author Topic: First time using WFO tomorrow - any tips?  (Read 4910 times)

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Offline JF_Aidan_Pryde

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First time using WFO tomorrow - any tips?
« on: October 17, 2013, 03:46:59 AM »
Hey gang,

So I've been invited a friend's friend's house and told to make pizza for 25 people. The host owns a WFO, not too big, fits around 4 pies at a time. Its construction is more flat than domed so more Neapolitan I guess. It is imported from Italy.

I have no experience working with a WFO. The setup I've worked the most is an electric oven on the cleaning cycle. Any quick notes on what to do and what not to do would be very much appreciated!

-James


Offline swatson

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Re: First time using WFO tomorrow - any tips?
« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2013, 04:49:04 AM »
Hi James,

Have a look at this site it gives a reasonable guide to what you should do,

http://www.slowfoodandhandforgedtools.com.au/using_oven.html

Stephen

Offline nachtwacht

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Re: First time using WFO tomorrow - any tips?
« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2013, 05:21:03 AM »
Very informative link.

My adition:

Start your fire early in the day if you want to bake 25 pizza's. After 2 hours, your oven will be hot but I think it is hot enough for baking 25 pizza's in a row. The site suggests that it can take up to 4 hours. You do not know the oven you are going to work with, it for sure won't hurt if you fire it up 6 hours or even more before the start of the party. That will make sure your oven will be completely saturated by the time you start baking and it will not cool down after pizza number 10. It will cool down ofcourse, but it won't take as long to be up to temp again, and you will not even notice it if you bake pizza's at a different spot every time.

Get some help with someone preparing the pizza's. People enjoy it and that makes that you can continuously work the pizza's. If you heat up the oven as suggested, they will need your full attention.

Don't aim to do 4 pizza's at a time. Sure, the oven can handle it, but I can not and my oven is also fitting 4 pizza's. (Did not want to offence you by saying you probably can't :) ) They bake almost instantly (should be in the 90 seconds range, maybe 2 minutes) If you have to shoot 4 pizza's in, the 1st one is finished by the time you properly placed the last one. However, usualy, because of the life fire in the oven, your pizza's also have to be turned and taken care of. As said, I can not do that with 4 pizza's at a time and honestly, if you let people make their own pizza or have 1 person making the pizza's, you will not get 4 pizza's at the same time so you don't have to do it.

Thats the way I do it. With the party's I host, there are always 1 or 2 people enjoying the making of the pizza's (plus all the kids that are there), and also 2 or 3 that like to handle the pizza's in the oven. The rest just eats the pizza's that are served and enjoy the party. We usualy also do 25 pizza's for roughly 30 people, after about 1 hour, most people have had enough. The whole baking proces usualy takes roughly 2 hours from the first to last pizza.

Offline TXCraig1

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Re: First time using WFO tomorrow - any tips?
« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2013, 11:24:42 AM »
4 pies at a time would indicate a pretty big oven. Please post pictures of it.

I agree with nachtwacht that you should focus on one at a time unless you are looking at slow bakes at a low temp. I don't think you want to follow the instructions that Steven posted. I think you will need to keep a fire burning the whole time. You will probably be at it for a couple hours.

What style of pies are you planning to make?
Pizza is not bread.

Offline Jackitup

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Re: First time using WFO tomorrow - any tips?
« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2013, 11:32:24 AM »
When is this party?? If you have time for a couple "practice nites" that would be ideal. And, if not already mentioned, if it's his oven is he proficient with it enough to give you the run down on how it like to be fed, temps, style of pie he's familiar with cooking etc....

jon
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Offline swatson

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Re: First time using WFO tomorrow - any tips?
« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2013, 11:41:33 AM »
Hi James,

Craig's correct with keeping a continues fire going that is what I do too particularly for a long bake, its been a while since I was on that site and didn't realise that they advised removing the fire, here is a pic of my clay oven with a pizza cooking, hopefully you will see the flame still going.

Offline derricktung

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Re: First time using WFO tomorrow - any tips?
« Reply #6 on: October 17, 2013, 12:01:50 PM »
As they all said, there's a bit of a learning curve going from home oven/cleaning cycle to WFO.

Preheat for 3-4 hours in advance ideally so you get a really good soak. 

Start with just one pizza at a time to get a feel for when you have to turn, when you have to dome, etc.  When you actually get a feel for the oven (which will be at the very least, 4-5 pizzas) then you can start loading two if you're comfortable.  Otherwise, you'll be wasting pizzas due to burning them.

Good luck!  Take some pics of your resulting pizzas!

Offline Serpentelli

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Re: First time using WFO tomorrow - any tips?
« Reply #7 on: October 17, 2013, 12:06:57 PM »
Hey gang,

So I've been invited a friend's friend's house and told to make pizza for 25 people. The host owns a WFO, not too big, fits around 4 pies at a time. Its construction is more flat than domed so more Neapolitan I guess. It is imported from Italy.

I have no experience working with a WFO. The setup I've worked the most is an electric oven on the cleaning cycle. Any quick notes on what to do and what not to do would be very much appreciated!

-James

James,

How come you are doing the cooking and not your friend? If he doesn't have some proficiency with his oven and is relying on your (admittedly non-existent) expertise to manage a WFO pizza party for 25 you may be in for a roller coaster ride! And I mean one of those rickety wooden ones that gives you whiplash!

Having said that, if you are BOTH proficient at pizza cooking (him with the WFO and you with your high temp oven) the it will be a good time.

Places where you can screw up:

Dough too warm or too cold ---hard to make good skins
Fire + Oven too hot or too cold --- Make sure you have DRY DRY wood  and that you fire oven 4 hours ahead of time (just to be safe)
Have thin pieces of wood (almost kindling size) to get the fire ROLLING when you are baking (Assuming NP style)
Too many people trying to make their own pizza. Which they WILL screw up. Get those ankle-biters out of the way. If there's a need, they can try a few at the end. Adults worse than kids --- always trying to add too many toppings!
Pies over-topped resulting in pies stuck to peel or holes in skin which leads to calzone which leads to calzone being dumped onto coal bed.

Just make sure you are thinking about how many ways it can go wrong, and I'm sure it'll be fun.

John K
I'm not wearing hockey pads!

Offline Tscarborough

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Re: First time using WFO tomorrow - any tips?
« Reply #8 on: October 17, 2013, 12:09:47 PM »
Not to be a downer, but it sounds to me like you are setting yourself up to fail.  First time on a WFO for 25 people?  I would not do a party for 25 people the first time I used a strange oven.

It is not that cooking in a WFO is particularly hard, but it is a skill and a learned technique.

Offline Mmmph

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Re: First time using WFO tomorrow - any tips?
« Reply #9 on: October 17, 2013, 12:27:01 PM »

Places where you can screw up:

Dough too warm or too cold ---hard to make good skins
Fire + Oven too hot or too cold --- Make sure you have DRY DRY wood  and that you fire oven 4 hours ahead of time (just to be safe)
Have thin pieces of wood (almost kindling size) to get the fire ROLLING when you are baking (Assuming NP style)
Too many people trying to make their own pizza. Which they WILL screw up. Get those ankle-biters out of the way. If there's a need, they can try a few at the end. Adults worse than kids --- always trying to add too many toppings!
Pies over-topped resulting in pies stuck to peel or holes in skin which leads to calzone which leads to calzone being dumped onto coal bed.

Just make sure you are thinking about how many ways it can go wrong, and I'm sure it'll be fun.

John, I was thinking the same thing. Nobody was really addressing the possibility (actually, probability) of something going wrong.
Gotta push through that stuff.
Sono venuto, ho visto, ho mangiato


Offline JF_Aidan_Pryde

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Re: First time using WFO tomorrow - any tips?
« Reply #10 on: October 17, 2013, 03:30:50 PM »
Thanks for the response guys!

A couple of things:
- Recalling the oven again, it's not as big as I imagined, probably the same size as Steve's
- I've negotiated my responsibilities down to 16 pizzas. Neapolitan style.
- He has experience baking with it (obviously), but his domain is 700F, high gluten, NY style.
- Party is Saturday 7pm (Fremont CA)

This is pretty crazy and there's definitely a high risk of failure.

I'm starting on the dough now (using Craig's calculator).

I have two options: going for a 21 hour 78F ferment or 9 hour 78F ferment. Culture percentages are about 1% and 13% respectively.
I'm thinking of going with the latter since temps can fluctuate a lot in 21 hours.

Thoughts?

Offline Mmmph

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Re: First time using WFO tomorrow - any tips?
« Reply #11 on: October 17, 2013, 04:33:35 PM »


I'm starting on the dough now (using Craig's calculator).


Thoughts?

Make more than you think you'll need. Flour is cheap.
Can always make bread the next day.
Sono venuto, ho visto, ho mangiato

Offline JF_Aidan_Pryde

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Re: First time using WFO tomorrow - any tips?
« Reply #12 on: October 17, 2013, 08:27:56 PM »
What's the general process for fire management after 4 hours of saturation + 800f on the deck? When do one add kindling vs. logs, and how often?

What about where to launch the pie? Close to coals or close to the wall?

Offline Jackitup

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Re: First time using WFO tomorrow - any tips?
« Reply #13 on: October 17, 2013, 08:57:49 PM »
What's the general process for fire management after 4 hours of saturation + 800f on the deck? When do one add kindling vs. logs, and how often?

What about where to launch the pie? Close to coals or close to the wall?

I don't have a WFO but have done literally TONS  of smoking, baking, wood fired, charcoal and gas assist smokers including my fair share of cooking in the restaurant I was raised in. So anyway, enough with credentials, I'm sure most would agree, no set answer on those questions. It takes experience with your cooker and learn it's personality. After a few dozen pies you should be getting to know her temperment pretty well. Plus LOTS of reading here. Not a cop out answer, but a pretty good one me thinks!!

jon
Save A Cow, Eat A Vegan....Totally Organic And Hormone Free!!

Offline Tscarborough

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Re: First time using WFO tomorrow - any tips?
« Reply #14 on: October 17, 2013, 09:31:36 PM »
If you are planning on 16 pizzas in rapid succession, you will need at least a 4 hour burn in most ovens, and then a decent amount of coals and fire curling over the dome the entire time you cook.  What kind of oven is it?

Offline Serpentelli

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Re: First time using WFO tomorrow - any tips?
« Reply #15 on: October 18, 2013, 12:37:29 AM »
What's the general process for fire management after 4 hours of saturation + 800f on the deck? When do one add kindling vs. logs, and how often?

What about where to launch the pie? Close to coals or close to the wall?

Make more than you think you'll need. Flour is cheap.
Can always make bread the next day.

Mke some IDY  dough. mmmph can hook you up with a foolproof recipe. Even if you already made some starter-based dough.

Assuming the oven is of decent quality, just use logs for the initial heatup. Then just use pieces of the size of the diameter of the circle formed by your thumb and middle finger to keep it flaming vigorously during bakes. This makes it fun and fast. The flame should curl over the dome of the oven. Black smoke will swirl around the 1000+ degree dome.

For the initial fire make it so hot that you consider calling the fire department. When the dome begins to clear push the coal bed to the left. Keep adding wood to clear the entire dome.

Have fun!

John K
I'm not wearing hockey pads!

Offline JF_Aidan_Pryde

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Re: First time using WFO tomorrow - any tips?
« Reply #16 on: October 18, 2013, 06:53:57 AM »
Caputo / 62% hydration / 2.6% salt / 2% ischia ready!

First time using dough box too. Lovin' it.

Offline Serpentelli

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Re: First time using WFO tomorrow - any tips?
« Reply #17 on: October 18, 2013, 07:31:46 AM »
Have a PSD (pizza saving device) on hand. This is something as simple as an aluminum pizza pan that can be placed under the pizza at mid-bake ( if the floor is too hot and the bottom is done before the top ) or held over the top ( if the floor is not hot enough and the bottom needs to cook more).

Just tell people "this is what they do in Italy"... They'll never know.

Alternatively just use the banjo peel to lift/shield pie from heat source.

John K
I'm not wearing hockey pads!

Offline f.montoya

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Re: First time using WFO tomorrow - any tips?
« Reply #18 on: October 18, 2013, 10:56:58 AM »

Places where you can screw up:

Dough too warm or too cold ---hard to make good skins
Fire + Oven too hot or too cold --- Make sure you have DRY DRY wood  and that you fire oven 4 hours ahead of time (just to be safe)
Have thin pieces of wood (almost kindling size) to get the fire ROLLING when you are baking (Assuming NP style)
Too many people trying to make their own pizza. Which they WILL screw up. Get those ankle-biters out of the way. If there's a need, they can try a few at the end. Adults worse than kids --- always trying to add too many toppings!
Pies over-topped resulting in pies stuck to peel or holes in skin which leads to calzone which leads to calzone being dumped onto coal bed.


Great advice(as well as what's been added by others). I couldn't have said it better myself. I would only add...

1. Be ready to bake(as in your oven and all toppings/accessories/setup) an hour before ANY guests arrive...and bake a couple of pies for practice and feed yourselves. Nothing worse than starving while watching awesome looking pizzas getting devoured by 25 hungry people with no end in sight!!
2. Since this is your first pizza party with so many people, have some appetizers on hand that compliment your pizza, as well extends your guests' patience.

Best of luck!! Hope to see some pics!!

Offline Mmmph

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Re: First time using WFO tomorrow - any tips?
« Reply #19 on: October 18, 2013, 11:32:55 AM »
Caputo / 62% hydration / 2.6% salt / 2% ischia ready!

First time using dough box too. Lovin' it.

You're making 16 pizzas in a WFO, and you have zero experience with this type of oven, and this oven in particular. Your host has experience at 700F, but not NP temps.
You made only 16 dough balls?  :-\ Dude...really? It was easy to make more. Good luck with that.

Oh, BTW...Pics, or it didn't happen.


Sono venuto, ho visto, ho mangiato