Author Topic: Transistioning from Home Electric Oven to Wood Burning Oven  (Read 2706 times)

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Offline Fio

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I've completed the dome of my brick oven, and now I'm curing it. (pix coming soon)  Soon will be the time when I can realistically hope to bake some kind of pizza in it.  I plan to adapt my Lehmann dough, 6-in-1 sauce, Stella Motz paradigm from the home oven to the brick oven.  In the home oven I've been baking at 550; I expect to BEGIN baking in the wood oven at 650, and go from there (the oven will get progressively hotter as it cures more).  I do not know yet what the temp differential will be between the floor and dome, but I can safely predict that the floor will be around 600 and the dome around 850.

Anyhow, has anyone adapted a home oven pizza regimen to a wood burning oven?  What are the changes you noticed?  How are things different?

One more thing: SIZE.  My home oven pies have been 14".  While I plan to eventually build 16" pies in the brick oven (the door is 18" wide) my initial pies in the brick oven will be around 12."  In fact, before I become proficient at baking in the brick oven, I'll use cheap skim milk motz and inexpensive crushed tomatoes to make a series of "trial" pies.

Any input is appreciated.

Ciao,

- Fio
Since joining this forum, I've begun using words like "autolyze" and have become anal about baker's percents.  My dough is forever changed.


Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Transistioning from Home Electric Oven to Wood Burning Oven
« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2006, 09:31:13 AM »
Fio,

What you are about to do sounds exciting. We all wish you luck.

I know that some of our members have transitioned from home oven to wood-fired oven for the Lehmann dough. An example, with photos, is vitoduke's (Mel) transition, at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,2003.msg17661.html#msg17661. Mel spent a good chunk of his life in Brooklyn so I take his word for the authenticity of the NY style in his pizzas. I look forward to seeing photos of your work product, and for any pointers you may be able to offer others with wood-fired ovens.

Peter

Offline bolabola

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Re: Transistioning from Home Electric Oven to Wood Burning Oven
« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2006, 03:44:54 PM »
Same here Fio..
I would love to see some pics of your design and maybe some tips as to how you built it..
I hope to be building one in September..
I to am aiming for those kind of temps..
Pizza Rocks

Offline pietradoro

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Re: Transistioning from Home Electric Oven to Wood Burning Oven
« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2006, 04:48:41 PM »
Fio,

I made the jump not too long ago from an interior Wolf gas range to an exterior wood-burning oven, and can report that the differences are big.  However, you will probably be pleased with even your trial pizzas (good idea), because of those same differences.  For me, the most important differences were (without any surprise to anyone I'm sure) bake time and baking techniques, and last, and perhaps the biggest difference and the main reason for building the oven: flavor.

I haven't needed to adjust my recipes at all, except to continue experimenting with hydration levels and toppings, but I would have done that without a wood-burning oven. 

The “easiest” difference is flavor, because obviously there is nothing significant to do.  “Hardest” is baking techniques.  Shooting pizzas in a wood-burning oven is a whole new deal and takes some time to get the hang of things.  Not hard, necessarily, just requires some practice.  Hopefully you have some resource you could learn from, or maybe you’re already a bit seasoned.  Best way to learn, as always, is to make mistakes: to turn the pizza incorrectly, poke a hole in the base and set the toppings smoking inside the oven, ripple the base by sliding it too hard onto the oven deck, burn the pizza, ignite the pizza, etc.  I’ve done them all, and had great fun with each SNAFU.

My only concern with a new oven, and to me this is the single most important aspect of a new wood-burning oven, and I’m sure you’ve heard this before: the moisture content of the brick dome and deck.  The oven is not cured until the moisture content of the masonry is zero, and that must happen over a “slow” period.  All the pleasure of completing such a fantastic tool can turn dark, when the dome cracks (hairline), because not enough time was allowed for the curing and drying.  Though hairline cracks aren’t serious and generally do not affect the oven’s performance in any way, they are "spoiling," look bad, could potentially evolve into serious cracks, and they are not uncommon, even when the proper steps are taken to prevent them.  High heat and brick and mortar are always vulnerable to hairline cracks and chips.  The point is to minimize this.

Small and short paper fires only at first (no cooking), then gradually building the size of the fire.  I liked checking the temperatures of the dome, wall and floor of every fire, so I had more control over the cure.  I didn’t crank my oven for at least three weeks of gradually increasing fires.  I also chose not to cook a pizza until I could get the dome to about 1,000 degrees, and I didn’t want to crank that high until I had built about two fires per day for three weeks.  Of course, one could cook a pizza at far lower temperatures, but that was just my personal choice. 

One other very interesting observation is that the pre-heat time on my oven went from about 2 hours+ near the beginning of the cure period to about 45 minutes after about two months of full heat operations.  I know there has been a lot of debate over pre-heat times in various wood oven designs, but it seems it all has to do with the nature, amount and structure of the insulating materials.  Simplistically speaking, too much insulation results in very long –preheats, smaller amounts shorter preheats.  And every build is different, so you will find out eventually -- perhaps two-three months -- what your real pre-heat time is.  Lots of fun watching the pre-heat times drop as the moisture content in the masonry drops and the oven cures.

Oh, one more difference I just thought of.  I had to adjust the thickness of my fresh mozzarella when I moved to the wood oven.  I was burning and drying out the cheese layer with the old thickness I used on my gas oven and positively hating the results.  Also, use wetter tomato sauce, because those high temperatures steam out the moisture in the sauce rather fast.  I went from using a bit of paste with gas to using none with wood. 

BTW, current cooking peak temperatures now routinely are:

dome: in excess of 1,100 degrees (my infrared won’t read any higher)
walls and floor 750-950, depending on where it is measured.

My oven is a Fornobravo Artigiano 100 (made in Tuscany) http://www.fornobravo.com/residential_pizza_oven/artigiano_brick_oven.html

Finally, I hope this thread doesn’t decay into why this or that design cannot possibly bake a Neapolitan pie (enough of those on these boards) and just sticks to feedback on your fantastic project, which I have quietly followed and enjoyed from time to time.  Congratulations.  And very sorry for the long post.

Best, Pietradoro.
« Last Edit: July 07, 2006, 04:55:34 PM by pietradoro »

Offline vitoduke

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Re: Transistioning from Home Electric Oven to Wood Burning Oven
« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2006, 08:51:05 PM »
Hi Fio- I've used the same recipe in my Forno Bravo oven that  I was using in our electric oven. The differance is amazing. The outer crust has a nice crispness with large voids inside. The taste is also different, maybe because of the crust. I'm sure you will enjoy it. The Forno Bravo web-site was  a great help for a brick oven or a refractory kit to assemble.---Mel

Offline bakerbill

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Re: Transistioning from Home Electric Oven to Wood Burning Oven
« Reply #5 on: July 08, 2006, 04:18:12 PM »
Lots of differences!  Unless you have a lot of thermocouples in various places around the oven, I would suggest getting a thermometer gun. I use a Raytek. Check online. The dome temp is obviously not the hearth temp and the hearth temp can vary significantly from front to back. I usually begin baking at the front and then work my way to the back as the hearth cools. Ordinarily, I bake for 4 minutes at 650 degrees.  Once you slide the pizza onto the hearth, wait about a minute for it to firm up.  Then with a metal peel turn from time to time so that the side facing the fire does not become scorched.  Recently I found that putting a 2 inch angle iron between the fire and the pizza eliminated the scorched edge problem.  This is not an issue in those big commercial brick ovens as the pizza is a distance from the fire, but it can be a problem in a home brick oven. Unlike the inside home oven, you have to watch carefully and keep turning the pizza. It is amazing how fast one edge can get burned when you are not looking. My biggest problem at first was burning up the whole pizza but in time I have learned to respect the high heat.  My oven, by the way, is an Earthstone.

bakerbill

Offline Fio

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After a few pies, a few observations. . .
« Reply #6 on: July 24, 2006, 09:23:53 AM »
Dough management.  When cooking a few pizzas indoors, I retard my dough in round plastic tupperware containers. When retarding dough for my outdoor oven, I put 8 doughballs in a large commercial pizza proofing box and retard for two days.  Two hours before cooking, I remove the box from the fridge and take it outside.  I set the box on the prep table next to the oven and dredge each ball in flour before forming.

Here are differences:  During a two-day retardation, the high-hydration doughballs collapse and "ooze" across the bottom of the box, resembling pancakes.  They are difficult to remove with a spatula, and they end up losing their roundness.  My solution will be to place each dough ball on a sheet of parchment paper to facilitate removal. 

In the July heat and humidity, the dough is very slack and gooey.  It's easy to form, but also easy to mess up.  I'm wondering if I should back off on the hydration percentage, say 59 or 60%.  My reasoning is that it doesn't need the higher hydration because it cooks so quickly, and doesn't have the time to dry out.  Is this thinking correct?

Since joining this forum, I've begun using words like "autolyze" and have become anal about baker's percents.  My dough is forever changed.

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Transistioning from Home Electric Oven to Wood Burning Oven
« Reply #7 on: July 24, 2006, 10:14:16 AM »
Fio,

Knowing that you make a lot of Lehmann doughs, I will assume that that is what you are talking about.

As I have noted several times before, the Lehmann dough, especially when made for storage (cold fermentation) in a home refrigerator and also when made to have a high hydration, is prone to becoming soft and quite extensible (stretchy) after a couple of days or so because of an increased rate of fermentation. The Lehmann dough formulation nominally has a hydration range of 58-65% and, in a commercial environment where a commercial cooler is used, has a usable window for the dough of 12 hours to about 3 days. Making the dough in the summer, when it is warm, effectively shortens that window. And making several dough balls all of which have to cool down together in a home refrigerator--which is also likely to be operating a bit warmer than usual--also has the effect of shortening the window of usability. So, the key is to try to keep the dough temperature as low as possible for as long as possible. This is more challenging to do in the summer, where everything is warmer than usual.

I think that there are several things you might try. From the dough formulation standpoint, you can lower the hydration to, say, around 60%, as you suggested, and/or you can use colder water. Both will have the effect of slowing down the rate of fermentation. You can also lower the yeast amount but I think it is already on the low side and would not do that at this juncture. Similarly, you could increase the salt levels, which will also slow down the rate of fermentation, but 1.75% salt for the Lehmann dough formulation is already plenty enough. I wouldn't change that. I assume you are not using any sugar. If so, you might want to eliminate it, not because it will help solve your problem but because the bottom crust might darken prematurely or burn when the dough is baked on a very hot oven surface.

From a dough management standpoint, you might use the dough sooner, especially if you choose to use the same hydration ratio (63%?) you have been using all along. For example, you might try a 12-24 hour cold fermentation instead of 2 days. If you decide to lower the hydration and/or use cooler water, I think you should be able to keep the 2-day window. When ready to make the pizzas, you might remove the dough balls from the refrigerator in stages, not all at once. Again, it's a matter of keeping the dough balls as cool as possible and as long as possible until you are ready to use them.

With some experimentation, I think you will be able to alleviate the dough conditions you have been experiencing. If you do make some changes, I hope you will let us know what works and what doesn't. For me, that's a good way to learn. Along the same lines, I would be also anxious to know how any changes you implement change the character of the pizzas themselves, such as degree of oven spring, crust color and texture, crumb, taste, etc.

Peter
« Last Edit: July 24, 2006, 10:22:00 AM by Pete-zza »

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Transistioning from Home Electric Oven to Wood Burning Oven
« Reply #8 on: July 24, 2006, 06:17:30 PM »
Fio,

In my last response I neglected to mention that when you make your set of 8 dough balls you should wipe them with oil before putting them in the dough box, and then leave the dough box uncovered for a few hours while in the refrigerator. This allows heat and moisture to escape and prevents moisture condensing on the dough balls.  For a dough ball weight of say, 16 ounces, you should count on about 2 hours (for the full box), and for a dough ball weight of say, 21 ounces, the time might be a bit closer to 2 1/2 to 3 hours. At the expiration of that time, you should then cover the dough box, preferably using a commercial dough box cover if you have one. At this point, the dough ball temperature may be around 50-55 degrees F depending on what else is in your refrigerator being cooled at the same time.

The above procedure is what is used by professionals except that they make several boxes of dough balls at a time and they use commercial coolers which run several degrees cooler than a standard home refrigerator.

Peter

Offline Fio

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Re: Transistioning from Home Electric Oven to Wood Burning Oven
« Reply #9 on: August 11, 2006, 10:05:49 AM »
Fio,

In my last response I neglected to mention that when you make your set of 8 dough balls you should wipe them with oil before putting them in the dough box, and then leave the dough box uncovered for a few hours while in the refrigerator. This allows heat and moisture to escape and prevents moisture condensing on the dough balls.  For a dough ball weight of say, 16 ounces, you should count on about 2 hours (for the full box), and for a dough ball weight of say, 21 ounces, the time might be a bit closer to 2 1/2 to 3 hours. At the expiration of that time, you should then cover the dough box, preferably using a commercial dough box cover if you have one. At this point, the dough ball temperature may be around 50-55 degrees F depending on what else is in your refrigerator being cooled at the same time.

The above procedure is what is used by professionals except that they make several boxes of dough balls at a time and they use commercial coolers which run several degrees cooler than a standard home refrigerator.

Peter

Peter,

Thanks as always for the tip.  I did not read your advice about leaving the proof box  uncovered until AFTER I made my last batch, and I found that 60% hydration, PLUS putting the dough balls on squares of parchment paper and spraying them with PAM does the trick VERY nicely.  In fact, a 36-hour cold retardation, followed by 2 hours rising outdoors (box still covered) at 85 degrees makes the dough delicate, but easy to shape and perfect for stretching.   One caveat; after two hours, the dough balls get VERY puffy and you have to pop huge bubbles. This is exacerbated by higher temperatures.

Looking forward to the fall, with more comfortable cooking conditions.  No doubt I'll have to modify my dough management routine to accomodate the lower temperatures.

So, the bottom line answer to my question is: The Lehmann Dough recipe works EXCELLENT in a wood oven; the challenge is to adapt to the atmospheric condiitions of the outdoors where you are cooking your pizza.

I know I'm overdue in posting pix of my latest pizzas.  I'll try to do that soon.  :chef:

- Fio
Since joining this forum, I've begun using words like "autolyze" and have become anal about baker's percents.  My dough is forever changed.


Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Transistioning from Home Electric Oven to Wood Burning Oven
« Reply #10 on: August 11, 2006, 10:22:35 AM »
Fio,

I was waiting with great interest to hear of your results, and look forward to the photos. I'll bet the pies were killer pies with your new oven. It also looks like you are learning how to modify the Lehmann dough formulation to conform to your particular circumstances. Once you have mastered that, you can consider yourself a true pizzaiolo. :chef:

Peter

Offline Fio

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Re: Transistioning from Home Electric Oven to Wood Burning Oven
« Reply #11 on: August 11, 2006, 01:33:43 PM »
Fio,

I was waiting with great interest to hear of your results, and look forward to the photos. I'll bet the pies were killer pies with your new oven. It also looks like you are learning how to modify the Lehmann dough formulation to conform to your particular circumstances. Once you have mastered that, you can consider yourself a true pizzaiolo. :chef:

Peter

Peter,

Thanks for the anticipatory compliment.  ;D  One thing that struck my interest was finding out that the VPN dough recipe uses a 57% hydration.  It makes sense, then, that I can get great results using the lower 60% hydration in my wood oven as compared to my optimal 63% hydration in the home oven.  I've still got some tweaking to do.
Since joining this forum, I've begun using words like "autolyze" and have become anal about baker's percents.  My dough is forever changed.


 

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