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Wood Oven Cooking

Peppers in the Oven

On the continuum of slow cooking drying and slow-roasting are pretty near the end of the tail.  In arid, sunny regions an oven isn’t even necessary and the sun stands in. But with an oven at hand and the recurring problem of what to do with its residual heat (see my post on making Chardonnay Apple Butter) I used it to roast/dry sweet and hot red peppers.

I went to Highland Farms the week after Labour Day in search of a bushel of tomatoes for tomato sauce.  They were all sold out but had sweet red bell peppers by the bushel–that’s 36.36875L to be absolutely exact.  I bought one of these, took it to the cottage and divided the peppers between six pans that went into the oven after a pizza session.  The fire had died down but there were still hot coals near the back of the oven. (more…)

Apple Ginger Cookies

I like Thanksgiving and all the traditions that go with it.  The one exception might be that pumpkin pie really isn’t my favourite dessert.  Once a year isn’t really enough frequency to complain about this seriously but it always just seems to be the same.  I challenged tradition this year by making these Apple-Ginger cookies.  (We also had some excellent pumpkin pie that our neighbours brought.)

The base recipe I used is from grouprecipes.com and can be viewed by clicking here.  As my first modification I axed the nuts.  Almost always with cookies (and especially with brownies) I feel that nuts are an unwelcome distraction both from a taste and textural standpoint.  I didn’t have any raisins on hand so they went too but weren’t really missed–might include them next time.

The recipe calls for finely dicing the apples and cooking them for ten minutes.  Grating always seems easier with something like that so that’s the route I took and cooked the apples much longer on very low heat.  This gave me an intensely-flavoured candied apple compote of sorts.  I can see apple sauce or even better apple butter working just as well.

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Lahey’s Bread

Our wood oven has been operational since the beginning of August and I’ve turned out a ton of pizzas but–with the exception of three pathetic baguettes–no bread.  This had to change.  With the help of Jim Lahey’s My Bread I set out to bake my first true round of wood-fired bread.

My entirely unscientific guess is that the average bread recipe for home bakers calls for about three hours of rising and another hour for a second rise, so that including the mixing and baking the whole operation takes no longer than six hours.  My current bread cookbook champion is Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice (my review) and most of his recipes take this a step further and call for the preparation of a starter, poolish, or soaker the day before you want to bake.  Lahey keeps the amount of yeast low and prepares the dough the day before but also has the dough ferment over night (for 12 to 18 hours) at room temperature. Most remarkably he does away with kneading. (more…)

Pie Shots

Pizza is one of humanity’s most perfect foods.  It’s delicious, flexible and easy to make.  Luckily for those like me who want to create photo-heavy blog posts about it pizza has nothing to hide.  Here are some pictures of my favourite pizzas from the first month and a half of wood-fired oven cooking in the backyard at our cottage.

The top photo is the first pizza out of the oven.  Tomato sauce, cheese, basil and maybe a little olive oil.  A simple Margherita pizza.  Most times when I’ve made pizza in the oven I make this the first topping combination of each round.  It’s a little jarring for some but this minimalist combination helps introduce the idea that pizza really is about the bread phase.  As you can tell I like my basil added after cooking if it’s the leaves going on but I sometimes put basil oil on the raw concoction.

Pizza and a roaring fire

An active fire is important for creating enough turbulent hot air to cook the cheese, toppings, and top of the crust.  The one here is probably a bit too vigorous and I could have waited another ten to fifteen minutes or so before sliding in this pie. (more…)

Mushrooms and Pea Soup

The pizza oven we built tops out above 1,000°F.  That is with a very hot fire and sniper-like manipulation of the IR thermometer’s red laser target pointer to measure the floor’s temperature.  This is both amazing and useful for cooking pizza but its a fairly easy characteristic to understand and use.  It basically just means that this oven has twice as many little hashes around its (theoretical) temperature dial.

What I’m still getting used to is how long the oven holds heat and has it available to be used for cooking.  Even without an insulated door the floor and dome of our oven are still above 200°F the day after a moderate fire.  Right now I’m looking for ways to use this heat.

I’m approaching this technique with caution but it seems to me that as long as the temperature does not drop below 140°F and into the so-called danger zone food will be just as safe in the oven for extended periods of time as it would be in the refrigerator.  Safety is one thing but there are a limited number of dishes that are more delicious after an extended period of cooking.  But, I guess it’s really “limited” only in the strictest sense of the word. (more…)