Als ich wisse das Morgen der Erde enden wuerde, immernoch wurd ich mein Apfelbaum pflanzen.

Even if I knew the world would perish tomorrow, I would still plant my apple tree. - Martin Luther

"Factory work's easier on the back, and I don't mind it, understand, but a man becomes what he does. Got to watch that. That's why I keep at farmin' although the crops haven't ever throve. It's the doin' that's important." Madison Wheeler in Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Bake Oven

Sometimes it takes me a while to use something new.  This is especially true if the new tool shows up during the school year.  I just don't seem to have the capacity and mental energy to add learning how to use a new tool to the already long list of tasks I have during the school year.  

So last summer, 2015, Eli and Ed built a wood fired clay bake oven.  It was completed by the end of July, but then it needed time to dry.  Then we went to the beach, then traveled some more and then school was upon us.  This summer I was ready.  Shortly after school was out I ordered some books.  Both of them were useful and interesting; although I found Cooking With Fire to be the more practical.  It was also a more compelling read.  I also ordered my peel.  However, I have found that I really also need a smaller one for turning the pizzas.  I have yet to order that and have been making do with a sturdy metal spatula.

The first baking was a disaster.  There was still sand falling off of the inside, and I made the pizzas too big and with too many toppings.  Emma wouldn't even eat hers.  The rest of us managed to find enough for supper, but most of what I made was a flop.  But now it's now the end of September and I've gotten comfortable enough that we can host parties.  I've just about got pizza down (make them individual size - light on the sauce and toppings).  I've also gotten good at overnight cooking (baked oatmeal, Indian pudding, baked beans, roasted tomatoes).  The first roast chicken was a flop and had to finish cooking inside, but the second one was divine.  Bread making is the last hurdle.  I've gotten better at it, but it's still not even close to the quality of the bread I make inside.  Luckily for me the two skills you need to have to be a successful bake oven cook are organization and the ability to plan ahead.  Suits me, and it sure was nice to be able to keep the heat out of the oven this summer.

In other, but yet related, news - I finally started to use the pressure cooker I bought for $10 one Black Friday over five years ago.  It always scared the hell out of me, but I exclusively canned using the pressure canner this summer and after that the baby pressure cooker wasn't so scary.  Now I'm mad that I waited so long.  I can have cooked beans on the table from dry ones in 20 minutes - without soaking.  I'm a convert.  What new task/tool have you avoided using and then wondered how you'd ever survived without it?  We sure are creatures of habit aren't we?

Building the Bake Oven

Ugh... you have to mix the clay, sand and hay with your feet!

Mixing also involves turning with the tarp.

Creative use of wood and brick to form the door (this is the sand mound).  It was then covered with wet newspaper and the clay, but somehow we didn't get pictures.

Cooking with the Bake Oven

Have everyone create their own pizza. Remind then to not use too much sauce or toppings -use polenta to keep it from sticking.

The second time I baked bread I started too late in the day.  I was pulling it out with a head lamp.  I decided to bake in bread pans, but then neglected to figure out how to transport hot pans full of bread up to the kitchen.  I melted the sides of this carrier a bit.  It was really hot and hard to carry.  I should have used fire gloves and carried them up one at a time.

The baked oatmeal was amazing.  It was similar to a dish I make in my crock pot during the winter, but it had this smoky overtone that just made it perfect.  It's probably my favorite recipe so far.