Synopses & Reviews
Earth ovens combine the utility of a wood-fired, retained-heat oven with the ease and timeless beauty of earthen construction. Building one will appeal to bakers, builders, and beginners of all kinds, from:the serious or aspiring baker who wants the best low-cost bread oven, to
gardeners who want a centerpiece for a beautiful outdoor kitchen, to
outdoor chefs, to
creative people interested in low-cost materials and simple technology, to
teachers who want a multi-faceted, experiential project for students of all ages (the book has been successful with everyone from third-graders to adults).
Build Your Own Earth Oven is fully illustrated with step-by-step directions, including how to tend the fire, and how to make perfect sourdough hearth loaves in the artisan tradition. The average do-it-yourselfer with a few tools and a scrap pile can build an oven for free, or close to it. Otherwise, $30 should cover all your materials--less than the price of a fancy "baking stone." Good building soil is often right in your back yard, under your feet. Build the simplest oven in a day! With a bit more time and imagination, you can make a permanent foundation and a fire-breathing dragon-oven or any other shape you can dream up.
Earth ovens are familiar to many that have seen a southwestern "horno" or a European "bee-hive" oven. The idea (pioneered by Egyptian bakers in the second millennium bc!) is simplicity itself: fill the oven with wood, light a fire, and let it burn down to ashes. The dense, 3- to 12-inch-thick earthen walls hold and store the heat of the fire, the baker sweeps the floor clean, and the hot oven walls radiate steady, intense heat for hours.
Home bakers who can't afford a fancy, steam-injected bread oven will be delighted to find that a simple earth oven can produce loaves to equal the fanciest "artisan" bakery. It also makes delicious roast meats, cakes, pies, pizzas, and other creations. Pizza cooks to perfection in three minutes or less. Vegetables, herbs, and potatoes drizzled with olive oil roast up in minutes for a simple, elegant, and delicious meal. Efficient cooks will find the residual heat useful for slow-baked dishes, and even for drying surplus produce, or incubating homemade yogurt.
"[It] will awaken in you...the artisan vision, where earth meets hand meets spirit" — Peter Reinhart, author, Crust and Crumb
"Creative. Innovative. Brilliant. ...the definitive book on how to build an adobe oven..." — William Rubel, author, The Magic of Fire
"...simplicity itself: brief, brisk, artful, and well-written....empowering throughout...fruit of a new movement for sustainability, it celebrates the pleasure of living well with the earth"— Peter Bane, Permaculture Activist.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 119-120) and index.
Kiko Denzer and Hannah Field, maker and baker, invite you into the artisan tradition. First, build a masonry oven out of mud. Then mix flour and water for real bread "better than anything you can buy." Total cost? Hardly more than a baking stone & and it can cook everything else, from 2-minute pizza to holiday fowl, or a week's meals.
Clear, abundant drawings and photos clarify every step of the process, from making "oven mud," to fire, and to bread. Informative text puts it all into context with artisan traditions of many agesandcultures. Beautifully sculpted ovens (by the author and readers) will inspire the artist in anyone. And the simple, 4 step recipe (based on professional and homestead experience) promises authentic hearth loaves for anyone, on any schedule.
From weekend gardeners to "simple living," back-to-the-landers; Peace Corps volunteers to neighborhood community-builders; third-graders to earth-artists of all ages, this book feeds many hungers!
updated, expanded, re-written,andrevised.
foreword by Alan Scott, the grandfather of wood-fired ovens and artisan bread.
super-insulated design holds heat longer with less wood burned.
8 pages of color photos.
Plus: mobile ovens, rocket mass heaters for the home, hay-box cookers, and more.
About the Author
Kiko Denzer lives with his wife in a small cabin in Blodgett, Oregon. This book comes out of his experience of learning about, and falling in love with mud—the oldest (and, according to some, still the best) building material there is. It is also the product of his belief that participating in creation is better than going shopping. "Real value," he says, "is a function of involvement and life," not just the dollar price that you pay for "artisan" loaves in a fancy market.
As a sculptor, Denzer approaches both oven building and baking as art. As a writer and teacher, however, he sees art simply, as the fruit of human life and love. Quoting Kahlil Gibran, he says, "if work is love made visible, then love is everywhere you look." It follows, he continues, that "to be either artist or craftsman is no more and no less than it is to be human: to engage hands, head, and heart in the genesis of form and relationship; to celebrate and renew self and world; to be whole and wholly involved; to offer communio
Table of Contents
Why a wood-fired, earthen oven?
Earthen Building, or what is "cob," anyway? 5Chapter One: build a basic mud oven
How big an oven should I make?
Materials and tools
Beauty and sculpture
A roof for your oven
Eight steps to a simple oven 11Chapter Two: firing and baking in your oven
Building and managing a fire
Assembling a set of traditional baking tools 43Chapter Three: simple sourdough bread!
Introduction and a note on ingredients
A quick outline of a ten-step sourdough process
On yeast, flour, and bread
How it works--the ten step process in detail 51Chapter Four: materials and making do
Straw and other fibers
Gravel and Sand
Subsoil, clay, and what to do if you can't find it
Refractory Cement 68Chapter Five: other mixtures, other ovens
Single layer, all-clay, "rammed earth" ovens
Sculpting and finishing
Lime plasters and other water resistant, breathable plasters, and a warning
Brick or metal doorways
Chimneys and doors
Insulating a mud oven
Experiments and things to try 73Chapter Six: pyro-dynamics, or, playing with fire
Mechanics of fire
Some related principles
Metaphysics of fire 93Chapter Seven: troubleshooting
My sand form won't hold its shape
I have no sand--how else can I make a form?
I can't find straw
My fire won't burn
The bottoms of my loaves always burn
My oven is cracking
Can I quick dry my oven?
Can I keep an all-clay oven from shrinking?
The doorway is crumbling and falling apart
I can't find clay subsoil anywhere
What about fuels other than wood? 99
Art, earth, ovens 105
Appendix: Questions, Answers, and Resources
About efficiency, design, etc
Using the oven
Materials and construction
Resources: Books on bread and building 112