We recently stayed at a farm that let me use their outdoor wood fired oven, (yes, yes, I baked them a loaf too!). I was incredibly nervous and excited at the prospect, especially as they mentioned no one had tried to cook a loaf in it before, they use it for pizzas.
The oven was lit around three hours before I needed it. I was reliably informed by the farmer, that you shouldn't use the oven until all the wood is white and has turned to ash, like a barbecue. The only other guidance I had was from my ever faithful Daniel Stevens' Bread book (essential purchase by the way) who memorably talks about using a clay (not wood fired) oven in his great book. He says the oven's ready when the hairs on your arm start to char!
I also used the opportunity to take some nice outdoorsy pics for the blog! Like this:
I went for a good old white bloomer. This is the scene after the initial knead, the dough proving in a huge bowl, inside a bin bag, and represents the view from our tent. Never mind mouldy old dough, more like lucky old dough! Full sunshine for one hour, then this:
As I wanted two loaves, I halved it (approximately), formed into rounds and left for a further quarter of an hour. Then I covered them in a bin bag and left for another hour to rise again.
I put them onto the farm's impressive-looking peel, shaped again and gave them two horizontal slashes with a breadknife followed by a good soaking of water.
Gloves on (no, not those ones from your Auntie at Christmas, proper ones!), I opened the door and popped the loaves in one at a time.
Now, this is the interesting bit. I couldn't move and had to time everything very carefully. In four minutes, I opened up the door and was saddened to see that one loaf had burnt slightly. Lesson learnt - don't put the loaf too far back in the oven (as the wood is pushed to the back when the oven is ready so the majority of the heat is there). The closer to the door the better I would say, or the heat is too much and you are at risk of charring the crust and under cooking the middle of your loaf.
I moved them around every two minutes and in seven to eight minutes they were ready to come out. This is the one I'm happy to share with the world!
The taste was amazing, like nothing I've tasted. The effect that the wood fire had on the crust was unbelievable.
Next time, I will place it nearer to the door and leave it undisturbed for two minutes, then turn it around every two minutes until the base goes boom boom boom, like my heart was!