Sunday, July 13, 2008

Building a Pizza Oven

Last summer after we went to a pizza farm in Wisconsin, I was intrigued with the idea of building our own wood-fired pizza oven at our future farm. I began researching woodfired ovens and found a do-it-yourself book titled "Build Your Own Earth Oven" by Kiko Denzer that describes how simple it is to build an oven from inexpensive and natural materials.

While we were up north last weekend Rog read that book and got inspired. He wanted to build a small test oven as soon as we got home--so, that was our project this weekend.

Saturday morning we purchased 32 fire bricks for the floor of the oven. We bought a small steel cart on wheels at Salvation Army to build it upon (intending to wheel it into the garage when not in use - but I suspect it will be way too heavy to move!) Rog and Cadence had scouted out some great clay soil along a road where highway construction had been going on and they filled 3 5-gallon pails.

Rog placed two layers of bricks on the cart, and then we created a nice mound of packed, wet sand to shape the inside of the oven. He cut an arched piece of wood for the door opening, and then we covered the mound of sand with a 3-inch thick layer of the clay. With 4 of us (our friend Barb, daughter Cadence, Rog and me) it took about two hours to build the 22-inch oven. Afterward, using a flat wooden spatula, I paddled it to make the surface smoother.

It looks pretty cute, but it's not exactly symmetrical and it's not a very constant thickness! (Next time I think it would be a good idea to occasionally rotate where each of us works around the oven to even out our construction styles.) But this oven is our learning experiment--our next oven will be much larger and more aesthetically beautiful!

I covered it with a tarp overnight in case it rained. This morning we untarped it and when we came back a couple hours later it had developed a large crack while drying in the sun. Rog patched the crack with a little clay slurry, and removed the sand so the oven could dry more evenly and more quickly. Later this afternoon, he built a small fire in it to dry it out more. We kept the fire going for a few hours and by tonight the clay seemed to be totally dry and the interior was quite hot. As I write this, we are testing it out by baking some blueberry muffins in it!

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