Following my review of Your Brick Oven, I thought I’d write a little on my plans for building an oven once we get to France.
The smallish clay oven I built previously.
The in-laws have already asked me to build a big clay oven in the courtyard of their group gite (holiday home), but I’ll put the idea of the brick oven to them instead on the grounds of its longevity. Clay ovens are best suited to communities with lots of clay, not many bricks and enough skills across the generations to maintain and patch them up year after year. While building with clay is a wonderful (but knackering) process a well built brick oven could last decades rather than years.
There are plans to renovate another of the empty buildings as a sort-of restaurant dining room where big groups can cook and eat together, so that feels like a sensible site for the oven. Though it will be built outside, I’d like an oven door to be accessible from inside the building for baking during the winter. While my previous clay oven worked well enough at Christmas time in the rain, it wasn’t so much fun running in and out the house with the dough.
I’m picturing using the oven in a couple of scenarios.
Here's a crude sketch I did on my phone to illustrate
Firstly, I want a big oven that’s suitable for cooking dinner for a group of twenty or more guests at any one time – good enough for a small restaurant or a big dinner party. This would take a lot of wood to heat up so you once it’s lit you use the heat for cooking a whole load of meals for the week ahead. Basically spending a whole day cooking food and using the changing temperatures of the oven as it slowly cools, like they did in the old days. Pizza, bread, roasts, cakes, drying herbs etc.
I’d also like the option of baking bread during the week without using all the fuel needed to soak (that’s wood oven lingo) the big party sized oven. So I’m thinking of building a double oven. One big and one small right next to each other.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It’s a great mix of good food and simple living, so it’s right on topic for a review on this blog. It’s light on text, but it feels like this was the intention of the author rather than any lacking of content, so I’m not faulting it for that.
The book is split pretty equally between the topics of building and using a brick oven. And leans slightly more towards inspiring you to build and use an oven rather than detailing the exact steps in how to do it. I’d love to know if this was intentional, but I can only speculate. In many ways, I imagine the lack of precise detailed steps makes the process less intimidating and may encourage a few more people to have a go. Which is a good thing in my eyes, and fits with how we hope this blog of ours can inspire others.
For context, I read the book as someone who has previously built a clay oven, and was already planning to build a brick oven. So I know the process roughly, and just needed to learn about the specific differences between the clay and brick approach. It did that well, offered a few innovative ideas for oven design (a built in ash box for one!) and some inspiring photos and stories about their restaurant and options for using an oven beyond the basic pizza party.
This felt like the right level of detail to me but it’s not a step-by-step guide in the sense of how to mix mortar or how to cut a brick. It simply mentions that you need to do those things at various points in the process. So if you’ve never done anything like this before you might want to read a little more around the subject but I’d still highly recommend this book as a resource.
I should repeat that this review is based only on reading the book. I’ll feedback again when I’ve put it into action.
Finally, here’s a photo to give you a feel for the content, and to demonstrate how this book goes beyond a few plans for laying bricks to offer something really inspiring:
Wise words on food