On Saturday, the Caboose and I finished up a couple details on the brick oven: the Guadalupana shrine and the oven door.
David (that’s the Caboose) was inspired: he tracked down a couple small statues of Mary to flank the big tile, and spotted some Guadalupana votive candles at, of all places, Home Depot. So now the image has candles and little statues, and will eventually have some flowers and plants growing in front.
Don’t think I posted a picture of the little ledge with tiles on it:
Next, if you want to do bread in a brick oven (one that isn’t gigantic, at any rate) you need an oven door. Scrounged up some scrap oak, dragged out the trusty table saw, clamps and glue:
What doesn’t show: thin sheet of galvanized steel, 1″ layer of ceramic insulation batting, and another layer of steel bolted to the back of the door. That sucker is heavy! But worked like a charm. Only issue: around the top, the wood is already being charred – heat rising, and the seal not being perfect. All I can see to do is monitor the situation – can’t see an obvious solution at this point, and maybe getting charred is all that will happen?
Fired up the oven a little after noon. By a little after 3, we were cooking. First up: seared flap steak:
Per Alton Brown, you liberally salt both sides, then let sit for an hour to warm to room temperature, spread some 1000F coals, and throw the steaks directly on them! Paleo, dude! 45 seconds to a side, knock off any coals that stick, then lay the steaks on top of each other on foil, wrap snuggly, let rest 15-20 minutes, slice thin against the grain – and super yummy.
Also made pastrami for the less bloodthirsty among us:
Next up: the ciabatta rolls. Shovel back the coals, sweep the ash to the back, and throw the raw dough right on the bricks:
Did you know that ciabatta can catch fire if it gets too close to those 1000F coals?
I was concerned, a little, about the blackened mess, but – these crispy, chewy rolls were soon gone! Yummy, and I learned a thing or two, mostly about the inflammability of bread dough.
Next up: pizza!
Made 5 pizzas, one was a dud – you can’t use very runny sauce, tends to boil and dissolve the crust before the pizza is done – the others were quite good.
Also wanted to try baked potatoes, because it seemed weird:
Finally, spread the remaining coals over the oven floor, closed up the door, let sit for almost an hour while getting the ciabatta dough ready. Then remove all the hot coals and ash (got a cool lidded metal pail for just this thing) sweep, then mop with a dripping rag, check floor temp – should be around 550F – and throw the bread in right on the bricks.
The mopping not only reduces the amount of ash you going to get on your bread, but also raises the humidity in the oven which, paradoxically, makes for a crisper crust. 20-30 minutes later:
To get proper use out of a non-commercial brick oven, one must dedicate half a day to prep, and all of a day to firing/cooking. So, invite a lot of friends over – we did, worked out well, weather was California perfect. Spent Saturday evening making the ‘biga’ – the sponge – for the ciabatta and mixing up some pizza dough. Then cleaned up and set up and first firing. Guests started showing up around 2, cooking started around 3, and the last guests left after 8. Just hanging out on the patio and backyard, yacking and eating and drinkling.
A lot of fun. It will take me a week to recover.