Sunday 22nd May 2016.
Here's a reminder of the Dragon oven for my wood-burning mate @CannyFradock. We'll be firing it up again on 24th June for a team building day - you know you have an open invitation, Terry!
Friday 30th March 2012.
Hard to believe I haven't visited this oven - or this post - for 7 months!
However, I was asked by the Halcon Primary School head to run a session with some of her students and also some from a visiting school, instead of my usual Family Learning session.
As I'm always happy to do some outdoor pizza-making I didn't have to be asked twice!
The first thing to notice is that the missing tooth has been replaced:
|Just lit the fire|
|And away it goes|
|1 beaker flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/3rd beaker of lukewarm water and 1 teaspoon of fresh yeast for each pizza |
|Rolling out the pizzas|
|More rolling out|
|Topping the pizzas|
|Fire on one side, pizza on the other. This one is perhaps a little close - but nobody minded!|
We made 11 pizzas, cooked in just over 40 minutes - not bad for the first firing of the year! We had 9 children, one of the teachers made a pizza, and I made one as a demo, which went to the support team.
|Some of the finished pizzas. The baking parchment is trimmed before it goes in the oven, otherwise it just burns up and curls over the pizza.|
It was a lovely session, enjoyed by everyone, and, all-in-all, a good start to the Dragon pizza-making year!
Wednesday 24th August.
Lovely summer morning - but not too hot for firing up an oven!
I'd been in touch with Crannyfradock (from the Wood & Pizza Oven Forum), who'd indicated he'd love to come and work the oven whilst I looked after the breadmaking. As luck would have it he had a spare day off and legged it down from Newport to Taunton for the day.
I hadn't seen Terry since the Besthesda Baking weekend, back at the beginning of July, so it was fantastic to see him again. And to work with him was a real pleasure. (I also had a couple of hardworking support workers with me looking after the making and shaping of the breads.)
This time I thought I'd introduce a variation on a theme, so we offered chocolate and banana bread as well as cheese and tomato pizzas. These caused a bit of a problem in that the kids generally made them chunkier than was good for the oven - it was difficult to oversee the kids so that they rolled the bread out thinly enough - so that the outside of the loaf was sometimes cooked before the middle. However, we didn't receive any complaints!
I've got a couple of pics which I'll upload soon.
It's a bit sad that the summer's baking is all behind us! But I'm a lot wiser now than I was at the beginning!
On a brighter note, I was able to make sure that Terry didn't leave Taunton without a couple of gallons of scrumpy to remember us by!
Wednesday 17th August.
Weather not so good today - started out fine, but around 11 am the rain came down. I was sort of alright in that there is a bit of roof overhanging the oven, so I was dry whilst standing up - but when I bent down to tend the oven my backside got a bit wet!
Not that I had a lot of time to think about that as the pizzas came thick and fast. I'm getting much more accomplished tending the oven - to the extent that we broke a couple of records today!
Record number one:
A pizza cooked in 40 (forty) seconds!
Record number two:
Between 45 and 50 pizzas in 2 hours and 32 minutes!
Whereas previously I've been averaging a pizza every 4 minutes, I've brought the average down to one about every 3 minutes.
This is possible because of the increased heat I've been able to maintain in the oven. I am now much more pro-active about keeping the fire going in the oven - and the copper tube has proved very useful on the odd occasion when the flames had died down. And I was also able to put two pizzas in the oven at once after I'd cleared away the coals at the beginning.
Every now and again, because of the increased organisation of the pizza-making groups (6 at a time, first come first served, book your place when you register), there was a gap in the proceedings and I was able to concentrate on building up the fire again. After these pauses I just cleared the glowing embers away to each side and put the next pizza in the middle. It was after one of these occasions that I cooked the 40 second pizza - great fun.
|A house pizza...|
I'm also a bit quicker in recognising when it's time to switch the fire from one side to the other - which only takes seconds.
|...and a tree pizza. Both on their sides, sorry!|
Towards the end of the session I began snipping off the surplus paper from round the pizza:
|A puffed up pizza, which took less than a minute in the middle of the oven|
As long as there's some baking paper under the pizza it slips off the peel nicely. Once the bottom is crisp it's fairly easy to slide the peel underneath to bring it back out. (Although I still had to call in the tenon saw to reach a couple of pizzas that had slid out of reach of the peel.)
|The pizza is identified by the letter K - not everyone followed the rules and put a number on their pizzas, that's why I'm not able to be specific about how many we made.|
Halfway through the morning we realised we were going to be short of wood. A quick foray to the local Asda (only 400 metres away) resulted in a donation of several broken pallets. This gave us more than enough wood - and loads for next week as well.
Only one more Wednesday left with the pizza oven, and I want to try and set a new record. If I could get 60 pizzas through in under 3 hours, I'd think the summer well spent!
I'd like to thank Andy and Shane for the wood-chopping, Steve for the Asda trip and the backroom staff of two Jennies, Nan and Bob (not all at the same time!) Thanks, guys!
Wednesday 3rd August.
There was supposed to be less pressure on us this week, since the Family Centre was organising a coach to the seaside - Burnham on Sea, to be exact - but it didn't turn out like that.
Once again we made half a dozen pizzas for the staff - and then the youngsters piled in to make theirs. By the time we called a halt to any more budding bakers at around 1.00 the identifying number on top of the pizzas had reached 41 - so, with the six we'd made previously, we'd still made 47.
This time I had some help with the oven - my friend Andy kept me well supplied with wood to keep the oven at optimum temperature. I only let the embers die down once - and they were soon brought back to life with a few puffs from the copper tube, which worked very well indeed!
This week I've got something else on the Wednesday, so we're leaving it until next week before we fire up again.
When we do we're going to have quite a crush - with the youngsters who went on the trip joining the ones who didn't go. So we're going to have groups of up to six (we can take 8 if several come as a family) with the last group starting at 12.30. Hopefully we can then get everyone through to finish at around 1.30.
(Best laid plans, etc!)
Wednesday 27th July.
First Fun Day of the summer holidays and it was a bright, clear warm - not too hot - morning when I got there early to light the fire. But I was too late, one of the volunteers, David, had already fired up around 8.30, which was perfect since it meant we could start baking at around 10.30!
I figured that between 10.30 and 1.00 we could bake the 30 or so pizzas I anticipated we'd be making, no problem. I took along 4 bags of flour, 2 kgs of cheese and 5 tubes of tomato puree (to make the passata).
However, starting baking about 10.30, we'd reached the 30 pizza mark by about 12.30 and there were still loads of youngsters wanting to make a pizza. Eventually one of the staff had to dash off to the local S/M to replenish supplies - we'd run out of everything, including baking parchment!
It was fantastic! Kids of all ages from toddlers (with a bit of help from mum or dad) up to about 12-13, all got their hands stuck in and made some dough. The shapes - well they were all sorts of shapes, some of them even circular! But they all thoroughly enjoyed themselves!
In the end, counting the pizzas I'd made for the staff for lunch, we made about 60 pizzas. It was hard work and pretty hectic - especially for my support workers who were supervising the making of the pizzas - but terrific fun.
Loads of recipes disappeared, so hopefully a few of the families will follow through and make some at home.
|The large 'S' denotes staff - got these ready before the hordes arrived. Just as well we did, otherwise there would have been simply no time!. |
|Starting to build up nicely |
|One of the youngsters' pizzas - that's the number 2 on there.|
|Left this one in a fraction too long- the oven was at its hottest then.|
Although it was all very enjoyable it was only later that I realised that I hadn't had much to do with the actual making of the pizzas - which is what I'd rather be doing, really. I had two helpers supervising the dough making - both called Jenny, coincidentally - and they worked incredibly hard in a small, rather airless room for most of the day.
|This was the last one out - at about 2.15. It took about 2 minutes, the same as the first one nearly 4 hours earlier!|
I, on the other hand, was out in the sunshine playing (literally!) with fire! I haven't got quite into the routine yet of keeping the fire going on one side, chopping wood, sticking the pizzas in, monitoring them, turning round them when one side started to cool off (that's what I should have taken as my cue to move the fire over to the other side of the oven) then taking them out. But by the end of the summer I should be a whizz!
(I could really do with someone to do the oven duty and allow me to take over the making of the pizzas, but not sure this is going to happen.)
I had a couple of hairy moments:
Twice I let the flames die down and the wood I put on wouldn't catch for what seemed ages. I was putting smaller and smaller bits of kindling on and eventually some baking parchment - and still it wouldn't catch! And a couple of times I lost a pizza in the back of the oven when I'd pushed it with the peel instead of slipping it underneath. I was saved by a rusty old tenon saw, which just caught underneath the edge of the pizza. It's pretty dark at the back of the oven at times - I could do with a torch so I can see what I'm doing. Also I need a longer, straight peel - the one Dominos gave us has a kink in it which means I can't get it to the back of the oven.
Wednesday 1st June.
Another Fun Day at Halcon. They have these every Wednesday of every school holiday now, and I'm always invited along to run a breadmaking session. Normally, this is held in the local church hall, but, now that children from the local school (Halcon Primary School, where I run a weekly Family Learning session) have built this wonderful clay oven, we were going to use it for the first time.
The guy who built it (Frank Blaker, who has built several of these - all different - over the last few months), couldn't get to us until about 10.15, so the oven wasn't lit until about 10.30.
|First firing - with intent!|
Which meant that we couldn't start baking our pizzas until around 12 when the oven should be at full temperature. With around 20 kids wanting to make them for lunch, this was a problem.
We decided to make mini pizzas - each youngster making 2 using half a mug of flour.
|Proving - and waiting for the oven to heat up.|
|The first pizzas to come out of our new oven!|
|Coming thick and fast, now!|
This was a real learning curve for me. We didn't rake out the embers, as I'd expected, but just pushed them to one side. We started off baking them on oven trays, but eventually just put them on the floor of the oven - on baking parchment. In the beginning the paper burned away in between the pizzas, and it was a delicate job getting the peel underneath the pizzas to get them out of the oven.
|4 more - on a peel donated by the local branch of Domino's.|
Frank had to leave at about 12.30, so I was on my own. He told me we could place some wood on each side of the oven, to burn, to keep the temperature up. But I didn't carry this part of the operation out properly, as the oven began to cool and each batch was taking longer and longer.
We eventually finished up around 1.30, much later than planned. We'd managed to get 22 small batches through in about an hour and a half - but I'm sure I can do better with practice!
As I said earlier, the Fun Days will be happening every Wednesday through the holidays so I should get plenty of practice through the summer!
Wednesday 20th April.
Here's an oven that's just been built at a local community centre:
I'm hoping to be involved when it's fired up for the first time!