A Lesson on Fire

The north-westerly storm raged the rest of the South Island but gave Christchurch a very warm day in late autumn, albeit a bit windy. I decided to fire up Big Bill my awesome clay oven to bake the 3 loaves of breads I mixed up earlier. I also made up two lots of focaccia, and planned to also bake some raspberry cheese cupcakes, followed by roasting a chicken, some pumpkins and onions for soup, and my green tomatoes with capsicums.

@ 3:40pm, I started a fire in Big Bill. Because it was rather windy, I put the oven door on ajar after the fire started, which is something I hardly ever do.

@ 4:30pm, I realised the carbon still hasn’t burnt off from the oven wall, which normally happens within half an hour of starting the fire. So I took the door off and added a bit more wood.

@ 5:00pm, I took all the embers out of Big Bill, mopped it, and the focaccia went in at around 270C. They only took 15 minutes to bake, and half of this time the door was left open because I didn’t want to burn the focaccia (learnt that lesson once!).

@ 5:30pm, three loaves of bread were loaded into Big Bill all at once. I used the garden hose to mist into the oven and shut the door. The temperature now was about 250C.

@ 6:00pm, I opened the oven door and the temperature had dropped to 180C already! It must be because I fired the oven up too slowly today. The loaves were looking very nice and sounded hollow when tapped, but I decided they can darken a little more while I prepared some raspberry cheese soufflé cupcakes.

@ 6:20pm, I took the breads out and put in two trays of cupcakes as well as some corn cobs in their shells. The breads baked for a total of 50 minutes and within that time, the temperature dropped from 250C to 160C. I am really please with how these loaves came out this time. I finally managed to get those beautiful holes in them!! More about how I made them here.

@ 7:30pm, the cupcakes and corn had been cooking for an hour, during which time, the temperature went from 160C to 120C. I then put into the oven a chicken with lemon and soy sauce, a large tray of onions and pumpkins, and a tray of green tomatoes and capsicums. These stayed in the oven for the night.

On the second day, the chicken came out really juicy and tender as always, but the potatoes were still a little hard. The pumpkins were also soft and tender, but the onions could do with some more cooking. So it showed that vegetables actually needed to be cooked at a higher temperature than chicken. (I’ve added a note about par-cooking potatoes to the chicken recipe if cooking temperature is low.)

I think this time I fired up the oven too slowly, so not enough thermal mass were built up for extensive cooking. It was definitely the first time the temperature dropped so quickly with one hour of firing (see my last one hour fire here). In the future I should always build up a good hot fire and not put the door on so early. All in all, it was another good lesson on firing, and now I have lots of bread to enjoy and share, and won’t need to cook much for the rest of the week!

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2 thoughts on “A Lesson on Fire

  1. Wow… your bread looks divine and the focaccia looks especially amazing!
    I’m soooo wanting a Big Bill of my own (trying to figure out if I could just take over the neighbours garden by force LOL).
    I often find that I learn most when things don’t go to plan in the kitchen, bits that don;t work out tell you a LOT about how the process works and how far you can push things before it breaks LOL

    • Thanks 🙂 Maybe you should try to convince your neighbour to build a “communal” clay oven 😉 Perhaps you can build it while they supply the area LOL.
      Hee hee pushing things till it breaks is what I do rather well 😉 Have I told you I’m an engineer by trade? I won’t tell you how many times I fancied “helping” with central city demolition 😉 though that’d take a bit more than “pushing”.

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