Archive for the ‘Baking with Fire’ Category

January Can Be Busy, Apparently.


Wood Oven DoorAlthough the blog’s been quiet, my life has not been. Januaries here suck, for the most part. They’re darned cold. And snowy. And cold. And usually a do-nothing-kinda-month. I’d planned on taking January to get the shamozzle of incorporations and business setups done, and then out of the blue, piles and piles of production work fell atop my calendar. Plop. Add to that much Shovel & Fork action. In January.

Example. Saturday morning, the Game Butchery Epic ran out at Sangudo. Super interesting. Jeff Senger killed 3 animals, walking through 3 very different approaches to field dressing an animal in the field – the afternoon spent on butchery. My instagram feed has some interesting photos from that morning of dead things that look like tauntauns from Star Wars. I then ran [drove] to Calgary a mere 400km away to shoot #charpopluck for Alberta Culinary Tourism, found a hotel to rest my head for a few hours, then drove back to Edmonton bright and early for Shovel & Fork’s bread baking workshop to do some press interview stuff and get in the way. The whole time through the weekend we had a production crew shooting the Shovel & Fork gigs – we were approached re: having them pitch a trailer to broadcasters for a show about S&F. We’ll see. Interesting to not be the one behind the camera.

Anyway, this is no complaint. Not even close. And yes, perhaps I feel a bit badly for the silence upon this domain. But with the seasons, that will soon change. Part of the production schedule is 20-30 episodes of KevinTV that are lined up, shooting starting in a few weeks. More on that soon. This site is getting a rebuild from somebody who actually knows what they’re doing, so once that’s done, there will be lots more info on the crazy 2013 in Kevin-land. And it’ll look prettier too. Here’s to busy Januaries.
Shovel & Fork Shoot

Cob Oven Bread


I’m not sure quite what to say about the fact that I’ve had this lovely oven for months now, and today was the first time I actually intentionally baked bread. In my defense, I shall say: pizza, roast and braised meats, pies, loaves, deep frying, and smoked bacon. It’s interesting that a lot of folks think wood oven and think ‘bread’, yet it took me so long to get to it. It speaks to the over-performing-versatility of the thing. I know many of your are convinced, and I tip my hat to those of you who either have built one since I built mine, or are going to, due to my constant prodding. It makes me deeply content to know a few cob ovens adorn our city that didn’t before, simply because I shared my experience with mine.

For a guy who’s far from obsessed with perfecting bread, I’m pretty pleased with this one. Overnight ferment of 50% Gold Forest Grains’ hard whole wheat. About 80% hydration. That’s all there is to say about it. It’s bread. Baked in a wood oven. The one thing I did that some would scorn is I baked it with the last of a fire in the back, with the door open. Most would pull coals and close the door for more even heat and a higher humidity bake. That would have removed the pleasure of watching it and turning it as I saw fit. Really solid oven spring, nice toast. Now to get to eating it.

Episode 49 – Rge Rd 135


Last year’s Rge Rd 135 farm-to-table epic at Nature’s Green Acres [Episode 19] is still engraved into the minds of everyone that had the pleasure of being involved, making me more than slightly trepdatious at the prospect of trying to duplicate, nevermind top that farm-to-table extravaganza. But as far as I see it, they pulled it off.

Maybe I’m biased. It was a menu heavy on grass fed free-range meats, fresh garden veg and a splash of wild foods, all cooked on fire. I’m into that kind of thing. It also was the true maiden voyage of the 2nd cob oven build of the year, the first being mine. Add a lucky card-draw on the weather [again], a crew that busted their butts to make it happen, a few bottles of wine, a farm tour, and a few beautiful dishes for a large crew of happy guests – what’s not to like? The cob oven performed fabulously, I’ll add. It was a joy to watch it shed the last of its moisture from the build, get insanely hot, and cook some beautiful food. I wish I’d shot a video about the build, but was soaked to squishy-socks-in-my-shoes-stage and muddy as all heck.

This event is a labour of love, and for that I adore it.

The big masonry kitchen project shows its face again


Some of you might remember this. 2-3 years ago, I came up with the mad idea of building a huge-assed [17+' wide] masonry wall of kitchen awesomeness in my back yard. Did all the research. Drew all the plans. Had them approved by the city and the gas company [crossing a gas line, not because anything's gas fuelled]. Then, decided that tackling it the year we had a newborn in the house was likely not the responsible thing to do. So it got shelved.

I then built ‘the temp‘, re-purposing the stack of cinders and bricks intended for ‘the big project’ to make them less in the way and more useful. Turns out the temp was a resounding success. 3 hour time investment gave me a wood oven and wood fire grill that will have lasted 15 months or so. But alas, the heat took its toll on the pavers in the design [see photo top left], which has compromised the structural integrity, as well as the usability of the temp. The temp will be seeing its last day standing today.

Which leaves me with two masonry-wood-fire projects. 1 – the big project. The shovel has hit the dirt to dig foundation. I have no idea when I’ll finish, but am taking the first steps in the journey. Keep telling myself Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s a bit daunting, but very exciting. 2 – the temp 2.0. I need a setup in the interim built elsewhere in the yard where it won’t be in my way. I believe it will be a cob oven and smaller wood grill. We’ll see what comes of that project. I see muscle soreness in my future.

Episode 31 – Pizza


New Level Pizza - Margerita

Two people passionate about pizza. Like. Hardcore passionate. New Level Pizza [no they don't have a website, but you can follow them on Twitter @newlevelpizza], is affectionately known by members as ‘pizza club‘. Pizza club is currently a member only deal, not open to the public, and you can only go if you get invited by an existing member. There’s a long list of reasons why pizza club is a member-only deal at the moment, and you can ask the guys all about it when you score yourself an invite to go try their pies.

I have always adored the concept of prix-fixe eating – allowing the chef to do what inspires them and knock those dishes out of the park, rather than burning their energy accommodating everybody. Depending on the season and night, you’ll get a different array of deliciousness. Chad’s folks happened to have been in town from Newfoundland bearing gifts of line-caught cod, lingonberries, and cloudberries – so they ended up on the menu this particular night. Next time, something different.

It’s always fun to listen to folks talk about what they’re passionate about – and this episode’s no exception.

Fire, Brick, Water, and Wheat


I couldn’t not take photos of these breads yesterday. It being a busy fall with harvesting, butchering, etc, I haven’t fired up the wood oven nearly often enough. There’s something meditative about watching a fire that’s akin to getting lost in music. Add to that the satisfaction of baking up lovely loaves of tasty bread while tending the oven, and it’s the kind of activity that can make your day.

This bread is the same pain a l’ancienne approach as I wrote about here. Having taken a quick look at that post I noticed that I’ve modified the loaf shape due to the design of my wood oven and how I’m baking them off. With hot coals still in the oven during baking there’s uneven heat making a baguette style loaf shape impractical – one end being done far before the other. So instead I’m free-styling them into whatever shape comes from cutting the dough into a few manageable pieces that can be turned easily in the oven if need be without removing them. It produces a puffed up mini-loaf that cut in half is fantastic for sandwiches. Kinda like pita meets pizza crust meets ciabatta bun. First course for dinner last night was herbed fried ruffed grouse breast, mayo, and carrot & pickled onion slaw stuffed into a half of one of these loaves. Tasty.

Celebrating Spring Thyme


Irvings Farm Fresh Berk Loin Chop, Garden Thyme, Garlic + Lola Canola Honey mustard

GEH Potatoes, Onions, Mo-Na Mushroms, Garden Thyme

An Afternoon with Bread


Life’s pace slowed for a moment today, so out came the flours. I made 3 doughs. 1] 50% Highwood Crossing Unbleached White, 50% Gold Forest Grains Whole Wheat. 2] 50% Highwood Crossing Unbleached White, 50% Gold Forest Grains Rye and 3] 100% Highwood Crossing Unbleached White. So a white, a whole wheat, and a rye. All with roughly 80% hydration, 1ml salt and active dry yeast per 100g flour.

The whole wheat seemed to proof the fastest, and was the most slack. Next was the rye, and then the white – which is odd, perhaps attributable to the white flour being cold [straight out of the cellar].

Below is a photo essay illustrating the doughs post ferment/pre final rise; the probe thermometer reading internal loaf temps inside my temp wood fired oven [grateful, as they cooked faster than anticipated]; the finished loaves [the white a tad small as some dough was nicked to make a small pizza for lunch while the oven was really hot]; my use of the coals when pulled out to bake: grilled some bugers for dinner; and lastly, a quick shot of the oven walls white from exceeding 600F [I think], burning off any residual soot.

Pain a l’Ancienne: My New Rut


My bread gig has changed. A couple times now. First, back in the day, it started with baguettes from a dough recipe in the CIA’s Professional Chef tome. Then boules. Then boules with half organic whole wheat, half unbleached organic white – stayed on this one for a good 2-3 years, I figure. Those loaves ended up evolving to 6lb of dough per. I have a big oven.

When it comes to bread, apparently I’m a rut guy. I like hunkering myself down into one. And staying there. So here’s my new rut. Pain a l’ancienne. Pain is definitely one of those french words that wins the linguistics’-cool-measuring-contest. Said with an english accent, no, but said with a french one, far better than the word ‘loaf’, no? Loaf. Wouldn’t want to be the guy who invented that word. Anyway, I’ve eaten loads of this style of bread in both France and Italy, and it has been a joy having some successes with it at home. I was inspired to give it a go after seeing some folks tackle Peter Reinhart’s approach [this blog being most useful to me, not being patient enough for Reinhart's book to become available at the library]. Strangely, the only real difference in my mind is wetter dough. I dial it up to 80% [from previous 70% recipe], get frustrated working with wet dough a bit, but then reap the rewards of awesome bubbly bread. Recipe: flour, 80% of the flour’s weight in water, then 1 tsp of salt and yeast per lb of flour. Voila. New rut. And this rut is so close to the last one they can hang out. Or perhaps were even made by the same vehicle.

I’m saddened a touch to post these photos, as I knocked out 9 loaves in 3 batches from one firing of the dry stack oven during my 2-year-old’s recent birthday party, and one of those batches turned out beautifully, during the day with nice light. But I had my hands full. These photos, sadly, are from a less successful batch in the dark that is our winter evenings. Oh well. C’est la vie.

Ever the QPR geek: 500g organic local flour = $0.95. Rest [including oven and wood], negligible or free. So call it $1.  $0.30-0.50/pain. Bargain.