I was visiting my brother and his family in my hometown of Melbourne last week and had the chance to stay with them for a few days. They live on the outskirts of the city and pretty much try to maintain a self sustaining lifestyle. They grow everything in their back garden. Broccoli, garlic, herbs, tomatoes (when in season) etc... Everything! You get the idea...leaves my own farmers market to shame! They have their own compost and even their own water tank. But the thing that got my attention was this earth oven located in the rear of the property. As a "foodie" I was screaming with inner delight when I noticed it. My brother John explained that he had been experimenting with baking his own bread and making pizzas in it and cooking the odd roast as well.. It's not something they use everyday (could you imagine?) but they were still working out getting certain elements right, namely the temperature. His inspiration to make this earth oven or Cob oven as its otherwise known, comes from a gentleman by the name of Kiko Denzer. He's a bit of a clay master and has produced his own book as a sort of "how to" guide. And all for less than $200.
So we set out one morning to light the oven (well he did!...I took all the photos) and battled the mad Melbourne weather and a barking Airedale terrier (long story!). This oven takes about 4 hours to heat up properly and when it was ready it had reached a maximum temperature of 600 deg Fahrenheit. (measured using a trusty oven thermometer). This oven doesn't bullshit around. It's bloody HOT! Pizzas and bread were on the baking menu and I've tried to capture it all for you to enjoy.
I've never seen pizzas cook so fast! Literally a couple of minutes. In and out. My sister in law makes pizzas that could rival any of the pizza makers in Napoli. They were delicious! There's something about wood fired freshly baked dough dripping with cheese that just screams "YUM". I couldn't keep up between bites and taking photos!
And next came the main event. Everyone knows about my love of carbs and to have them delivered in this manner was truly unforgettable. We baked three loaves and they took about half an hour to cook. By this time the oven temperature had dropped to about 400 deg Fahrenheit so it was comparable to a "normal" oven. They were crispy with slightly burnt edges. After resting them for another half hour we ate them hungrily drizzled with extra virgin olive oil or Danish butter. Warm, wood fired bread is truly a treat.