Thursday, June 09, 2011

Preparing for cobbing

We love our outdoor cob oven and use it once a week or so to make bread and pizza!  This week has seen us get back into cobbing action, preparing materials for an upcoming workshop this weekend on building cob ovens.  Cob is such a simple, ancient, and effective building material - not to mention that is uses basic hand tools (shovels, tarps, trowels, your hands), and the ingredients can be sourced locally (possibly even in your own backyard): clay, sand and straw.  For the workshop we'll be walking participants through the various steps of preparing your own cob for building a wood-fired bake oven: testing your soil, preparing the right cob mix that will hold together properly, making cob "bricks", building a sand form for the oven, the various layers of cob on the oven, and finally how to bake!  Baking with an outdoor oven is perfect for spring-fall weather when you want to be outside puttering in the garden while tending your fire and letting the bread rise.  On hot days, like this week, it's especially nice not to heat up the house during baking!  And, when the oven is at the right temperature (about 450-500F) the bread is phenomenal - crusty top and bottom, soft interior, baked evenly in a similar way that a convection oven bakes (the thick cob walls retain heat and radiate the heat out during the baking time).  Although we have a tried-and-true sourdough bread we make often, I've also found a new favourite European Peasant Bread using the "artisan bread in five minutes a day" method, which is a no-knead bread - the secret is to make a starter dough ahead of time that you keep in the refrigerator.  I prefer to add rye, seeds, millet or other extra grains to the breads from this book, as otherwise they tend to be a little too light for our taste.  More details and photos about cob after Saturday's workshop...

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