Days 2-5, Vermont, 2013


Crystal clear morning fishing



The first fish of the summer!



Jupey can relax, too.




Morning buns at Vergennes Laundry.



The boys scored the Danish Modern chairs in the window.



Devouring their favorites!





This apron was a new


1957 Volvo Sugga — for sale!


Love this dashboard and the numerals


David on the slack line




Audrey is a natural!


Success baking Daniel Leader’s “Paline” (buckwheat sourdough) in a tiny propane oven.





My method for creating steam — an old enamel lobster pot.


Using a giant Speculaas board


Here’s a old Dutch speculaas mold (antieke speculaasplank) that my parents bought in Holland in 1960.  Using it was tricky — definitely flour the mold first.  Then use a knife or a wire (like a clay cutter) to horizontally trim the excess dough off.  Then invert on a baking sheet.  Ta da!


This little movie shows all the tricks (I should have watched it first):

Recipe here:

Baking in Vermont

Another great class at King Arthur Flour.  “Baking Bread in Wood Fired Ovens” by Richard Miscovich.  We made pizza on Friday night and on Saturday made pitas, two types of levain (sourdough) , and ciabatta.  Here are a few photos.

This was the first real baking to happen in this oven, a William Davenport creation.

We were told about a Quebec-style community oven in Norwich, so after class, we went to go check it out.  Looks like a great set-up.

Back at class on Saturday —

Louie shows off a massive pita

Richard demonstrates how to get the peels ready for fast loading.  The oven held 15+ loaves.

We did some baking in the fancy Matador Deck Ovens as well —

Checking the crumb on the various loaves.

Cloam Ovens

It seems like the clay oven I built is a lot like the cloam (or clome) ovens from Devon and Cornwall that were brought here (or made here?) by early American colonists.  They were probably used at Plymouth and they have found one at Jamestown.

Here is a neat video of baking in one  in Jamestown– this is very much what my oven is like.

Cloam oven baking

Also, this article describes how they were made (with coils of clay, not spun on a wheel) and describe the attractive crows’ foot marking seen on the Jamestown oven.

And here’s a new word — that wet rag on the end of a stick I’ve been using to clean the oven floor?  It’s called a malkin (also slang for an untidy woman!)

Does anyone have instructions on how cloam ovens were built??  Anyone building this design today?

Building a Semi-Portable Clay Oven for under $150

Inspired by the class I took with Stu Silverstein at the Kneading Conference, I built a clay (or cob) oven!  Built on Labor Day Weekend (with the foundation platform made ahead of time), the sand dome was made on Sunday, the oven was made on Monday, it was hollowed out on  Thursday, and we baked our first pitas & pizzas on Friday.  And on Sunday we baked our first loaves of bread.

I had bought the book by Kiko Denzer, “Build Your Own Earth Oven”,  two or three years ago, but it took some hands-on experience and Stu (a great teacher) to make me feel like I could really do it.

This oven was built on a wooden platform and stands on sawhorses.  So no need to dig a deep foundation and site it permanently in your yard.  Also, I used dry clay (from a pottery supply store) — great for those who don’t have a lot of clay in their soil or who don’t want to do a lot of digging.

Total cost of the oven: $128.50

Leo builds the 36″ square base that will hold the perlite-cement mixture.

Leo measures out the perlite.

Paul smooths out the cement-perlite mix.

Laying out the fire bricks.

Jesse spraying the sand dome to keep it damp.

The oven in action!

Leo brings in a pizza.

Finn’s turn

Ian shows off his delicious sourdough bread!

Project details:

Items I already had
2 sawhorses for holding the oven
tarp for mixing and covering the oven
Items I had to buy
Wood Georgetown Lumber $    18.00 for a 36″ square foundation platform and peel
Portland cement Georgetown Building Supply $       5.00 I got a discount on an open bag.
12.5 pounds (a half bag) of perlite Nunan’s Nursery $    20.00 This was the hardest item to find.  Greenhouses can order for you — this one was called “Whittemore Horticultural Grade Perlite”).
concrete mixing tub Georgetown Building Supply $    12.00
19 fire bricks Georgetown Building Supply $    28.50
1.5 bags of clay Portland Pottery Supply $    20.00 40 mesh Hawthorn Bond fireclay from Christy Minerals
10 bags of all-purpose sand a big chain store $    25.00 4 for the sand form, 6 for the oven mud
Grand Total $  128.50

The oven interior is 25″ in diameter and can hold four standard bread loaf pans.  More info on how an oven like this can be built can be found here:

And a note to Jamie Oliver: Why are you suggesting people spend $5000-$10,000 on a pizza oven when they can build their own for under $150???  You should take this up with your school kids — a great learning project.

Special thanks go to: Leo Godley (for endless enthusiasm), Sophie Godley (for being amazed and for allowing it in the yard), Vera and Nigel Godley (for helping me attend the Kneading Conference), Freddy and Sammy Kniker (for sand dome inspection), Paul Snyder (for cement-perlite base mixing), Ian, Jesse and Aida DeWeese-Boyd (for sand dome construction), Finn Murphy (mud delivery), and Peter Rudd (for impromptu construction of a beautiful oven door).

“More dread”

(That’s what little Henry used to call bread, which I would bring to him when I babysat. That was ten years ago. I’m sensing a theme here!)

Seeded Fougasse, a shameless rip-off of the one made by A&J King Bakery in Salem, MA.

Ciabatta rolls, made from the same dough as the fougasse.  The ciabatta recipe came from “BakeWise” and is an adapted version of Carol Field’s recipe in “The Italian Baker”.

Name that movie!

Donncha, the sneak thief, stealing a roll!

My best taste tester!

My first ciabatta came out nicely.  So did my nephew.

Isn’t it funny how people sometimes begin to look like the bread they eat?