Tuesday, June 16, 2009

We Built Our Own Earth Oven!

We followed the simple, encouraging instructions in Kiko Denzer's book Build Your Own Earth Oven. We were further inspired by a recent story in our local newspaper, about 14-year-old Rebecca Gorlin of Hopkins, MN, who built her own earth oven, and even decorated it to look like her pet rabbit.

We bought some bricks and a piece of 3/4-inch plywood for the base. We repurposed a retired baking stone as the hearth surface. The brick base was 20" by 20". The stone is about 15 inches square.

We built a form from topsoil and sand, and covered that in wet newspaper to separate the form from the clay outside.

Clay is what we have plenty of at Bide-A-Wee. You dig out a shovelful of soil, and the cut edge shines. Getting in there with your feet is an effective way to mix the soil, some sand, and water. Good fun, too.

"Feet of clay."

We packed the clay mixture up around the form. I think our mix was a little wet, but it worked out okay in the end.

It felt a bit like a project for the junior high science fair.

In Denzer's book there are fanciful sculptural embellishments on many of the ovens. We were enamored by the simple organic shape, color, and texture of our first attempt at earth-ovenry. We let the decoration go with just a few light brushings with our fingertips.

That process took a morning. That evening we cut an opening for the door. The clay mixture was now exactly the consistency of fudge.

We made a door out of a cross-cut section of log, trimmed not at all symetrically, but that felt appropriate. The next day the clay seemed to be setting up nicely, just a few small cracks around the base. We emptied out the form material. It didn't fall down.

We had to get back to town and didn't have time to fire it. Next post, earth oven pizza...we hope....

Text and photos copyright 2009 by Brett Laidlaw and Mary Eckmeier


Tom said...

Very cool Brett! I found Denzer's book earlier this year but have not been able to put it into practice since I live in an apartment :(. Looks like your oven came out beautifully! Can't wait to see the baked goods that come out of it.

HungryinSW said...

Inspiring. I want one of these so bad. I'd start it the second I got to the cabin, and would use it all weekend long - breakfast through dinner.

Trout Caviar said...

Hi Tom, Hungry: Thanks for your notes. I've been aware of the book for a long time, too--I think it was Mary Falk of LoveTree Farmstead cheese who first mentioned it to me. They built an oven at the farm and insulated it with a clay/sheep dung mix! Upon discovering that our land in Wisconsin is a veritable clay mine, it was only a matter of time. And we really were inspired by the 14-year-old from Hopkins, a young earth oven evangelist, and her cool bunny-shaped oven!

We didn't fuss too much about technicalities with this oven, just got in there and hoped for the best. Of course I'll report on its maiden baking, and I expect we'll get started on a larger, more versatile oven soon.

Cheers~ Brett

tschida444 said...

This is super cool. Je can't wait for pizza.

Trout Caviar said...

KTP: We'll fire it this weekend and post the full details here. It's small, and not insulated, so I'm thinking pizzas and flat breads, or meats that don't need to roast for hours. You are always welcome at Bide-A-Wee, so grab a bottle of wine and come on out!


Mark said...

Did you shape your wood door AFTER you cut out the hole for your oven? I cut out the hole first, and now am trying to shape my door, but having trouble making it fit. The hole to the oven is angled as Kiko recommends in his book. But how do I cut such an angle in the wood door to match the hole in the clay oven? I only have a regular handheld saw which is nearly impossible to use for this task. Maybe an electric sander to shave it all down? Any suggestions would be most welcome! How did you do it?

Thanks !

Trout Caviar said...

Hi Mark: We had the piece of wood we were using for the door, and used that to trace the shape of the opening. Then later, after what you see in this post, we extended the oven around the opening with more clay, and we shaped that around the actual door--wrapped a little wet newspaper around the wood so we could get it out easily once the clay was dry. You can see more here: http://troutcaviar.blogspot.com/2009/07/pootzys-progress.html

Hope this helps. We don't use this oven much at all; it isn't big enough or well enough insulated to be of much use. But it was fun, and a good learning experience for our next try.


Nohemi Tutterrow said...

That was easy and awesome! Actually, I think these two factors are the reasons why I love brick ovens. By the way, how’s this earthly oven now?