We've had our beautiful clay oven awhile now. And while we've cooked many a delicious pizza, we'd not yet done the all day bake-athon, that is, until last Sunday. Oh what a day! It dawned clear and sunny and mild. Spring! Annie was up super early to help at our local co-operative run Small Species Abattoir so sadly, she didn't really see the dawning of this grand Spring day. But when she returned home we set about making ourselves the perfect Spring brunch - soft boiled eggs, blanched asparagus and toasty herby breadcrumbs. We are experiencing egg abundance at the moment, and what a joy it is. There's something about having so many eggs that makes me feel very happy and very well fed. We sat on the grass in the sun and ate our fill and made plans and anticipated the festival of baking before us.
|Spring joy on a plate|
Long before our wood oven was built, we'd harboured a notion that we'd fire up our oven and spend the day cooking. It makes a lot of sense and it's the way many people around the globe have been cooking for some time. It makes sense because getting the oven hot enough to cook pizza takes 3 hours so once you have "cooked" the fire that much, it seems silly not to make use of all that heat. A clay oven will hold its heat for some time and so goes our first baking day plan to make use of all that stored heat.
|Bake day 1 - The List|
I lit the fire around 10 in the morn and kept it going for well over three hours. It was a really good fire that built the heat of the oven well. Coals were raked to the side and the floor of the oven given a little wipe then first up in the hot hot oven goes pizza. We made use of what we had so our pizzas comprised asparagus and parmesan and parsley, homemade ham and chilli and mozzarella, tomato, fresh herbs and cheese, tomato and spinach and olives and cheese... It was all so very good. Especially as we finished it off with a homemade blackberry jam pizza dolloped with Tilba jersey cream. Eaten warm from the (hot hot) oven it was beyond pizza, really beyond description. So good.
|Oscar, always so free with the help|
|Oooh so good...|
Next up was bread. By now, the oven was at about 250 degrees (Celsius). Still a tad too hot but almost there. Now I need to confess something here. I am scared of sourdough. I have majorly ginormous blocks to making it. I made it once and it was terrible, like a rock. I've read books, I've done a course but still, I'm scared. But I need to sort myself out because we currently have an expensive bread habit. We really only eat sourdough because (a) I am a food elitist (b) it's how bread is meant to be (c) I want the kids to grow up knowing what real bread is (d) the fermented is good for our guts and thus, overall health. But there's a price to be paid for handmade sourdough and boy, do we pay it. So I need help and I need it fast. Gotta get that starter happening. In the meantime, I made some very delightful yeasted loaves of light sift flour and spelt with a little honey and olive oil. The next night when we ate some with our lentil stew I exclaimed out loud, "God, how good is this bread!" Olive promptly chastised me for "boasting". But I maintain it's ok to be proud of yourself sometimes. And proud I bloody was.
|Olive and her loaf|
The oven was now at about 220 degrees and so it was time for biscuits. We made a sesame tahini pseudo-health biscuit and a sweet, buttery orange spice biscuit. Perfect lunchbox fodder for the week ahead.
As the temperature continued to drop it was time for muesli toasting. I needed to do something to the raw muesli I'd made a couple of weeks before. It wasn't very nice. I don't know why, it's not like I'd never made muesli before but this batch was not inspiring any enthusiasm amongst anyone in the family. So mixed with raw local honey and olive oil it was and baked slowly 'til golden brown. Ah, that's more like it.
Then as the oven hit 150 degrees, in went the lentil stew and with the oven door ajar it stayed there overnight. By morning it was rich and thick and tasty. Perfect for that night's dinner with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of parsley and local fetta and "spooned" from the bowl with a slab of day old bread smeared with Bega butter. I mean really, can life be any better than this?