Wednesday, 6 January 2016

First Fire of 2016

There is no bread in the house, I made a quick soda bread to keep us going using the indoor oven, but then planned a day off from the Olive harvest to get a few loaves done.  (it was also a very welcome rest from the aches and pains of harvesting).

The day dawned very cold - 6C - I know that isn't so cold compared to some places but its chilly for Cavewoman and the oven.  Sadly the wood was damp.  Everything felt damp.  A lesson we thought we had already learned obviously needs reinforcing.  A good fire needs good wood.  Note to self... start the day before and sort out some decent wood ready for the following day.

So... with the fire going very slowly indeed I had to knock back the bread dough more than once to delay its readiness for the oven.

The day continues very miserable and grey.  I don't want to go inside and leave the fire, it might just die on me.  But we haven't had breakfast yet and Man is already out working hard on the olive harvest.  So.  Have you ever seen one of these?

This came with the finca when we bought it.  It had never been used judging by the nice clean dry wicks.  It runs on paraffin so is incredibly cheap to use.

Breakfast for the Man (who is working hard) and the Woman (who is fretting over the slow fire in the oven).  And an opportunity to use more of the cast iron cookware bought especially for this kind of thing.

The first egg stuck on the bottom of the pan but the rest were fine.  Cast iron is like that, it takes a few goes to get it working just right.  And when breakfast is over and the pan has cooled down, a scrape with a metal slice and then a wipe out with kitchen roll and the pan is ready for the next time.  I love it... no washing up!

The fire continues to be of concern.  It will not get hot enough and if I add more wood that seems to retard the process of 'whitening' the oven dome.

I think the big log is too big.  Having watched the Victorian Bakers on UK tv last night and seeing that they use bundles of faggots (little thin sticks) to get their oven up to temperature, I think small fast burning (hot burning) wood is the way to go.  I wasn't prepared for this so when next we are sorting the wood store we shall have to cherry pick some pieces specifically for the oven.  Who knew that it was going to be this complicated? Actually Woman knew but experiencing it is a bit different.

In the meantime... lunch has to be thought of.  Two very large potatoes are pierced with a skewer and then wrapped in a loose foil package.  Loose because they are still damp from being scrubbed clean and I want space in the package for them to steam slightly.  The oven is taking far too long to get up to temperature so I popped the potatoes in while the fire is still raging.  Hope they don't burn.  Hope they cook.

Once again the bread dough is ready but the oven isn't.  Determined not to have a failure - such a waste of ingredients (and we have no bread in the house so needs must) I closed the oven door to quench the fire and crossed my fingers that the oven was hot enough.  The roof of the oven is still black, it has only just started to turn white and closing the door of the oven has meant clouds of black smoke rising up to the top of the dome and turning it black again.  I know... you are not supposed to cook with the oven dome black with soot... but what can I do?  We have no bread in the house!

The issue now will be... how long to give the bread?  I have rarely given my bread more than half an hour to cook but on the Victorian Bakers they left their loaves for a full hour.  Perhaps with the oven temperature lower that would work... they also threw a glassful of water into the oven... I know that it produces steam that helps the bread to rise but it also cools the oven and I could only do that if it was really really hot.  I haven't tried that yet.

The tin loaves were left in the oven for almost an hour.  I turned them after 20 minutes.  The free form loaf was also in there for an hour but it didn't colour as much as the others.  It is cooked but its a bit pale - it won't be as good.

The potatoes were transferred to the estufa oven... after more than an hour in the bread oven they were as hard as when they were first put in.  Now usually I will zap a baked potato in the microwave first before finishing it off in an oven... I didn't do this but it just goes to show that baking potatoes from raw takes a very very long time.  Or a hotter fire.    Lets face it, everything takes a hotter fire.  THE FIRE MUST BE BIG AND HOT.  All is not lost.

Macaroni cheese is quick to prepare and a couple of apples in the top of the estufa take only 20 minutes to bake.  The potatoes will be ready by this evening (woman crosses fingers).

I think I have dropped the ball a bit with the bread oven.  I started thinking it was easy.  Of course it is if you pay attention and do it right.  The first fire I did was sooooo hot.  I haven't really had as good a fire since.  Mmmmm.  Woman philosophical.  Man still hungry.

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