my cob oven, Plot 35, Rosendale Allotments
For nearly 20 years I have been baking bread in domestic ovens and yearning to be able to try baking in an oven with more baking potential. Since 2001 I have had the book by Kiko Denzer "Build your own Earth Oven" amongst other bread oven design books. When I discovered just how much clay lay under my shared Rosendale Allotments plot at last I had a chance to put the book's instructions into action.

BUT not without the help of a lot of friends - especially in carrying out the necesary puddling. Thanks to all who assited at or/and in building my oven, foremost Elkin Atwell and Nic Shaw but also Be, Nikki, Rachel, Annie, Steve, Shane, Alice, Ray, Joe, Hung Ye, Mei How, Gill, William, Vikki, Amber, Olivier, Keith, Rachel, Spohie and Emile.



If you have any questions re cob oven or Artofex I will try to answer atty@area3.net





xls spreadsheet for sourdough recipe calculations
the same as zip file




   
   
galleries
BBA wheat season 2013/14
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Brockwell Bake baking on WoWo - July 2014
starting July 2014 together with collaboration with good folks of WoWo Farm we are going to be baking next to the mill for the summer holidays. Provisionally this is called the "Singing Bread" project.
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Brockwell Bake @ Nordic heritage cereals seminar
Andrew Forbes was invited to attend the fourth "Nordic heritage cereals seminar" held from 14th to 17th July on the island of Åland, south from the mainland Finland.
It was good to give a short talk on the history of heritage wheat in British wheat and the export of early cultivars from Scotland and England to the Nordic countries.
Overall it was incredibly encouraging to hear about the progress made in re-introducing heritage cereals into cultivation in Nordic countries, roughly 7 years ahead of our own programme.
Especially interesting talks on mineral content of heritage cereals, evolutionary breeding with populations and blind tastings of different wheats.
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Brockwell Bake miscellany 2014
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BBA wheat 2012/13
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Brockwell Bake at SouthBanquet 2013
Brockwell Bake brought pizza making for kids and workshops on threshing, milling and baking to the SouthBanquet event in front of the Royal Festival Hall, August 31st and September 1st 2013. Video of Vincent Talleu teaching pizza making here.
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new thresher 2013
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Brockwell Bake miscellany 2013
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BBA at Bread Bread
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Brockwell Bake at the first Real Bread Fest
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our Moulin Astrié arrvies at WoWo Farm
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Harvest 2012
video of Stephen Simpson’s wheat cradle in action at Westmill Farm, Oxon here
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Melton Mowbray Country Show 2012
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Baking with Georgian wheat and a Georgian baker
Jean-Jaques Jacob came from Georgia with the very special Doli wheat flour of Georgia to bake with us for the Georgian "Supra" banquet at the first RAW festival of organic and bio-dynamic wine. Doli is an amazing and unique aromatic wheat with flavours like cinnamon, plum, roasted green almonds. The whole occasion was very interesting and exciting, especially to make friends with Jean-Jaques. We hope not too long before we can meet again, here or in Georgia and that if his harvest this year is good we can maybe import some Doli grain to mill and bake with here.
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Lets Liberate Diversity 2012: BBA in the Highlands
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Golspie Mill, Sutherland
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Madeira wheat 2012
Our project to sow Madeira wheat with local schools this spring 2012 ready to use at Feast on the Bridge, 2012
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Brockwell Bake miscellany, 2012
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BBA wheat 2011/12
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Madeiran landrace wheat types
Originally given to Brockwell Bake by Rosendale Allotments plot holder Antonio Luis in 2009
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Naked Barley review
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French lessons from organization "Réseau Semences Paysannes"
archive of images from the work of the French organization, Réseau Semences Paysannes kindly made available to us by Elise Demeulenaere, researcher at Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique
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allotment 2012
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Feast on the Bridge, 10/9/2011
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Brockwell Bake harvest at Hophurst Farm 21/8/11
Our harvest event on Hophurst Farm of Jacob’s Ladder Farms to gather in the wheat to be threshed, winnowed, milled and baked for the "Feast of Forgotten Fish" at the Feast on the Bridge, the Mayor’s Thames Festival. Reaping with scythe and cradle video here
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BBA developments 2011, reel sieve, thresher/blower, dough trough, new tins, scythe and its cradle for reaping
reel sieve video here, reaping with scythe and cradle here
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new Brixton wood fired ovens, Bread Bread bakery, October 2011
Terre Blanche twin wood fired ovens - nice
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BBA expedition Bretagne - late July 2011
Visit in July 2011 by BBA members Andy Forbes and Vincent Talleu to the Breton village of Laurenan to check out the mills made by Samuel Poilâne of type "à meule de pierre type Astrié" to see whether right mill for BBA. Samuel with his partner Valérie Poilâne-Tabart also bake bread for the neighborhood every week as well as supplying organic veggie boxes. Lovely to also to meet again after their London trip their three very lively lovely sons Ismaël, Jason and Perig Poilâne-Tabart.

We also made very interesting visit to the peasant farmer/bakers Julie and Florian on their "Ferme de Carafray" and their heritage wheat trials.
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BBA at Melton Mowbray country show, June 2011
Our second annual BBA trip to the memorable Melton Mowbray Country Show
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Spring sowings, 2011
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Brockwell Bake events 2011 - miscellany
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Rosendale Allotments, 2011
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Angus and Ali get married in Dam, 20/11/10
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Winter wheat, 2010/11
Our second season of heritage wheat growing.
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Brockwell Bake flour and baking
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Dutch windmiller/millstone maker visit
Visit to molensteenmakerij, Hans Tituelar’s windmill and millstone workshop near Nijmegen, Netherlands, November 2010.
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Feast on the Bridge - 2010
Our first Feast on the Bridge.
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Brockwell Bake, Lambeth Urban Green Fair 2010
Saturday, 5th September - our first attempt to do the whole works at one event - thresh, winnow, mill and bake
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Brockwell Bake local events 2010
1-2/5/10 "food junctions", first 2010 event at the lovely Camley Street Nature Reserve hidden behind Kings Cross station. We were doing kids pizza making and a baguette shaping master class from authentically French pro member Vincent Talleu.

27/6/10 Melton Mowbray Country show Outing to assist our good friend and supporter Paul Jones

11/7/10 the Brixton Windmill Festival, our first public milling session with new Dutch mill at on 11/7/10 - great milling/sieving team formed by the local kids.

14/7/10 pics from a show/tell/taste school workshop Vincent does one of our "show/tell/taste" schools’ workshops.

17/710 Lambeth Country Show or first attendance at this rather bizarre much loved Lambeth event. First public outing for our big Chinese quern.

1/8/10 Lammas Day, our first London grown wheat loaf is baked here.
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new oven for Brockwell Bake
3D animations of oven designs Mk II here and Mk III with trailer here - requires Virtools plug-in.
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Wheat Harvest - 10/8/10
Pics by RAA plotholder Elkin Atwell as we try late night to finish harvest on plot 35 and 36 before the start of a wet August 2010.
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Spring Wheat, South London, 2010
Sowings around South London on school, community gardens and allotments during March 2010 including 16 heritage wheats (early cultivars and may be a few landraces) from the John Innes Centre’s BBSRC Small Grain Cereal Collections.
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Winter wheat, London 2009/10
Winter planting around South London on allotments, community gardens, school gardens and a bit of guerilla planting
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Trip to John Innes Centre 28/7/10
Trip to inspect heritage wheat trials in the John Innes Centre’s fields near Norwich as guest of Mike Ambrose, curator of the BBSRC Small Grain Cereal Collections
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2010 season: miscellaneous
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Winter Wheat, Catalonia, 2009/10
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inside Brixton Windmill
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Tivissa, Oct. 2009, oven firing and wheat planting
After a long wait, since the oven was uncovered and dome rebuilt in 1998, finally manage to get a new oven door together and make pizza and bake decent bread in Gary and Adrian’s oven 9th October 2009. Plus dig over the huerta behind the lower caseta and a patch of the meanie (fennel) field and do a first sowing of the Letts Winter mix of traditional UK wheat.
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Joshua at 3 + christening
Joshua is 3! return trip to London Zoo on the day, especially excellent birthday picnic next to eh Butterfly House + also pics of pre-birthday pub lunch birthday party and the christening occasion!
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Brockwell Bake 2009
Lambeth Urban Green Fair, Spetember 20th 2009, the second Brockwell Bake. Not just a bakery competition this time but also flour stall with lots of flours form Traditional Cornmmers Guild members (it sold out), kids pizza baking (also sold out) courtesy of Dilly Boase and her crew and Paul Jones for providing oven and talks from veteran baker Graham Cotton from Cottons Craft Bakery in the New Forest, John Letts, wheat grower from the Oxford Bread Group, Chris Young from the Real Bread Campaign and Jonathan Cook of the TCMG and myself. Great day, went well. Thanks to all who made it possible and participated.
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windmill pics for BB talk
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Melton Mowbray: Whissendine Windmill & pizzas at the Wood Fair
Especial visit 30-31/8/09 (with Dilly, who unfortunately had to arrive later and depart earlier) to Melton Mowbray as guest of Paul Jones of Paul’s Bakery including a very interesting and privileged tour with miller Nigel Moon of his Whissendine Windmill, whilst it sails turning and stones running from sails’ power for just the 4th time since 1922. Followed on the Sunday by 4:30 am start for day out on the side of a rather wind swept Beacon Hill at the Wood Fair 2009 learning how to use Paul’s mobile wood fired oven and get kids to make their own pizzas (and the bake them for them).
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birthday on Plot 35 18/7/2009
Another year over, 52 on the day. New copy of Cypriot BBQ inaugurated.Baking timing came out a bit screwy as a result of having left all the chickens at open necessitating trip backwards ad forwards, but bread pretty good in the end.

Thanks to the crowd of friends who were along at various times of the afternoon and evening, just sorry not to have left myself enough time to sit down and chat (partly due to the above hiccup). Will have to think about enlarging the table somehow for future occasions.
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miscellaneous, 2009
Miscellaneous pics inclucing RAA summer BBQ 2009
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Pizza day, 2009
plot 35, April 13th The sun defied the normal bank holiday rules and came out just for us in the afternoon - and into the evening
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Calçotada 2009
a super nice edition of Gary and Adrian’s annual calçotada. More pics of this trip to Catalonia including Valencia Fallas 2009 picasa or flickr
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a pagnotta abroad
A B&B pagnotta goes halfway around the world!

More pics of this trip to Catalonia including Valencia Fallas 2009 picasa or flickr
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Cafone in Mumbai + Mumbai bakeries
some pics of the sample of my baking at Franco Manca, Brixton on the morning of my day of departure which I transported to Mumbai.

The local yeasted bread which I assume was introduced by the British is most popular as the "Pav", pronounced more like "Pau" which is a small round roll (which is often used to make a kind of potato veggie burger) which can either be brought with soft crust or hard crust - I think the only difference the timing of the baking. As far as I can tell all the bakeries are wood fired usually twin ovens. There is Pakeeza bakery, Cadell Road, Mahim, Mumbai right opposite where I am staying - pics here + I visited inside the Roshan Bakery, Love Lane, Mazgaon. The manager there was very surprised to hear about wood fired ovens in London, sourdough and slow mixing machines, all things they have given up or would like to.
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2008 season, Rosendale Allotments
including Betty and Bobby Robin + Robin chicks in Plot 35 shed and The Great Snow of April ’08. Robin sequence is also online by itself on flickr here
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Joshua at 2
Joshua’s 2nd birthday outing to London Zoo with Rachel and Mel and her daughter Gracie and me.
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1st annual Brockwell Bake, August 31st 2008
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Franco Manca bakery/pizzeria/deli
Now I am starting to do some pro baking once a week, Monday’s 6am at Franco Manca sourdough wood-fired bakery and pizzeria. So far I am just assisting Sarah, the baker by firing ovens (extra work on Mondays because the main oven hasn’t been used for pizza etc. on Sunday so needs refiring whereas other days of week a fire the evening before is enough to bake the next morning). Maybe in future I will do Monday’s by myself so Sarah can have a proper 2 day break.
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RAA BBQ and wine pressing 2008
Nice weather at last on 14/9/08 for the annual allotment BBQ and Marco’s wine making
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51 today 20 July 2008
well actually on 18 July
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pizza day, May 5th 2008
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Tivissa Spring 2008
The annual calçotada and other matters, above the village of Tivissa, Catalonia
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Rosendale Allotment sheds
An occasional series of shed portraits
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Pro wood-fired oven, London
Pics from the wood fired B & B oven on the Old Kent Road with bakers Dave and Vincent Talleu (his website with more bread pics here).
BAKERY ACTION ANIMATION HERE
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pane y pasta, Emilia Romagna! Sept. 2007
baking in an oven by a farmhouse in the hills above San Martino in Gattara, a small village on the border between the Italian regions of Ravenna and Tuscany. And also good times with friends new and old + pasta making + visits to Bologna & Firenze (Florence)
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the bandstand oven, Izaut-de-l’Hôtel, Midi-Pyrenees, France
First noticed this extraordinary oven with water mill outside the small Midi-Pyrenees village of Izaut-de-l’Hôtel in the summer of 2006. A passing neighbour on that occasion told us the story of the baker who played his guitar on top of his oven. Me and James returned in October 2007 with camera - we were lucky that the last baker/miller’s wife (aged 87) returned to the mill with a neighbour whilst we were there and showed us her mill - left just as it was the last time it was used in the ’60s.
Surely the only bandstand come bread oven in the world?
wikipedia entry for the village here wikimapia entry here
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oven and mill, Pyrenees, France
a few pics showing baker/mill set up in Pyrnees. We believe the mill/bakery supplied bread to about five local villages so quite big by local standards. Oven was of the ’gueulard’ design.
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Vince’s sourdough in France, October 2007
Second international outing for Vince’s new sourdough from Born & Bread - S. France
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Alan, Haute-Garonne 2005
the last summer for me at James’ house in Alan
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Marco wine making 15th Sept. 2007
last nice weekend weather of 2007 and time for my neighbour Marco to make the 2007 vintage. Some nice bread also made this day here
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Autumn, Winter 2007 on Plot 35
A few pics with new camera including the new weather vane on top of Plot 35
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andy@50 - Dungeness - 21/07/07
My 50th birthday outing to Dungeness beach arriving form Hythe on the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Light Railway
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pizza day 25/08/2007
lovely day for another pizza party on Plot 35
some great Quicktime panoramas by Elkin here
at the table
Edward at the oven
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May '07
Official start of new season of outdoor baking at beginning of May 2007. Aiming to produce two loads of bread every Saturday for supply to friends and neighbours. The way things are going probably I have got rid of all spare loaves before I leave allotments to allotment friends and neighbours. After baking May 5th we had a pizza party on May 6th especially for friends with kids. Bit of a grey overcast day but nice anyway. Oven heated up fast after having been baking the day before and got it up to 616ºC, the highest so far I think before starting pizzas. 13 pizzas baked without refiring, just one door closing to even out temperature. Elkin did some jerk chicken late on which took just 17 minutes to complete.
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oven inauguration - 10th September 2006
Sunday 10th September 2006 was the day chosen for official inaugural oven pizza party. The weather was amazing for the time of year, approximately 27 Centigrade and sunny. Good to see most of the people who helped build the oven and neighbouring plot holders. Though as usual I grossly over provisioned the catering I think we produced about 30 rather delicious pizzas without too much sweat, thanks especially to Gill, Steve and Elkin who made up the pizzas. Also thanks to Steve and Elkin for the pics
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The new very old Artofex mixer
Now that I had an oven that could bake more than one loaf at a time I found I needed a bigger mixer than my so called ’Heavy Duty’ Kitchenaide. Remembering the Artofex ’triple action twin reciprocal plunging arms’ mixer (originally a French make) Richard had shown me at Baker and Spice I started a search for one. Luckily I came up with an expired ebay auction, where no bids had been made, whose seller turned out to be just 8 miles away in Mitcham - I know of other people who are scouring across all continents to find the same machine . Here you can see other bakers describe this as the Stradivarius of dough mixers, its certainly the mixer that most closely mimics hand kneading to make a beautiful silky, ’artisanal’ style dough. My machine was originally supplied to the ’Laboratory of the Government Chemist’ in 1974 and appears to be in perfect working order - due to the amazing quality of its materials and engineering. Just its quiet deep hum when running makes the Kitchenaide sound like a tin and plastic toy in comparison.

Videos - "a dough mix" video of mixig of a 3 kilo dough batch, 65% hydration white sourdough from poolish. Two 12 minute mixes with 15 minutes rest between.
"lifting arms"
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Tivissa oven, Catalonia
These are pics mostly of the oven on my friends Gary and Adrian’s terraced mountain property in Catalonia here. The original building on the land, termed a ’caseta’ was simply a one room hut with simple fireplace to keep tools in and for man and donkey to shelter while up from the village below. By chance G and A choose to buy a property which also had on it along from the caseta hidden beneath brambles an oven built into the side of a terrace. We have pretty much restored this oven (rebuilt the collapsed dome on the terrace floor above the oven door) though its never been successfully used for baking again yet due to lack of an oven door - hopefully this will be rectified before long.

The logical explanation for the presence of such a comparatively large oven here is that it was used during the later days of the Spanish Civil War when we believe the inhabitants of Tivissa have fled up the hill to get away from the intense battles and bombing of the ’Battle of the Ebro’ in 1938. The culture I currently use for my sourdough baking is captured on the windowsill of Gary and Adrian’s caseta and thus it is fair to conclude that it is derived from the baking of the Spanish Civil War and that this in turn was brought up the hill from Tivissa bakeries.
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miscellaneous baking
occasional pics of stuff from oven
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pre-oven
first step in preparing the oven site was to add additional roof in front of my Plot shed, partly to catch more rain for irrigation, partly to create sheltered work area in front of the oven.

My French friend Bertrand Vialle was staying at the time and was essential extra hands in getting the new roof up. Thanks Bertrand.
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build party 1 - 2nd July 2006
The first build party which managed to construct the form for the inside of the oven - thanks especially to Nic Shaw. Note especially the cling film wrap - a technological innovation in addition to the instructions in "Build your own earth oven" book.

Also especial thanks to my allotment neighbour Marco for letting us use his wonderful grapevine covered terrace for lunch on a very hot day.
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build party 2 - 9th July 2006
really nice day with my friends Adrian and Gary visiting from Spain and also in attendance Olivier, Freya, Elkin (BQ chef supreme) and Hung Ye.
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The A Team on main layer - 19th August 2006
The A team of oven builders, the heavy league, Nic and Elkin at work on the construction of the main layer of the oven (approx 9" thick)
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build party 3 - 22nd August 2006
really productive day when we got the remainder of the main layer completed. Be and Nikki arrived with some friends whose names I can’t remember (sorry) - also sterling work from Ray and as ever Elkin
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chimney + first food - 26th August 2006
yet again Elkin helped out producing a very fine batch of cob to make arch to hold chimney - and then we grilled some chicken and build some freshly dug potatoes for the first meal out of the new oven!
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One Tree Hill - Green Man Fair - 28th August
Very Nice to be invited by Merlyn Peter to man his oven on his plot on the One Tree Hill allotments in Honor Oak for his open day Green Man Fair. A very wild and savage allotment compared to Rosendale allotments. Merlyn’s oven is as you can see very anthropomorphic, puffs away, also quite heavy around bottom so good to absorb heat, if you fire over a long preiod. Very nice to be able to get some gneric oven use lessons learnt prior to actually firing up my oven - two loads bread baked and mini pizzas made by kids. Thanks Merlyn.
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first bread - 30th August 2006
At last the long planned day, the first bread baking in the oven - both my own and some from fellow RA plot holder, Keith. Elkin and family also in attendance.
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oven tech spec and such like
the original plan + pics of my infa red + probe read out temperature gauge + some loaves
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bakery oven, Chelva, Valencia, Spain
some pics of the wood fired oven opposite the front door of my friends Mick, Clara and Benjy in the beautiful hilltop village of Chelva in west of Valencia province Spain.

What was notable about this oven was principally its sheer size - which I think affected the way the baker was using it. The pic of the inside of the oven shows some small baguettes being baked so you can tell a bit that it must be at least 6 meters deep and maybe 4 meters across. This meant that the fire could be kept inside the oven at the front right (it can be just seen in this pic to right) whilst the bread was baked at back left. Also notable that the oven roof was vary much dome style. Probably originally the oven was used much more intensively (maybe without fire remaining inside) as the village has reduced from 7,000 inhabitants to 1,500.
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