For me, walking outside to the wood pile and spending time splitting and hauling wood, looking up between swings of the maul at the windmill, surrounding orchard and far off mountains, is where my relationship with our oven began. I pull off the outer and inner doors and rake the coals from the night before. Yes, after nearly 18 hours of no fire, the oven is still at 400 degrees, and I can begin my fire for the day. This year I hope to use that morning heat to bake bread and fruit galettes (yummo!). After a perimeter burn, I bank the fire, and bank again to prepare for the days pizzas. Afternoons are spent baking off rosemary foccacia- when the fire is not quite as hot as the pizza needed, and yet still cranking.
I learned when to stir the coals, when to add small pieces and when to set up my door draft. I learned how fire burns in this dome, and what wood burned well and how high to get the flame to cook pizzas from the top and bottom. The very act of learning and sharing the experience with customers became precious to me. I am used to entertaining at my house, where we all end up in the kitchen, now I experience that around the brick oven at Pietree.
Everyone who comes to the farmstand is drawn to the magnificence of the oven, the sheer size alone pulls us in. Folks walk right past the “employees only” sign to ask questions and watch the fire, or run their hands over the stones on the outside before they are gently reminded to go back inside. I love that David Neufield is a local builder, and I love that some of the rocks came from the fields right here at Pietree. I love knowing that I can make pizza and bread with the heat from a fire, with the work from my hands and back. I love knowing that I have to wait- no instant gratification here. It makes things that much more delicious. I hope to have a long, loving relationship with this oven. I know that if I take care of her, she will take care of me, and produce some amazing food.
Rosemary Focaccia Recipe
Make our Rosemary Focaccia at home! Makes 1 large bread, serving 8.
2 cups lukewarm water
2 ½ tsp. active dry yeast
¾ tsp. salt
4 ½ cups (20 ounces) unbleached bread flour
3 Tbs olive oil
2-3 Tbs chopped fresh rosemary
¼-½ tsp kosher salt
1. Pour the water into a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer. Sprinkle yeast over the top and let sit several minutes to dissolve. Stir the salt and flour into the yeast mix to form a soft dough. Knead for 8 minutes with the dough hook on medium speed, or by hand on a lightly floured surface until it is elastic and supple, 8-10 minutes. If you are kneading by hand, add only as much flour is needed to keep the dough from sticking- the final result will be better the less flour that is added. Put the dough in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1½ -2 hours.
2. In another large mixing bowl, stir the olive oil and rosemary together and spread evenly over the bottom of the bowl (coat the sides of the bowl with some oil too, so the dough does not stick). Punch down the dough and transfer to second bowl, on top of the rosemary oil. Let the dough rise again until doubled, 40 -60 minutes.
3. Place a baking stone in the center rack of your oven and preheat to 450ºF. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a peel or the backside of a large cookie sheet. Without punching down the dough, turn it onto the paper, letting it fall with oil and herbs on top. Sprinkle the kosher salt all over the dough. Use your fingertips to poke the dough and gently pull it out into an oval about 12 inches long. Use a paper towel to blot any oil that runs onto the parchment. Let the dough rise 10-15 minutes to restore some loft.
4. Open the oven and gently set the peel or pan on the edge of the baking stone. Grab the parchment and slide it onto the stone. Close the oven door and reduce temp to 400ºF. Bake until golden on top and well browned on the bottom, 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack (without the parchment underneath) for at least 10 minutes. Slice into rectangles or tear pieces off and dip in olive oil with cracked pepper…
To contact David Neufeld of Brick Oven Designs, check out his website: http://truebrickovens.com/contact.html or call 207-650-3978.