Eight years ago, I attended the Kneading Conference in Skowhegan, Maine for the first time. Montclair Bread Co wasn’t even a twinkle in my eye yet. It was at this event I first became acquainted with Maine Wood Heat ovens. Bread Alone and Wegmans both had wood fired ovens I was lucky enough to bake in but the heat source was under the stone decks. The heat from the fire in the box traveled up and around the bread while it was baking. Maine Wood Heat ovens are made of clay harvested in France and fashioned into bricks by La Panyol. MHW imports the bricks and uses them to construct a domed oven and deck. They also custom build trailers to allow the ovens to be transported and a local artist hand crafts a metal exterior for the dome. The ovens are so well insulated that the exterior remains cool to touch at all times while the inside heats to 1100F! A fire is built directly on the clay deck and once it rises to the proper temperature, it is moved to the back to expose the bricks for baking.
Through the years, I’ve gone back to the Kneading Conference as an instructor and continued to swoon over the beautiful ovens. Since I teach doughnut classes that require a vat of oil, I never got to bake in the ovens until this past summer when a group of us baker ladies got to fire one up in the backyard of the cabin we were staying in for the week. Sharon Burns-Leader, one of my long time mentors, gave me a very broad overview of how one uses the oven to make pizzas and I got to practice until I couldn’t possibly eat another bite (or maybe I just consumed too many carbs via the Maine Beer Co. inoculation).
For the second time in as many years, I contacted MWH when I returned from the conference to ask for their professional services. I almost pulled the trigger a year ago but I spent my budget on the patio build-out instead. After barely surviving last summer’s pizza nights and farmer’s market bake-off using my very tiny, super maxed out, MIWE deck oven inside my bakery, I knew I had to make some changes to get through this summer.
This week, my oven arrived. I didn’t really have time to be excited about opening my bakery seven years ago…it was too much of a whirlwind. So, I can honestly say, the oven delivery was the single most exciting day of my professional career. I’ve been so inspired watching my peers build fires and bake the most amazing loaves of bread out of these ovens. I never thought I would be able to join their ranks.
Truth be told, I have no fucking clue what I’m doing. I’m armed with my friend Richard’s book ‘From the Wood-Fired Oven,’ and lots and lots of google searches. Before this week, I’d never even built a successful camp fire. A few days of faking knowledge later, I baked my first pizza in my new oven. It was magical and a day I will never forget. Keegan built the fire. The whole family shared the experience.
Weekly Training Log
Reality: Challenge Accepted
Plan: Swim 3x500
Plan: BIKE 60:00
Reality: Brookdale Park
Plan: RUN 45:00
Reality: I may have added another 20 minutes
Plan: SWIM 1700, 20x25 on 30
Reality: Wow. In order to get a 5 second break after each 25, I had to swim as hard as I could. A stronger swimmer could have easily gotten more time to rest between repeats but a strong swimmer I am not. After 6 sprints across the pool, I thought my heart was going to explode. It was so hard. To put it in running terms, imagine sprinting 20, 100s with only a 5 second rest between them. Yikes!
Last year when my coach gave me swim workouts, there was always a rest noted, usually 15-20 seconds. I added a solid minute on top of the number he gave me..so I could not drown going into my next lap. Amazingly enough, over the last couple months, I’ve been able to adhere to the rests as prescribed.
Plan: RUN 65:00