The Québécois Community Oven

A few years ago, my friend Jules over in Massachusetts built a wood-fired oven in her yard.  She did the research and then attacked!!  I am so impressed by her never-ending talent.  I have yet to make it to her house for a bake… but she posts pictures and every time, I covet those beautiful loaves!!  She hosts pizza parties, invites friends to share in the bake, and she herself bakes 30+ loaves at a time.

My town has a community oven (built 2008), but it wasn’t until recently that I discovered that I could receive e-mail alerts about the firing of the oven.  I am excited to report that I finally participated in a community bake at the Québécois Community Oven in Cambridge on Sunday.

This was not a typical bake, however, because the oven had already been fired earlier in the day for the Farmer’s Market, therefore, Sunday night, the oven only needed to be “goosed” as Bliss put it – she is one of the trained oven masters, and was actively involved in the oven building process.

Some of the community members who regularly fire the oven, are also involved with Hubbard Hall, and the Cambridge Food Co-Op, and Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York.  NOFANY issued a Locovore Challenge, and their “Potluck Across NY” event coincided with Sunday’s bake, and so not only did I get to bake, but Scott and I joined a great group of people for a potluck dinner. Earlier in the day at the Farmer’s Market, we ground some wheat that was used to make pizza dough for that night’s dinner, and I took some of that wheat and used it in the crust of my Apple Danish Tart that I brought to share.

My dessert was, much like I am, pseudo-locovore.  If you visit the NOFANY website, you may find there are many many things that you already do that make you a pseudo-locovore too!

Going forward, I definitely want to be more involved with the community oven.

If you are interested in the back-story on the oven, you can find it here:  – it is an interesting one.

AND on October 23, 2011, at Hubbard Hall’s Freight Depot, they will be showing Baking Bread!, a documentary that chronicles the construction of the oven, and pays tribute to both Jean Laberge, the bread oven maker from Québec who oversaw the project, and the many people who cheerfully came to volunteer their time.

P.S. – October 21, 2010 – Here is an Amy Halloran article in Metroland about the bread oven.  Even though my name is misspelled, I received photo credits:

Sourdough Boule
The dough will naturally pick up a nice sourdough tang if you allow it to sit for a few days in the fridge.

This recipe makes 4 round boules:
3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 Tbs. granulated yeast
1 1/2 Tbs. kosher salt
6 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Mix salt and yeast with water in a 5 QT or bigger lidded plastic container.  Mix in the flour with a wooden spoon or clean hands (you can substitute some wheat or buckwheat or rye for some of the white flour… you can also add seeds/nuts/dried fruits).  You don’t need to knead it.  Cover but don’t seal and allow to rise at room temp for a few hours.  You can then leave container in the fridge for a few days or continue with the process right here.  Divide dough into 4 equal pieces, still no kneading, but turn each piece out onto a floured surface, sprinkle flour over the dough and form a ball by pulling the dough around to the bottom, turn a 1/4 turn and repeat – this creates the gluten cloak.  Allow to rise until ready to bake.  If at home, 30 minutes on a stone in a 450 oven.  In the community oven, the bread is done when the crust is amber, it sounds hollow when you knock on it and it’s not soft when you squeeze the center.

Great Gramps Oatmeal Molasses Bread
I apologize, but this is one of those special recipes I keep for myself.


3 thoughts on “The Québécois Community Oven

    • David – thanks for finding my page. Very cool that you teach classes on oven building and bread baking! Baking in the community oven was such an enjoyable experience – I look forward to future bakes, and learning more about the firing process! When I actually participate in the firing, I will blog about that too.

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