Wood-fired Oven

The EcoLiving project undertook to build this wood-fired oven within the area used by the Violet Town Market as a community asset, and to promote local natural food and local fuel wood from sustainable forestry. The oven was built by a tremendous volunteer effort lead by Neil Garrett, with notable contributions from Bill Wood, Mick MacLaughlin and many others, and co-ordination by Warwick Paton.
Neil Garrett, architect and builder of the oven, celebrating completion, 26th May 2011 photo: Sandy Garrett 
Sandy Garrett and Sue Paton serving pizzas at the May 2011 market, while Neil takes care of the baking. Photo: Paula Ajuria
The weekend before this market Thomas Moritz of Boonderoo Farm bakery lead a workshop on operating the oven, and making pizzas.
Thomas at the workshop. No wonder the oven and pizzas attract a lot of interest at the market - the oven looks good, and the pizzas inside with the fire look so good. They cook and taste as good as they look. Photo: Paula Ajuria
For baking pizzas a fire is kept at the rear of the oven, and the pizzas cook with conducted heat from the base bricks through the pizza tray, radiant heat from the bricks in the vaulted oven ceiling, and convected heat from the air circulating through the oven. The only way into or out of the oven is through that doorway - the old cast iron door and frame was salvaged from the old scotch oven that baked the bread for the village until 1969. This new oven is highly efficient with well insulated thermal mass. It can stay hot and keep baking for a day after firing it overnight with just a barrow load or two of wood. The Violet Town Lions Club have been supplying the wood for the oven.
Workshop participant Paula Ajuria writes... "First time making pizzas in the oven was a success with many participants at the workshop taking turns at shuttling pizzas in and out of the oven on the pizza shovel. 
As a local farmer and baker, Thomas believes in community self-reliance and firmly promotes local and seasonal products for making pizzas. He pointed out that there is no need to offer some of the familiar pizza combinations such as ham and pineapple as we can top our pizzas with a great variety of foods from this area, and as he pointed out, 'we can’t grow pineapples here!'
Neil’s choice of glazed bricks (2nds bricks bought cheap from Euroa Clay Products) was influenced by his recent travels to Spain, Portugal and Morocco.  The oven's bricks are practical as they stay clean and its bright colors integrate harmoniously as a feature in the area next to the children's playground."
Kaye Bradshaw (chair) and Sarah Hamill (co-ordinator) of the Violet Town Community House selling pizzas at the market. Photo: Paula Ajuria
Violet Town Community House has taken on the management of the oven. To book the oven for private functions or to enquire about community group use contact Sarah on 5798 1288 or violettowncommunityhouse[at]gmail.com 

During the workshop Paula learnt from Thomas that many people who are gluten intolerant - an increasingly common condition - can safely eat sour dough bread. Sour dough baking uses a beneficial brew of wild yeasts and bacteria that ferment the flour, and which break down the gluten. This was exciting news for Paula as she is gluten intolerant and had not eaten wheat flour for 10 years. She did some research, made and ate some sour dough bread with no ill effect, and wrote this summary of her research.
"Only a retained heat wood fired oven gives you that unique flavour that can not be reproduced in a normal kitchen oven and only sourdough brings out the taste of bread as it was known originally.  The oldest and most original form of leavened bread originated, like wood fire ovens, in Egypt around 3000 years ago.
Sourdough remained the usual form of leavening down into the European Middle Ages until being replaced by barm from the beer brewing process, and then later purpose-cultured baker's yeast. Some bakers have kept using the sour dough process.

Health benefits of sour dough:
All grains contain phytic acid (an organic acid in which phosphorous is bound) in the outer layer or bran. Untreated phytic acid can combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and especially zinc in the intestinal tract and block their absorption. This is why a diet high in unfermented whole grains may lead to serious mineral deficiencies and bone loss.
Soaking allows enzymes, lactobacilli and other helpful organisms to break down and neutralise phytic acid. As little as seven hours of soaking in warm acidulated water (sour dough leaven) will neutralise a large portion of phytic acid in grains.
Soaking in warm water also neutralises enzyme inhibitors, present in all seeds, and encourages the production of numerous beneficial enzymes. The action of these enzymes also increases the amount of many vitamins, especially B vitamins.
And if you are gluten intolerant:
During the process of soaking and fermenting, gluten and other difficult-to-digest proteins are partially broken down into simpler components that are more readily available for absorption. If the fermentation process continues for long enough and the requisite bacteria are present then most if not all of the gluten may be broken down. This would explain why some gluten-intolerant people can digest sourdough bread without any symptoms of gluten allergy." Paula Ajuria
Reference: Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
The completed oven. photo: Sandy Garrett


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