Um… is it a million degrees at your house too? It’s supposed to be 102*F today. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area here in California where 82*F was considered hot. This… this is stupid hot. I was thanking the sun and moon today that we had built a cob oven last summer. It really does come in handy in the hot weather when you don’t want to heat up your house.
We stoked a small fire inside using small branches from around the yard. The pitch of the main oven compared to the opening height and width really helps keep smoke to a minimum (great during fire season) yet keeps the fire burning hot with very little fuel (wood). We burn for about two hours or until the branches have turned grey and are mostly ash. Then the remaining coals and ash are scooped out into a metal fire bucket. The brick floor of the oven is quickly swabbed and the soaked door is replaced to allow moisture to build up before putting the food for baking inside.
I know the cob oven is ready to bake in when I can reach into the oven with my arm for one second. If the oven were too hot to quickly stick my arm in, I would know that it would burn my food and should let it cool a bit. I also want to be sure that the oven is hot enough. I do this by –as quick as lightening– touching the top of the oven. Crazy hot means the oven is just right, but if I can touch the top of the cob oven for more than a nano second, it needed a longer fire. You pretty much have to risk burning the bejesus out of your hands to get a real feel for working with the cob oven. But I burn myself so often, I’m not afraid anymore.
One loaf of bread and two dozen whipped shortbread cookies went right into the cob oven. A tight squeeze, but it all worked out.
Once the goodies go in the oven, it’s just a matter of waiting it out. The cob oven cooks at a different rate every time, but I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that the bread dough is slightly different every time. It’s okay. I know the bread and cookies are done baking shortly after I start to smell them in the oven from a few yards away. Other than that, if the loaf sounds hollow when I tap on it, it is fairly safe to say that it is finished.
Mile high bread and perfectly baked cookies! And my house is still relatively cool.
Hey! Look at how well my “lawn growing” experiment is going! It’s actually just barley seed. I did have it just laying around after all. And because of the heat, the barley grass probably won’t grow much taller until fall. Now my dirt desert looks slightly more habitable.