Cookin’ in the Cob Oven

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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11 thoughts on “Cookin’ in the Cob Oven

  1. Nope its kinda chilly in my house. It barely got to 70 today and its windy as heck (10 to 20mph winds) in the past 3 weeks its been in the 40s at night and maybe 50s during the day with non stop rain. Thought I had to plant rice with how wet my garden plot was. And I think I’m going to end up losing most of what I’ve already planted in there since its soup. I like your cob oven, did you at one time post how you made it? (If you did I can search and find it so its a dumb question Lol) love your ‘grass’

    • I found a “guide” on Mother Earth News, but it didn’t have exact measurements or pictures or very detailed instructions so I had to learn as I went. My version is on the DIY Projects page tab under “Cob Oven” (www.fmicrofarm.com/diyprojects/)

  2. I love that!!!! That is so cool!!! How do you adjust the temp????? And keep it there for baking???? The bread and cookies looked good. Even I don’t get that great looking cookies in the house oven. The bread looked good too. Is that bread from wheat or corn.? Has a yellow color is why I’m asking. Barley is so much here in Florida, That I even can’t use it for the fodder grass. I’m trying the wheat. It ok so I still watching the video’s and trying to get it right. LOL Have a great day!!!! Mare

    • It is so fun to cook in. It even becomes a family event. Cami gathers sticks from fallen branches around the yard, Trevor stokes the fire, and I make the dough for whatever we decide to bake. Although, admittedly, I forgot to put the quiche in. Oops!

      You don’t really adjust the temperature inside the oven. What you do is cook according to the temperature. So you start with foods that like higher temps (like pies or meats or roasted veggies), then when that’s done you put in breads, then when that’s done you bake your coolest baked goods (like cookies or pretzels). As the oven cools you adapt by cooking things that require different temperatures. My bread was made using an organic, unbleached white wheat flour… because I’m fancy like that.

      Good luck with your fodder! Once you find a source for grain then it is easy. Barley and wheat are easiest, but in a pinch, you could see how well/if oats will sprout in your climate. Whole oats… not rolled oats.

  3. My fiance, his family, and I have beeen making pizzas with our cob oven, I was wondering around what temp is your cob oven when you cook the bread and the cookies? We’ve been wanting to try desserts but can’t seem to find anywhere that has that information.

    • When I cook bread, it is usually around 475*. Cookies are at about 300*. Obviously you will want to cook the foods requiring the most heat first and then end with something low cooked like cookies. It should go in an order similar to this (although you wouldn’t have time to do more than three options usually): meat, pie, bread, pizza, roast veggies, cookies, drying herbs.

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