I made bread! Off the grid! In the woodstove!
So, first obvious question: how did you have the idea to bake *in* the woodstove? And, doesn’t that seem like a lot of work? Well, yes. It was quite a lot of work. But extremely rewarding. I’ve been interested in baking off-grid for awhile now (I LOVE baking brownies), and had done some research about how to bake inside of your woodstove. We also have this awesome book called The Tassajara Bread Book, written by Buddhist monks from a Buddhist retreat temple in California. Right up our alley. The bread recipes in the book are typical recipes, with exact oven temperatures and baking times, so I basically put my woodstove baking research and some Zen bread recipes together as one big (and surprisingly successful) experiment!
For my first bread attempt, I picked the simplest bread recipe I could find in the book, it’s just wheat flour, yeast, and salt. This particular recipe requires the dough to rise overnight, then you add more water and flour in the morning, knead, and it rises for another 4 hours or so before baking for 45 minutes. Here’s where the logistical nightmare sets in: we also heat our house with our woodstove. So I have to think about keeping the house warm and picking the opportune time to have a fire die down to hot coals to bake something for 45 min without overheating or chilling the house. To be honest, I didn’t do a great job.
The afternoon before, I prepared the dough, covered it, and let it set overnight. The next morning, we didn’t get up as early as we had hoped, so we didn’t start a fire as early as expected. I also didn’t add what needed to be added and knead the dough until later in the morning, which THEN it needs to rise for another 4 hours. So I basically had to keep the fire in the woodstove going all day, which was not ideal (it was chilly outside so it wasn’t a huge deal, but we could’ve easily gone without the fire), and also I didn’t want the fire to go out just to re-start it again because the whole stove needs to be hot in order to really bake something. So I just kept feeding the fire all day.
Finally, around 2:30pm, I was able to put the bread in the oven. I oiled our dutch oven, put the dough in there, and once the coals were like a medium-heat (see how scientific this is?), placed the dutch oven in there. 45 minutes later, I took the dutch oven out to check on it. The bread didn’t rise anymore, but it looked golden brown on the outside and sounded hollow when I tapped it (again, Zen-science 🙂 ).
We set it on a wire rack to cool, and when we sliced into it: HEAVEN. Such good bread. Really dense, really wheaty, really filling, delicious, bread. We ate most of it and I took some to my co-workers. Everyone loved it. The following weekend I tried a different bread recipe: wheat flour, yeast, oil, and honey this time. Still turned out dense but delicious.
I’m so stoked that I can bake bread in our woodstove. How freaking cool?! We feel like real off-the-gridders now. My dad called me his “pioneer girl.” I’m loving this baking experiment and soon brownies might be on the list!