Kendall College, Chicago, recently completed an outdoor, wood-fired hearth oven to be used in baking classes and other cooking applications.
“Baking bread in an oven like this is a completely different skill set than baking in a regular bread oven,” said Melina Kelson-Podolsky, CMB, instructor for Kendall’s School of Culinary Arts and Bread Bakers Guild of America member. “I tried out the oven as soon as the chimney was built and was able to use it the day we taught flatbreads in my artisan breads class.”
The “guts” of the oven were completed by a team of five students, Kelson-Podolsky and another baker with oven-building experience. The oven has 4 ins. of firebrick, 4 ins. of vermiculite insulation and 4 ins. of refractory cement making up the hearth and arches.
“The more cladding an oven has, the longer it takes to fire to temperature, but the longer it holds heat,” Kelson-Podolsky said. “We saw that when we stopped firing on a Friday and returned to school the following Monday, it was still above 180 degrees [Fahrenheit]. We embedded six thermocouples in different places in the oven, so that we always have an accurate temperature reading.”
The new oven also is a nod to a centuries-old custom of community.
“Historically and throughout the world, many town and village squares boasted an oven that everyone used to bake their home-prepared bread dough,” Kelson-Podolsky said. “The oven served as a gathering site for the community.”
Construction of the oven began last summer, and was funded by Bays English Muffins.