Wood Oven Envy — Tips, Recipes, Links

Some tips on cooking with wood in an outdoor oven, recipes, and links to the wood ovens mentioned in our article Dec|Jan 2020-2021

Tips on Cooking with Wood

Kreg Graham, executive chef at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel, learned to cook with fire in his parents’ backyard wood oven, and when he helped design the upscale Faro artisan pizzeria at the hotel this year, he chose a Wood Stone oven, a large, domed oven, from a maker in Bellingham, Washington and fuelled with natural gas (due to regulations in Oak Bay, only gas is an option).

“Wood can get a bit hotter, but that’s not always a good thing,” says the chef. Though both wood- and gas-fired ovens have a gauge to measure the temperature of the hearth and the oven, you can’t dial in an oven temperature, so the hands-on cooking style is similar. A wood-fired oven may add a touch of smokiness to your food, but Graham says it’s important to wait until the flames mostly die down before starting to cook.

“You don’t want to be cooking with huge flames,” he says, adding it takes an hour, or two, before the wood has burned down sufficiently to heat the oven properly.

“A live fire can leave a bitter flavour,” he adds. “You need to be patient and plan ahead. The stone in the oven is so thick, it retains all of the heat, and that is really how the pizza cooks.”

Graham says it’s important to rotate the pizza while cooking, but you must return the pie to its original spot on the hearth.

“When the dough contacts the hearth it cools it, so if you move it to another spot it will burn,” he says, noting the entire operation is complete in just a few minutes.

“When the base is cooked, the pizzaiolo lifts the pizza up into the hot zone at the top of the oven for 30 seconds to finish the top,” he adds. “It’s an art.”



Pizza Dough —Wood Stone Oven Co

This comprehensive recipe is from the Wood Stone oven company and their test kitchen in Bellingham, Wash. Based on their Commercial Wood Stone West Coast Dough recipe, this is a “24-hour dough,” one that rises slowly in the refrigerator overnight and is ready to bake the next day. They use this “versatile pizza dough recipe for everything from pizzas to crackers to focaccia.” www.woodstonehome.com

 ½ tsp dry instant yeast
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
2 cups lukewarm water, 100ºF
4½-5 cups all-purpose flour
Olive oil

In a 5 qt. mixer, fitted with the dough hook, dissolve the first 3 ingredients in the water, mixing at low speed for 3 minutes.

Add the flours and mix at low speed for 2 minutes; check the consistency of the dough. It should be releasing from the sides of the bowl. If the dough is too sticky, add a bit more flour. If it is too dry and climbing up the dough hook, add a bit more water. Mix for 7 more minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl and turn out onto a floured work surface. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and allow it to rest for 10 minutes.

Shape it into a thick log; then cut it into 6 pieces (about 7 oz. each). Roll each piece of the dough on the work surface in a circular motion with your hands, forming smooth balls, and place the balls on a lightly oiled baking sheet or in a plastic dough box with a secure top.

Cover the surface of each ball with a bit of olive oil to prevent the dough from forming a skin. Cover the dough with plastic wrap (or the lid of the box) and refrigerate for a minimum of 8 hours or for up to 48 hours. A longer fermentation creates a crust with a lighter structure and better blistering.

Before using the dough, remove it from the refrigerator and let it rest at room temperature at least 1 hour. You can keep the dough at room temperature for up to 3 hours or longer. The dough will continue to get soft as it rests and becomes easier to stretch and more delicate at the same time. The dough is over-proofed when it becomes too soft to work with and bubbles form on the surface. If it is over-proofed, you can try punching it down, then leaving it to rise again for 30-60 minutes (watch it), although you may not achieve the lightest crust.


Opening the dough

Flour both sides of the dough ball and using the thumb and pointer finger of both hands, about a ¼-½ inch from the edge of the ball, begin pulling the dough apart, pinching and stretching as you turn the dough like a wheel in your hand. Gravity will help as the dough opens and stretches.

You can continue to stretch the dough in your hands, forming a round pizza skin as thick or as thin as you want. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t have a perfect round or get holes in it at first; it’s all about practice!

Put the skin on a semolina-dusted work surface and top with your ingredients. Slip a large pizza peel (with a little semolina on it) under the dough and gently lift the dough with thumb and pointer finger. The motion is: push with the peel and pull with your fingers.

If you want to freeze the dough balls for later use, let them rest in the refrigerator for 8-24 hours and then put them individually into airtight freezer bags. To thaw frozen dough, transfer to the refrigerator for 5-6 hours or up to 12. Bring them to room temperature about an hour before you want to use them.


Porcini Mushrooms “Al Cartoccio” — Mara Jernigan

This is a classic Italian way to prepare any wild mushrooms. It requires few ingredients and very little prep and lends itself well to outdoor cooking such as a wood burning forno oven, barbecue or camp fire. It can be made in parchement paper or foil but I like to line the packages with fig leaves for extra flavour. Serve with crusty warm bread.

1/2 a lb.  porcini or other mixed wild mushrooms sliced to 1/4 inch
4 large fig leaves (or grape leaves) *optional
2 cloves of chopped garlic
1 large shallot, finely diced
4 whole springs of thyme
6 sage leaves coarsely chopped
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup of coarsly chopped Italian parsley
2 oz. white wine
1 ounce good quality olive oil
1/4 tsp flakey sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400F
Lay a 15 inch sheet of aluminum foil on the counter
Lay the fig leaves on the bottom of the foil
Place the sliced mushrooms on the fig leaves
in a small bowl, combine the herbs, salt and pepper, shallot and garlic with the oil and white wine
pour the mixture over the mushrooms
Seal the foil package with the seam along the top
Bake for 15 minutes at 400F, 8 to 10 minutes if using a forno oven or barbecue
Open and serve directly from the package with crusty bread for dipping




Wood Ovens

Wood Stone

Fontana Forni




Books available for order at local bookstores

The Bread Builders: Hearth Loaves and Masonry Ovens

From the Wood-Fired Oven: New and Traditional Techniques for Cooking and Baking with Fire


Build It

Serious Masonry

Forno Bravo


Photography: Lillie Louise Major

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