Friday, May 11, 2007


We visited Vermont this spring to expose our southern children to snow and -- perhaps unwisely - to the supremely expensive pastime of downhill skiing. No trip to the Mad River valley would be complete without a pilgrimage to American Flatbread and it was thus that I found myself once again peeking over the shoulder of the pizzaolo, camera in hand.

For anyone infatuated with Adobe ovens, this is an interesting photo. Start with the proposition that this is a pizza oven that churns out hundreds of high-quality pizzas in a day and can cook multiple pizzas at one time. I am standing to the left of the oven's opening and looking back into the right hand side of an oval oven. The middle of the oven is dedicated to a fire "pit." On either side of the pit, is a raised shelf (soapstone, I think) on which George appears to fit up to three large pizzas. Because the heat source is in the middle, the sides of the pizza that are exposed to the pizzaolo are the sides that brown the fastest, thus elimating the guess work that is required when the heat sources in the back and browns the side of the pizza not visible to the cook. Raising the cooking shelves eliminates the volume of ash and other "fire waste" that invariably finds its way onto the cooking space.

I have grown weary of my own oven's shortcomings and, for some time, have felt restless to rebuild. The project will be modest and will include none of the more unique and admirable features of George's oven. I will retain my roof and the current pedestal/platform but hope to increase the floor space. Ideally, I'd like to be able to cook two 10-12 inch pizzas at a time but I don't think this will be possible. The limiting factor for me currently is the available surface on which to lay sand for the floor bricks. Unfortunately, when I built my rock "pedestal" for the oven platform I used large and irregular-shaped stones. The mere size of the stones left a relatively small area in the middle to place sand and firebricks for floorspace (imagine a sandbox with super thick walls and very little sand). Of course, the size of the floor limits the size of the oven. I hope to increase the height of the pedestal/platform with another ring of small rocks or bricks held in place with mortar, thus increasing the surface area for the oven floor (imagine a sandbox with thin walls but more sand.)

There are certainly many open questions for the rebuild. Among the foremost is choice of material. My current oven contains a thinner interior layer of commercial red art clay mixed with grog. The additional two exterior layers are locally dug clay (you can see the three layers above). The interior layer has worked well, but I'd prefer to use all local clay if I knew that it wouldn't crumble and crack, which I don't.
We'll see and I'll keep y'all posted.