The snow is deep and the winds are howling up here on Buck Hill! It feels like winter, old-timey style. But things are getting warmer in the bakery. We shut the oven down after the open-house in mid-December, and then we were away for a week over Christmas. When we got back, a few days ago, the oven was still around 150F, which is fine for some things, but when you want to climb in there and work, it’s still too warm. The temp finally hit 100F yesterday, and I figured I could make a go of it. I climbed in, patched a few cracks, re-sealed a seam or two, and cleaned out some of the dust from last year’s baking. It’s tight in there, and honestly, warmer than I’d like it. I suppose it’s good to be an empathetic baker, though. Now I have some idea what the bread is going through.
While I was in the oven, on my back, Owen was emptying the firebox and cleaning it in preparation for some repairs. When we first built that firebox we used big slabs of soapstone for the floor and ceiling. If you’re ever temped to do that yourself, my advice is that you think again. The ceiling gave way after a few months, and we spent a good many hours fretting and fixing to get it into working condition–we finally cast a ceiling in place out of refractory cement (thanks Billy!)–and it’s been holding up fine. But this year, more trouble: the soapstone on the floor was coming up in huge chunks, and we knew we’d have to replace it. Luckily, it’s an easy job. With the box empty and cool, we simply cleaned out the wounds and packed them with high-strength refractory cement. It sets quickly, and it wasn’t long before we had the whole thing reassembled and ready to go.
And now the tide has turned.
The fire is burning, and the oven’s temperature is slowly rising! It’ll take another ten days or so before we’re up to baking temps, and some weeks after that before the oven is fully saturated with heat. It’s a slow process. Like so many good things. And it’s warm!
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