After baking in my wood cookstove for a number of years, I have learned that it is relatively easy once you understand a few simple truths.
First, your temperature gauge (if you have one) is a vague guide at best. Unlike gas and electric heat, wood heat is very penetrating. The temperatures you are used to baking and cooking at are drastically reduced when using a wood cookstove. If you normally bake your bread at 425° in your electric or gas oven, you would slide your bread into your wood cookstove at roughly 325°.
Frustratingly, when I began baking in my cookstove, I filled the woodbox with small pieces of dry wood, cranked the drafts open and waited until my temperature gauge read 425°. Red in the face and dripping with perspiration, I carefully put my risen bread into the oven, set the timer for 10 minutes (I knew enough to know that I would have to turn the bread half-way through the baking time) and started cleaning up the kitchen. Approximately 8 minutes later, smoke started rolling out of my oven and the acidic smell of burnt dough filled the house. When I opened the oven, completely blackened loaves of bread met my eyes. Turning the ruined loaves out of the pans, I was surprised to see perfectly white bottom crusts. They had not even begun to brown. A quick tap to the bottom echoed with a heavy thick thud, indicating a raw center. My bread was ruined. I had no idea were I had gone wrong. I had been baking bread for years. The dough was right. The temperature was right. All I had to show for my efforts were burned/raw lumps of unappetizing goo.
I persevered and soon discovered my problem. It was, of course, the temperature. Once I dropped the temperature by 100°, my bread began cooking much more evenly. The next challenge was getting the bread to cook evenly on both sides and keeping the top from burning while making sure the bottom cooked through.
As I baked, I learned to rotate my bread about every 10 minutes (depending on the temperature of my oven). I would put a loaf of bread in the oven, let it cook for about 10 minutes and then rotate it completely, turning the other side to face the firebox. As that side browned, I would rotate the bread so that one of the ends was facing the firebox, and then the other. If the top of the bread began to darken too much, I would cover it with tin foil. It is amazing how much a tiny piece of foil can protect a loaf from burning to a crisp!
|The top pan of rolls is covered with foil to keep them from burning.|
Sometimes, depending on the wood I am using, the stove gets too hot, threatening to burn whatever I happen to be baking. When the temperature rises too high, the first thing I do is add wood (I know, seems backwards) and shut down the vents (drafts). This slows the rate of combustion, cooling the stove. If the temperature is still too hot, I manually adjust it - I prop the oven door open with something non-combustible. This allows the heat to escape quickly without affecting the baked goods.
|Propping the oven door open to allow the oven to cool quickly.|
|The oven only needs to be open a couple of inches to cool effectively.|
|Although the rolls look darker than they really are, they do darken|
when they are near the woodbox. These are actually our favorite rolls!
|Baking powder biscuits|
|Southern raised biscuits|
|Chocolate Chip cookies|
|Pies and rolls all baking at once!|
With a little practice and creative cooking skills, you too can make your wood cookstove work for a living.
Sweet Roll Dough
1/2 C water
2 T Yeast
1 1/2 C milk
1/2 C sugar
2 tsp. salt
1/2 C butter
7 1/2 C flour
Combine water, milk, sugar, salt and butter in medium pot. Heat until butter is melted. Pour into a mixer or bowl. When the temperature reaches about 110° beat in eggs and yeast. Allow to sponge for about 1/2 hour (or until the yeast becomes active). Add about 5 cups flour, stir or beat. Continue to add flour until the mixture becomes a dough consistency. Knead. Turn into a greased bowl. Let rise until double. Punch down. Let rise until almost double. Form into rolls (or make into cinnamon rolls). Allow to rise a third time. Heat oven to 375° (or 275° if baking in a wood cookstove) and bake for 20 minutes or until done.
These rolls are perfect for sweet rolls or dinner rolls.