The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Need WFO WOW (wood-fired oven words of wisdom)

dmsnyder's picture

Need WFO WOW (wood-fired oven words of wisdom)

I am really excited! This coming Sunday, I will bake breads for the first time in a wood fired oven!

The owner of a local deli/wine bar whom I've known for some 40 years has a wood fired oven at her home. She uses it for pizza, meats, veggies, etc., but she is not a bread baker. We've been talking for almost a year about having me bake bread in her oven. Next Sunday is the day!

My plan is to bake 3 kinds of breads, all of which will be cold retarded Saturday night. I would appreciate advice regarding 1) temperatures when baking in a WFO versus an electric oven,

2) Steaming the oven. (Spray, mop, ice or water in a pan? Not needed?)

3) Expected duration of a bake in a WFO versus an electric oven.

4) Do you make any other adjustments, for instance with proofing, when baking in a WFO versus a home electric oven?

What else should I know?

I eagerly await your WOW!

I will report the outcome.


mrvegemite's picture

Hi David,


Although I posted a while back regarding using my wood fired oven I can offer my advice on what I have learnt over the last few bakes.  As most WFO owners would agree there are many factors when using a wood fired oven eg thermal mass and heat retention, a proper seal on the door, loading temperature and rate of temperature falling etc.etc.etc..

Here is my advice you can use as you wish, and any other readers can offer me advice if they have better techniques please.

I tend to place my breads in between 220-240C depending on how fast your oven falls and how many breads are loaded, and a 1kg loaf takes between 30-40mins depending on heat of oven and temp of bread going in but can be up to 50mins you will have to test accordingly (I bake 9 loaves at a time)

I place a shallow tray filled with a couple of cms of hot water and place into oven with door closed whilst loading to generate some moisture but the more bread you can fit in the more moisture/steam the loaves provide for the bake.  Bake with a full oven! 

Prove your bread the same as you would with an electric oven, bake straight from the fridge if proofed properly otherwise bring to temperature and proof accordingly. Baking from the fridge is preferred for timing with a WFO oven

Make sure the WFO is heated properly ie, the thermal mass is saturated (anywhere from 2-5 hours depending on the oven so pizza and beer time before breads!)and then you have to distribute red hot coals over the entire floor for half and hour to allow the floor to heat evenly and speed up equalization before coals removed. Where the fire burns the floor is generally hotter than the rest so move the fire around if making pizzas etc. (I don't bake with fire inside oven just the retained heat) not always an obvious observation when scouring the net and the large commercial WFO ovens have a small fire ticking away in the corner.

Use a temperature gauge for the oven to know when to load, I think I posted a picture of a batch that went in a tad hot (note: go easy on the beer not to impede judgement!)

Load your oven as quickly as possible and then seal with the door (if door is wooden soak in water for a few hours helps add steam), any gaps in the door allows steam out so block up with damp cloth's being careful not to steam your hands.

Remove when happy then chuck in a slow roasting joint of favorite animal to enjoy in a few hours time.

There is a lot more to think about than just turning a switch on but if I missed anything, let me know this should get you started.  An idea of what type of WFO oven is would help anyone immensely trying to help you with advice on baking your wonderful bread (judging by your posts!)

I will be baking 16 loaves tonight in mine so will be online for next1 0 or so hours if you have any questions

Quiz the owner as much as you can about the performance, firing up and ability of the oven as they should know more than anyone else.

All the best






yozzause's picture

Hi David 

A lot will depend on the oven itself how well it retains it's heat which related to its insulation and mass, if the oven is used for anything prior or if you are the star turn. Also its capacity if your bread is going to fill the oven.

Temperature is quite difficult to control , if you can get your hands on an infrared thermometer it will give you some idea of the temperature of the chamber. When the bricks go clean of the carbon from the firing is when the fire can be removed

After the fire is removed  and the  floor scuffed with and old dampened tea towel attached to a broom handle with a bit of copper wire in a nice circular motion  to remove dust and cinders

The oven is allowed to settle for a while and the temperature evens out  door closed unless very very hot.

Another quick DAMP scuff will  give a moist environment to load your loaves into.

Ensure that the peel is well dusted with semolina so that the loaves slide off with a quick pull back of the peel handle, get the loaves in as quickly as you can and get the door on and sealed up to trap all the steam generated.

Keep the door closed for at least 20 minutes and unless you smell that distinct  burning aroma and need to take a quick peep you could allow almost the same baking time as normal.

It will be a great fun time and you will learn each time you get to use it . Don't forget the camera as we look forward to sharing your exciting experience

best wishes Derek 


Sjadad's picture

David - I have a Forno Bravo Primavera WFO. When I use it for baking bread I make sure that it has been fully saturated wits heat. What I mean by that is this:  even though the oven may get up to a high temperature (900 F) in 90 minutes, I keep it there for a good couple of hours to be sure the fire bricks are fully saturated with heat. During that time I usually make some pizzas, then when the temperature falls a bit I may grill some steaks on a cast iron grill inserted in the oven. 

When the fire has died down I remove any glowing embers, being sure to deposit them in a fireproof container. I sweep the deck of all ash and wait for the oven deck to fall to 550 F - 600 F.  I use a small lawn and garden sprayer filled with water (that I only use for this purpose) to spray the inside of the oven for about 10 seconds and then immediately close the oven door. 

I load the loaves on peels, slash, and load into the oven. I immediately spray above the loaves for 10 seconds and close the oven door. After 20 minutes I peek and check to see how they're doing. I gauge the remainder of the baking time based on how they look after that first 20 minutes. 

In a WFO bread baking is definitely an art and not a science!  The oven spring is truly amazing and I find the loaves to be superior to anything baked in my kitchen. 

Good luck and please post your results. I am sure they will be wonderful. 


dmsnyder's picture

I knew I could count on you all! Great advice! Thanks!

I am going to forward your tips to the oven mistress. But keep 'em coming! I expect more when my hemisphere wakes up. ;-)



etheil's picture

Finally an opportunity to provide you with some insight after a few years of silently borrowing from your experience. I think the thing that makes the biggest difference, as stated earlier, is loading the oven to capacity, but I have a few other tips, some of which are already mentioned above (for the sake of reinforcement):

- An infrared thermometer is helpful so you can measure the dome and hearth temps. The temperatures can vary wildly after having fired the oven and cleaned out the coals and you want to make sure these two spots are closer in temperature after a few hours of the oven regulating. A hearth temp of about 500 to 550 is a good place to start, but it depends on how many batches you plan on baking since the oven will cool after that first bake (this isn't always true, it depends on the thermal mass of the oven.)

- Mop the oven floor a few minutes prior to loading the dough.

- Use a garden sprayer to direct the water at the oven dome so it is converted to steam. The size of the oven will dictate how much to spray, but with my 38" floor I usually spray all around the dome for about 4-5 seconds. 

- Load the oven to capacity. This is important because you'll get more moisture released into the oven during baking.

It's a little unnerving without a window, but make sure the oven remains sealed for those first 20-25 minutes. Also, I've noticed a more chalky finish to loaves baked in a WFO as opposed to anything out of a home or commercial steam injected oven.

Good luck!


embth's picture

I use a laser thermometer to check the temperature of the floor, dome, and sides of my oven.   It is a nice tool to have when you are making pizza, but even more useful when baking bread.  My oven is a very well insulated, brick structure and holds heat for many hours.   Build your fire a few hours ahead, close the oven and let the heat equalize in the masonry.   Load your breads when the temperature is a bit higher than you want, and close the door.   Then wait….no glass window in this oven door so you can not watch what's happening in there.   After 15-20 minutes, you can open up and rotate loaves if necessary.    Your first bread bake in this oven will be a learning experience.   A laser thermometer is a great tool and they are available for around $60.   I don't know how the bakers of Pompeii made their breads without one.  : )

BobSponge's picture

When I took the WFO class at SFBI, one of the instructors referred to the oven as "la suocera", the mother-in-law. I love my oven, but it can be a challenge to work with.... 

All the points above are spot on, get a solid read on the temp and make sure you steam well. Fully loading the oven does make a difference, but if your oven is to hot, or you leaving things in a little to long, 12 bad loaves are more depressing than having just one get burnt.  

Couple other things that may be obvious, but after the first 20 minutes, you may want to move some of your loaves around to get more even baking.  Ones next to the walls get brown faster, ones by the door/ oven center brown slower.   One other shortcut I use if the oven floor is not to hot, is to dump the bread out of proofing basket onto parchment, then slide the peel under the parchment to load they slide off into the oven much easier and stay cleaner.  I try to be super fast loading.   

I think most of the "learning" will be how to apply the specific points above to your friends oven.  For me the bread making does not really change just the baking.

I'm off to split wood for tomorrows bake.....

Most of all -- Have fun!





dmsnyder's picture

First off, thanks to everyone who contributed tips. I appreciate it.

Today is mix and ferment day. I decided to make three kinds of breads for my WFO maiden flight tomorrow:

Whole Wheat Levain from Hamelman's Bread. I will scale and shape these as bâtards, each weighing about 810g. These will be shaped and retarded overnight.

Miche from my SFBI Artisan II Workshop. This will be one 2kg miche. I have made this with various flour mixes. Tomorrow's bake will have about 35% T85 flour from Central Milling and the rest KAF AP. Plus about 1.5% toasted wheat germ. The miche will be cold retarded after shaping.

San Joaquin Sourdough. I will probably scale 240g baguettes. I'm really eager to try baguettes and SJSD in a WFO. I will retard the fermented dough overnight and divide and shape tomorrow. I haven't decided at exactly what stage to transport them to the WFO site. I'm thinking about going over there right after final shaping, carrying the baguettes en couche on a proofing board. That gives a 45 minute period before baking, and the WFO is about 20 minutes from my house.

I kind of wanted to do a fourth type of bread also, but the three doughs, all fermenting at once and all needing S&F's at varying intervals has me working like ... a real baker or something.


dabrownman's picture

a WFO will make with all of these fine breads.  Now you are doing traditional artisan baking! Have fun - next thing you know you will have one of your own:-)

dabrownman's picture

that a WFO will make for these fine breads - Traditional Artisan Baking must be a real thrill for you .  Next thing you know you might have a WFO of your own:-)

Happy WFO baking David

yozzause's picture

i guess you will require a different peel for the baguettes David usually a lot narrower that you tend to slide  side ways rather than  pull back sharply, the big loaves should go to the back of the oven and the smaller ones to the front 

But I guess its all done by now just the pictures and the story to tell, hope its exceeded your expectations

regards Derek 

Mebake's picture

Waiting for the bake day ,in anticipation.


The Bread Stone Ovens Company's picture
The Bread Stone...


Hi There,

First, let me introduce myself. I hand craft fully domed pizza ovens for a living in Texas, and grew up in France cooking in the ovens so I know them inside, and out! As for your question, the temperature will all depend on the size; weight and shape, of the bread and the hydration level.

To give you an idea in my oven, a Bread Stone Oven 950 B, I bake baguettes, 300gr, between 550 and 600 F, for 10 to 15 minutes.For pain de campagne, 1kg, about 450F for 30 to 45 minutes.

Because of the steam you are able to trap in the cooking chamber, you will be able to bake at higher temp compare to a gas or electric oven.

I don't what oven you will be using but yea, you need to steam it. First of all make sure the oven has a good door that completely seals the cooking chamber. On my BSO 950B, there is an insulated door that rests on a recess. This locks in the heat and the steam. Makes a huge difference.For the steam, the best practice is a metal pan with either rocks or old brick in it. Pre-heat about 45 minutes before you put the bread in.Before putting the bread, with a damp cloth, mop the floor to remove the ash residues. All the steam from that process will escape and it is ok.If the floor is a little hot, mope a second time. It is ok for the dome to be hotter than the floor.Score the bread and place it in the oven.Put boiling water into the pan with the rock/bricks.Close the door as tight as possible.

Since I suggest you bake at higher temp, compare to a gas/electric home oven, expect less of a bake time. No need for any proofing adjustment.

What else should you know.Once the oven is hot enough, spread all the embers over the entire floor and let them burn for 30 to 45 minutes.Remove all the embers, ash, wood from the oven. Close the door and let the heat even out in temperature for 30 to 40 minutes.Never put ice water in the oven. the thermal chock could damage it.Don't spray water or mop the oven with a wet cloth, it could damage it as well.When you go to take the bread out and open the door, be on your guard, the steam that has built up could rush out and create injuries.Don't check you bread too soon or the steam will go. Wait at least 10 minutes for the baguettes and 20 for the boules.

If you have more question, let me know. Always happy to help!

The Bread Stone Ovens Company's picture
The Bread Stone...

Have you cooked in it yet? How exciting, there IS much to learn about brick ovens. I have a company called The Bread Stone Ovens Company,  in TX that hand crafts the ovens, but also sell kits to build your own at home- only using the best materials. Our ovens are I have a blog on my page, where we talk about different topics such as proofing, one thing to really get down, and will be vital to bread baking is wood burning. I pasted the link so you may get an idea of how it works. There is also a blog on Starter I did recently.

Happy Baking!