Back in June of 2011, it stopped raining just long enough one weekend for me to a) take a photo (one which, I think, shows how Dalek-like Peter's design turned out to be) and b) to get things fired up in there. You know, to actually use the thing.
Once again, Russell Jeavons displays a somewhat laid back approach to explaining how to fire up the beast, but we knew to expect that now, knew that it's all about learning how to use your particular oven, and, as such, there's no precise map to follow. So. Make a HUGE fire, get it burning fiercely and tend it for a good 2 hours or so before you want to cook. Longer is better in ours, but maybe not yours. It's one of those touchy-feely things. You'll need to shift it around a bit at that time, to make room for the food, raking out some coals occasionally. It'll take at least 2 barrows-ful of various kinds and sizes of wood.
Peter took f-o-r-e-v-e-r to grasp that the fire needs to fill the thing. He kept leaving space to cook in, building small fires when, in fact, what is needed is a scary roaring fire (contained by the dome, of course). He is good at making that kind of fire, so once he was ready to listen to me reading out Jeavons' suggested scale, he decided to follow the rules.
I'm glad he finally did.
Anyway, that was back in June. We made attempts from time to time to get out there and cook in it, but our timings were off, the rain kept pouring all damn year really, and the food coming out of it was, at best, lukewarm. We decided to wait until it was warm, sunny and dry.
With family from Auckland here for New Year, our timing and the weather were, for once, just right. We got to work, a practice run of sorts, on the 29th of December.
Ta-daaa. First pizza!
(You'll have to excuse the exposure in the photo - too hot to get my lightmeter in there)
(Also, kale, sliced into shreds, arranged on top of your fridge-cleaning pizza then drizzled with olive oil before going in for a 5-7 minute blast is, I think, even better than kale made into chips. Just saying.)
Pleased with ourselves? Hell yess.
New Year's Eve, Peter got his hat, workboots and kilt out and, despite the 40 degree heat, he had a ball firing it all up. A roaring (literally, considering the singed hairs on his arms) success, I'd say.
Happiness, in our camp, abounds.
The pizza dough I use is a Nigel Slater recipe, one I know by heart and the truly great thing about it is that it doubles as a flatbread recipe, so you'll only ever need this one set of measurements. Of course you can do it by hand, but there's something nice about knowing that the machine does a very fine job indeed. Makes 6 small flatbreads, 2 larger ones or 2 good-sized pizzas.
Sift 500g (1lb & 2oz) of strong bread flour into the bowl of a standing mixer. Fit the machine with a dough hook. Add 1/2 a teaspooon of salt and about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Dissolve 2 level teaspoons of active dried yeast in 300ml of blood-temperature water, add to mixer bowl and turn the machine on low. Stand back and let it do it's thing for about 5 minutes or so, give it a quick knead and then pop it back into the bowl. Dust generously with flour and leave to rise, covered, somewhere warm for an hour. Worry not if it's not balloned in that time; forge ahead regardless. Shape, pop on a flour-dusted baking tray and decorate as you like. In a domestic oven I preheat the oven to 220C and keep an eagle eye on things after 10 minutes, but about 20 minutes is how long things will take all up. In the brick oven? No idea what the temperature it gets to actually is - farking hot isn't precise enough, but that's what it is - and will take considerably less time to reach true perfection. If you've a pizza stone in either case, heat it up while the oven comes to temperature.