John Murieko has met a goal to bake bread with exceptional flavor. Several years ago he and his wife Nicole began a quest to create whole grain bread that is healthful, beautiful and delicious. Beginning with a used grain mill and a small earthen oven, John experimented with recipes, natural fermentation and wood-fired baking. Now that he is ready to bake bread as a business, John worked with Texas Oven Co. to build a wood-fired oven at Restoration Homestead.
John talked with Sarah and Dave at Texas Oven Co. about an oven that would support baking a large number of loaves each bake day. John understood the importance of heat retention. He needed an oven that would hold sufficient heat from one firing to bake bread throughout the baking day. And he wanted to build the oven from reclaimed brick manufactured locally in Corsicana. When Dave fully understood the project, customized John’s plan to fit the requirements.
John designed a barrel-shaped oven that measures 4 feet by 6 feet. The specific shape and dimensions enable him to bake 40 square-shaped loaves at a time. To insure the necessary heat retention for a barrel-shape, Dave added thermal mass to the oven, optimizing the proportion of mass in the oven floor to the oven walls.
The reclaimed bricks, which would not have been suitable for the interior of the oven, crate a beautiful exterior veneer. Now that the oven is finished, John and Dave speculate it may be the largest, operational, outdoor wood-fired bread oven in Texas.
In preparation for baking, John loads the oven with wood from the back to front. He lights the fire at the front and lets it burn all day to thoroughly heat the firebrick. By the end of the day, the fire has burned down to coals, and John closes the door to contain heat. Early in the morning, John shovels out the coals and mops the oven floor. He, Nicole and brothers, Drew and Adam, place loaves onto wooden peels John made to fit the rectangular shape of the oven. With oven temperature in the 500s, the bread bakes within 15-20 minutes. John and his crew tip the finished loaves into bannetons for cooling.
John incorporates the use of a mister and wet towel on the oven door to increase initial steaming. He estimates each loaf gives off 2 ounces of water (steam) in baking because the dough is close to 98% hydrated. To make 40 loaves, John prepares 60 pounds of dough using the stretch and fold technique and shapes it for a low temperature fermentation. He cultures a natural yeast starter that gives the bread a satisfying, not overly sour taste. For variety he modifies the basic dough by incorporating toasted sesame seeds or sprouted kamut.
John provides bread for the family, for friends and for guests at the bed and breakfast. He plans to expand his business and sell bread shares in the pattern of Community Supported Agriculture. Customers who buy bread shares will be able to pick up their fresh loaves at the Homestead or at variety of locations.
In his brochure John states, “We are committed to creating bread without commercial yeast and harmful additives and preservatives. Our wood-fired bakery was born out of a deep concern for the health and enjoyment of people who love bread. Yes, you can eat bread, and it’s good for you…as long as it’s real!”
For Texas Oven Co. it’s a pleasure to be part of this collaborative effort.
Visits at Restoration Homestead are by appointment only. Call or text 214-676-6349, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
10032 SECR 4200
Kerens TX, 75144