When You Turn Off A Wood-Fired Pizza Oven, Bake A Loaf Of Bread

Baking your own bread is a hugely satisfying activity. Not only can you try baking different types of loaves that might not be not available at your local store (and find a new favorite), but you can also experiment with more unusual ingredients and tailor your loaf to your own tastes. Homemade bread is generally healthier than store-bought bread, without any of the additives or preservatives, and it's often considerably cheaper.

Plus, there's a feel-good factor in taking the time to bake. Mixing, kneading, shaping, and scoring your loaf of bread can be fun and relaxing, not to mention the smells coming from the oven that are unbeatable. It's reasons like these that so many of us discovered, or rediscovered, a love of baking during the pandemic.

But, rather than just relying on your home oven to do the trick, there are other options to prepare your loaves, like making bread in a wood-fired oven, for example. The result can be the ultimate holy grail with a smoky taste and crunchy crust that are the result of bread-making basics. And, since the best time to bake bread in a wood-fired oven is after you've already made a meal and it begins to cool down, it's a convenient way to make the most of the contraption — and your time, too.

The temperature for wood-fired bread is important

From pizzas to roasted meats, many dishes can be cooked in a wood-fired oven, often with superb results. But, each dish requires a very specific approach, and homemade bread is no exception.

Wood-fired ovens are popular for cooking in no time because they can get very hot. The oven is generally set to a sweltering 800 to 900 degrees Fahrenheit for something like a Neapolitan-style pizza, with a short cooking time of just 60 to 90 seconds. But, baking bread in this kind of oven is a different matter. The temperature should be much lower for bread, so that it develops a great crust, but also cooks fully in the center while retaining a light, soft crumb.

Depending on the type of bread you are baking, the temperature range should be somewhere around 390 to 485 degrees Fahrenheit. More condensed styles like naan breads, flatbreads, and garlic breads can be cooked at the higher end of the temperature range, since they only take a few minutes under heat to be ready, whereas heartier focaccia, sourdough, and ciabatta should be baked at temperatures of around 392 to 446 degrees Fahrenheit. And sweeter breads that have more sugar, eggs, and fat, such as brioche, need the lowest temperature, around 356 degrees Fahrenheit. The baking time will vary — flatbreads take a few minutes just like wood-fired pizzas where as full loaves will need around 25-30 minutes.

More tips for baking bread in a wood-fired oven

While you'll want to bake your bread in a wood-fired oven at lower temperatures than some other dishes, it's always a good idea to let the oven fire up to a higher temperature first so you can maintain a consistent level of heat for the amount of time the bread is inside. That means there's no better time to bake your loaf than as the wood-fired oven is cooling down, after you've cooked something else, such as making your own pizza dough. Just be sure to dispose of any used embers before you put your bread inside.

When you're ready to bake, you can put the loaves directly on the floor of the oven. Keep the door in place for the first couple of minutes or so to make sure they develop that gorgeous golden crust. But, keep an eye on the bread, and rotate the loaves as necessary so that they bake evenly (do this as quickly as possible to prevent the temperature from dropping, just as it does in your standard oven when the door is open).

To get the most crispy crust, you can try using steam, either by spraying water towards the center or by placing a couple of ice cubes inside in a heatproof dish and place near the bread. If you want to know when it's done, the best way is to take out the loaf and tap the underside. If it sounds hollow, it's ready and will be arguably some of best bread you've ever had.