Alan Scott, whose blacksmith’s skill in using radiant heat led to a revival of the ancient craft of building brick ovens, allowing bakers to turn out bread with luxuriously moist interiors and crisp crusts, died Jan. 26 in Tasmania, Australia. He was 72.
The cause was congestive heart failure, said his daughter Lila Scott. Her father had returned to his native Australia several years ago after becoming ill, she said. Ms. Scott and her brother, Nicholas, now operate OvenCrafters, the company their father opened nearly 30 years ago in a large Victorian home in Petaluma, Calif.
Several thousand amateur bread bakers and thin-crust pizza makers now have backyard brick ovens, many with cathedral-like arches, that were built either by Mr. Scott, with Mr. Scott or according to specifications he laid out with his protégé Daniel Wing in their 1999 book, “The Bread Builders” (Chelsea Green Publishing).
More than a how-to manual, the book is also a meticulous treatise on the history of bread making and the physics of baking, with instructions, for example, on how long to let the dough rise. Mr. Scott, who held instructional workshops around the country, played a role in bringing brick ovens to hundreds of bakeries and restaurants as well.
For centuries, beginning before the Middle Ages, home cooking was done mostly on a family’s open hearth; villagers would share a single brick-oven bakery.
Mr. Scott “took oven designs that were hundreds of years old and refined them,” said Dick Bessey, who teaches oven-building at Kendall College in Chicago and at the San Francisco Baking Institute. Mr. Scott’s drawings, he said, “allowed virtually anybody to build an oven that would perform in a way that would equal the old communal ovens.”