Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

Earth Ovens Heat Up in the New York Times

Michael Pollan wrote a piece for the New York Times this past Wednesday about a 36-hour community potluck where all the dishes – from roasted goat to apricot and saffron gratin – were cooked in an outdoor cob oven. The food sounded delicious, but we were most pleased to see Pollan drawing attention to wood-fired earthen ovens in general, the subject at the core of Kiko Denzer’s Build Your Own Earth Oven.

Earth ovens combine the utility of a wood-fired, retained-heat oven with the ease and timeless beauty of earthen construction. Kiko’s book is fully illustrated with step-by-step directions, including how to tend the fire, and how to make perfect sourdough hearth loaves in the artisan tradition. The average do-it-yourselfer with a few tools and a scrap pile can build an oven for free, or close to it. Otherwise, $30 should cover all your materials–less than the price of a fancy “baking stone.” Good building soil is often right in your back yard, under your feet. Build the simplest oven in a day! With a bit more time and imagination, you can make a permanent foundation and a fire-breathing dragon-oven or any other shape you can dream up.

Earth ovens are familiar to many that have seen a southwestern “horno” or a European “bee-hive” oven. The idea (pioneered by Egyptian bakers in the second millennium bc!) is simplicity itself: fill the oven with wood, light a fire, and let it burn down to ashes. The dense, 3- to 12-inch-thick earthen walls hold and store the heat of the fire, the baker sweeps the floor clean, and the hot oven walls radiate steady, intense heat for hours. Home bakers who can’t afford a fancy, steam-injected bread oven will be delighted to find that a simple earth oven can produce loaves to equal the fanciest “artisan” bakery. It also makes delicious roast meats, cakes, pies, pizzas, and other creations. Pizza cooks to perfection in three minutes or less. Vegetables, herbs, and potatoes drizzled with olive oil roast up in minutes for a simple, elegant, and delicious meal. Efficient cooks will find the residual heat useful for slow-baked dishes, and even for drying surplus produce, or incubating homemade yogurt. Read the New York Times article here. Head over to the bookstore to check out Kiko Denzer’s Build Your Own Earth Oven now!


Ready, Set, Forage: Pick Pawpaws, Win a Book!

It’s pawpaw picking time! As we cruise into fall, the change in season often evokes images of apple picking and pie-eating. But apples aren’t the only fruit reaching their prime this time of year. Lesser known but equally delicious is the pawpaw. Described as a cross between a banana and a mango, this exotic-looking fruit […] Read More..

Recipe: How to Make the Perfect Pancake

When most people think pancakes, they think breakfast. But for Amy Halloran, breakfast is only the start.Halloran, author of The New Bread Basket, is a self-described pancake connoisseur. From a young age, she was entranced by the magic of bubbly batter rising to fluffy cakes on the griddle. Over time, her love of pancakes developed […] Read More..

What in the World is a Pawpaw?

Have you heard of the pawpaw? A few generations ago, most would say “yes!” You could ask just about anyone and they could tell you what this fruit looked and tasted like, and more importantly, where to find it. But today, the pawpaw remains a mystery to some and entirely unknown to others. In Pawpaw: […] Read More..

5 Creative Summer Drinks to Help You Cool Off

Now that we’re in the “dog days” of summer, the heat can feel a little unrelenting. There’s no better way to cool off than with a refreshing, cold beverage – especially when that beverage is made with local, organic ingredients and can give you an added health boost! While our experienced foragers and nutrition experts […] Read More..

Beat the Heat and Be Good to Your Gut: Dairy-Free Ice Cream Recipes

Recent research has shown that the trillions of microbes living in our gut, also known as our microbiome, can affect both our brain function and our mood and can be linked to a number of disorders ranging from allergies and asthma to autism, ADD, depression, and more. What we ingest can either help or hurt […] Read More..