Public Bakeovens



Cooking with Fire in Public Parks


Ovens in other places

Shauna at the little oven
  • On Nov.6, 2018, Shauna Kearns baked bread in the smaller Dufferin Grove oven for the Depanneur Table Talk that night. Shauna had been invited to talk about the outdoor bake oven she got built in Braddock Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh. She told a really lovely story about how she became a wood-oven baker. First, she said she went to a place in England called Tracebridge Sourdough. And that's where the bug really bit her. No wonder. It turns out they have an Alan Scott oven too.

A wood-fired oven bakery in Guelph

Polestar Bakery, Guelph Ontario: website.

Back yard ovens near Creemore

(thanks to Dale Howey for sending this link) From In The Hills magazine, Aug.20, 2013: All Fired Up. About wood-fired oven bakers near Creemore:

Matthew Flett bakes 90 loaves of sourdough, 30 focaccias, pus batard and dozens of doughnuts in his oven to sell at Creemore’s Saturday farmers’ market.

Anna Hobbs and Byron Beeler built a Quebec-style oven where they bake Nova Scotia brown bread for their family.

Alan Hibben had his backyard oven built by Alex Chernov's company, Stovemaster.

A Visit To Cambridge And Kitchener November 26, 2008

Mayssan Shuja, Anna Bekerman, Jutta Mason: To Cambridge to speak to the Rotary Club, in response to an e-mail from Joy O'Donnell:

I am currently the President of the Cambridge North Rotary Club and I had been told about your Bake Ovens awhile ago. I have shared your website with a number of people in our club and we are thinking about doing something similar in the Rotary Dumfries Park on Hespeler Road in Cambridge. I was wondering if you had someone available in your group that would be willing to come to Cambridge for a free lunch and speak to our group about how the Bake ovens operate at the Dufferin Grove Park. If so would they be available to come on Wednesday, November 26th at 12:00pm to the 20 Hobson Street Restaurant. I hope we can take a great idea and duplicate it in our community.

This trip was expensive: gas plus two $15 meals (since we were only offered one meal for free). The restaurant was large and elegant, the meal was small but tasty. $15 bought a portion of pasta primavera and a cup of coffee. There were 47 Rotarians and their friends at the lunch. They told us they meet every Wednesday. Some are retired, some not. More men than women, but lots of women too. They spoke about a successful fund-raising to build two houses in Bolivia. Joy gave a little history -- Rotary was established, she said, in Chicago during the time when the city was pretty crooked, by four businessmen who wanted to combine business and honesty (and good works).


Anna had prepared a slide show and she and Jutta presented it for about 20 minutes. It seems unlikely that the Rotarians will proceed with this -- their park has no running water and no building.

The town (formerly called Galt) is stunningly beautiful along the river, with many graceful limestone buildings and bridges.

Kitchener: After the Rotary Club presentation, Anna, Mayssan and Jutta went up to Kitchener to see the Working Centre, in particular the cafe and the bake oven. One of the centre's long-time supporters and collaborators, Ken Westhues, had sent us an essay he wrote about producerism, published in the Working Centre newsletter ten years ago. The paper is full of interest, and the Working Centre is as active as a beehive.

The bake oven is beautifully made, only a bit small. Here is a July 2014 article about a pizza-making gathering there.


Bread and Puppet ovens, 2001

The Bread and Puppet Theatre company seldom performed anywhere without baking bread to go along with the show. At the company's farm in Vermont, there are two ovens, a smaller one close to the living quarters, and a very big one out in the performance field. Sometimes that oven baked bread for thousands of people.

At the time of our visit, Peter Schumann ground the rye meal in a big hand mill. He set out the dough in the evening, made a big fire and then at dawn the next morning he and some helpers walked across the field with all the baskets, cleaned the ashes out of the oven and swabbed the hearth with a big caretakers' broom. Then all the bread went in, and when it was baked and had cooled down, it was sliced into the same baskets and passed up and down the rows of spectators seated in the field. It fed everybody.

The smaller oven, next to the museum and the house

"sourdough rye bread bakery"

Peter Schumann swabbing out the oven

rustic oven plug
The bigger oven out in the field

big oven area for performance days

little house for bread distribution

loaves rising in baskets

ready-baked bread for the afternoon performance

Lefferts House Oven. Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY. February 19/20, 2011.

Report by guest baker Yo Utano.

Somehow the guest baker project went international, and I found myself in a park in Brooklyn, New York. One day last fall Jutta Mason came across an oven while riding around Prospect Park on her bike (it is bigger than our High Park). Anna Bekerman, a long time baker at Dufferin Grove who is in Brooklyn at the moment, visited Lefferts Historic House to which the oven belonged and together with the staff there, planned a baking day. I took an overnight bus to join them.

Lefferts House oven and hearth

Anna, her little baby Alice and I met Elyse, Billy and Margaret on a windy Saturday afternoon to preheat the oven. The oven comes with two parts: a baking chamber and a hearth fireplace, next to each other. Just the sight of it excited me.

While the fire was on, we sat in the kids’ room of the house and exchanged our knowledge and experiences. Lefferts House runs educational programs on the way of life of both natives and early settlers in the area. For Billy and Elyse, food is at the center of education, and so the oven was built. School groups and visitors learn how lives were lived there in the early days from the gardens (including grains and flax for fiber!), the oven, hearth and other cooking equipment, as well as from the museum inside.

The fire burned for three hours or so while we talked. Although the walls didn’t burn white, we called it a day and left some coals in the back.

Thankfully, by Sunday morning the wind had died down and the sun shone from the sparkling blue sky. The fire was lit at 9 am, and we started prepping.

Blueberry muffins and loaf

Today’s menu:

White pizza with sautéed onions, garlic and rosemary.

Light rye bread with Anna’s new sourdough starter

Elyse’s No-Knead bread

Elyse’s blueberry muffins

We each brought the bread dough we had made the night before and set it to rise in a warm room. While pizza dough, toppings and muffin batter were prepared, another fire was started at the hearth fireplace. This feature looks nice as it is, but of course becomes more exciting when used. It adds a whole lot more food possibilities, it is basically an oven with stove top functions. There is an iron hook (called a crane) to hang a cauldron over the fire, and once you have a good amount of coals, you can bring some of them to the front and do some stewing, frying, grilling and barbecuing. While sautéing onions with one of the cast iron pans with legs (called a spider), my imagination went far.

Onions cooking in the spider

With this oven and hearth combination, you could make and serve soup and bread, curry and naan, stew and roasted potatoes, boiled or grilled corn on the cob (try grilling with some soy sauce brushed on them) while beans are slowly baked, tomatoes cooked down in the residual heat in the oven for tomorrow’s use.

Ok, back to today. By 11:30 am, the walls of the oven were mostly white. We put a couple of tables out to make pizza, and around noon when the museum opened, some visitors wandered up.

There weren’t many dough balls, but just enough for them to make pizza. A little girl was happier to make pizza than to eat it, which worked out well because everyone enjoyed her pizza. It was then when I realized that I had put sugar in the dough instead of salt.

People tried their hand at pizza making

This is why I shouldn’t work at a restaurant. It was actually tasty with salty sautéed onion, garlic and fresh rosemary on top, but I was also very hungry.

During the pizza feast, sourdough was formed and Dutch ovens for no-knead bread were heating up over coals. Around 1:30, they all went in the oven except for one of the no-knead loaves that Elyse decided to bake with coals from the hearth. It turned out that the floor of the oven wasn’t too hot, especially at the back. So I pulled the loaves in the back to the front, and they baked a little longer. My guess is that hot coals didn’t have direct contact with the hearth at the back (the part that did contact the hearth was buried, which means no oxygen, means cold). A good lesson learned: when baking bread after making pizza, the coals must be stirred well and spread over the hearth for a little while so that the whole hearth gets hot again. Only then should you clear out the coals, let the oven rest and take its temperature in preparation for the bread.

No-knead bread crumb was shiny and elastic

But, luckily for us, it was hot enough to bake all the loaves. Again, we got some visitors just when we were pulling out the bread. People gathered, eager to try a piece. One thing we all forgot to bring was a serrated knife. We tried cutting loaves into slices with an old-fashioned curbed knife, but soon gave up and tore with our hands. The no-knead bread came out with a bright golden crust, and elastic crumb with big shiny holes. It had a flavour of steamed bread that my mother would occasionally make back home in Japan. I suspected that yeasty flavour might stay stronger when steamed. Both breads were so delicious that it was hard to stop eating.

The last to go in were the blueberry muffins. By then the oven had cooled down to about 300, and lower on the hearth. A big mouth of the oven probably means fast heat loss, and the door did not seal well. Elyse had a laser thermometer that could detect surface temperature, which we used to take the temperature of our cheeks but also of the oven. The walls were hotter than the hearth. If we had had more stuff to bake, we could have put coals and fire from the fireplace back in the oven. It’s nice that the fireplace could act as a reservoir of coals for the oven.

It was a great baking day. The weather was perfect (my past baking gigs were mostly very cold), and it was satisfying that we made a variety of things. However beautiful the process is, working with wood-fired ovens takes time. You want to utilize the heat as efficiently as you can, and you feel so content that you want to do it again.

Cutting loaves by the oven

No-knead loaf baked in the hearth

Pizzas bubbling up

Trying the spider in the oven

Elyse and Billy

An article from the Kona Historical Society newsletter (Hawaii): Portuguese stone oven baking in Hawaii about an

"outdoor stone oven, a reproduction of the “forno,” the oven used by the Portuguese immigrants who came to Kona in the 1880s. The loaves are sold for $8 each on a first-come, first-serve basis until sold out. Sales start down at the oven at about 12:30 p.m. and tend to sell out quickly so get there early. These Special Bakes are part of the Society’s Portuguese Bread Baking Program, which celebrates Portuguese contributions to Kona’s ranching heritage and perpetuates the art of baking Portuguese bread in the traditional way. Portuguese families typically shared their ovens communally and worked together to produce the weekly bread for everyone."

Facebook video

Explanation by Syed Luqman Ahmed Shah: This is special type of bread,called "ma'nne" particular to Seraiki belt,upper Sind and parts of Baluchistan,,,, It is paper thin, soft n crispy and keeps its texture for almost a fortnight (even more) if properly stored. Its specially used for "sohbat" a traditional dish in the region.

From Muhammad Naeem Khan: This comes from my native village Bannu, It's a part of popular Pastoon Dish "Posti Pan-da" presented at events like weddings Parties etc. as bread.

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Content last modified on November 07, 2018, at 05:40 PM EST