A couple years ago, with help from family and friends, we built a cob oven at the farm. It was mainly for cooking pizza. You can also bake bread and other items as well, but we’ve stuck mainly with pizza. Cooking food in a cob oven made from clay, sand and straw is an ancient art. If built correctly, the enclosure can reach temperatures equivalent to commercial pizza ovens. It’s helpful having a “temperature gun;” just aim the device at the oven door opening and you get an accurate reading.
The Cob Oven Saga
We’ve rebuilt the oven once, when borer bees, or carpenter bees, infested the clay coating. Now the shell has cracked along the top and we face a third make over. But maybe not as soon as we thought. Despite the widening crack, the oven worked just fine last weekend. We turned out 8 pizzas, nicely cooked top and bottom.
It’s great fun designing the pizzas and sharing them with whoever shows up. But even at best, the process is a bit of work. It starts with several trips to the store to get the preferred ingredients for everyone. Rolling the dough and assembling the pies takes up the entire kitchen. The oven fire must be started well ahead of the cooking time and kept up to temperature. After all is done, there’s the clean up. It’s messy. The kind of thing kids love. And I do, too. I must say, I admire family friend Chris Sommers (Pi Pizzeria) for figuring out how to make a living from this cumbersome procedure.
For more information on cob oven construction, my friend Teri Page has written a book on the topic. (Wish I had read it two years ago.) You can get a copy here.
Photos below tells the story of what went into the pizza making at the farm last weekend and the outcome.