There is good news and bad news. First the bad. We haven’t blogged in several days and we’re sorry about that. We were traveling, to Maine. Brian left the power cord for the laptop back in New York. Do not go to Maine without your power cord. Our Toshiba laptop has a “special” power socket so it was impossible to buy a new cord to keep us up and going. It was raining hard, the wind was blowing as we sat in our motel room and watched the last flickers of the screen disappear.
“That’s it,” Brian said.
“I know,” I told him. I looked at him, wondering when “computer withdrawl” would set in. I wanted to check WebMD to see what to do, but, but there was no computer. No internet. We both survived.
In fact, we both thrived. We were in Lyman, Maine at the marvelous Stone Turtle Baking and Cooking School. Michael and Sandy Jubinsky are baking mavens with incredible expertise in wood oven cooking. That picture above represents the French bread all eight students produced from scratch. We did bread, cinnamon rolls, foccacia, vegetables, roast leg of lamb two ways, and tart tartin with homemade puff pastry. Yes, in the coming days we’ll share recipe ideas and cooking techniques.
Brian and I have a wood oven upstate, and for years we ‘ve worked to master the cooking techniques needed for success. We’ve had issues: how to start the fire, how to get the temperature up, how to keep the temperature up, and how to keep the oven from cooling off too quickly. Yes, starting a fire can be frustrating. Brian is not a good arsonist.
Michael Jubinsky gave us a bushel of solutions to our issues. Michael has been teaching cooking for over 40 years, and for the past 6 years has operated Stone Turtle with a huge wood oven. Suzen and I wanted to learn “wood oven management:” how to get that oven hot, and then cook different items as the oven temperature descends from 800+° F down to room temperature. We do pizza at 800°, that French bread at 580°, the lamb at 450°, … Michael taught us to think in terms of 50° bands and we learned how to manage the transition up and down: adding a little extra wood to bounce the temperature up or mopping with a damp [not wet!] mop to lower the temp.
Most importantly, we learned that success with a wood oven requires some patience. Ideally, it’s a 2 day process. You really want to “fire” up the day before, let it sit overnight, then refire the oven in the morning, and manage your cooking during the rest of the day and through the night. Overnight cooking? Yes, by the end of the day, your oven is probably in the 300-400° range, and it’s time to put in a crock pot of beans or a brisket for a long journey to the table.
Stone Turtle, www.stoneturtlebacking.com, is the ideal place to learn and enjoy baking and cooking. Take a look at the website, and consider one of the wonderful courses offered. Besides his accomplished self, Michael offers classes with master bakers. You are sure to learn and dramatically improve your skills.