Slow cooking, Fast cooking- mastering the slow, slow quick quick slow dance

For those of you who are familiar with the Ballroom, you’ll know this is the Foxtrot or the faster paced Quickstep. What has that to do with wood fired ovens I hear you say! Well ultimately, it is to do with the amount of energy you put into an activity, the Foxtrot can be as slow as you like remember and the Quickstep as fast as you feel comfortable with.

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The great Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing

The wood fired oven is a tool that enables both types of ‘dance’ depending where you’re at in the heat cycle. With high mass ovens, you start slow by building the fire and letting the heat soak into the fabric of the oven. You can’t do much at this stage except tend the fire and make sure there’s enough fuel distributed to really penetrate the mass of the oven. You might have a drink and nibbles on the go while you wait, chatting with friends or popping in and out prepping your food in your own time.

An hour later you then have a raging furnace to deal with so once you’ve swept the hearth and piled your embers to one side, everything starts to speed up. The dome is nicely clear of soot, your food nicely prepped ( remember ‘mis en place’ , everything in its right place) and you’re ready to go. Forget chatting or drinking, your work is now focussed on not burning the food you’ve lovingly prepared!

Mastering the Slow Slow quick quick Slow dance: Ballroom Dancing & Wood Fired Oven

Measure the temperature, is it too hot or not hot enough, is it even throughout the dome and hearth, does it need time to even itself out- impatience kicks in- ‘I want to cook NOW’ ….Part of you knows that your dance partner isn’t ready for you but you set off anyway…wait I’m out of step and its not working! The pizza burned or the base is soggy….Ok stop and wait, take stock and slow it down….temperature has evened out, its a good 350-400C or hotter on the dome, hovering around 300C on the hearth, its good to go…your dance partner is ready!

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cooking pizza at 350C in a four grand mere brick oven

This is pizza , slow fire, slow prep, then fast cooking and fast action, slow plating- the dance is complete and now you can sit and talk….no wait there’s 4 others to feed….by the time you’ve sat down with your own food, the others have finished theirs and now watch you eat. Pats on the back and raised glasses…everyone I guarantee will say ” that’s the best pizza I’ve ever tasted” , you feel all warm inside at a job well done , the dance is over and now you can relax.

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leavened flatbreads
flatbreads, wood fired oven, wood fired cooking, wood fired bread
leavened flatbreads from the pizza dough

Or can you….but there’s all that heat still in the oven, I should do some bread with the left over dough balls but its still a bit hot. Maybe flatbreads for tomorrow, yes they’ll make great pocket sandwiches.

Of course it needn’t be pizza to start with, steak and fish steaks are great cooked at high temperature but unless you’ve already cooked the veg, you could throw in a baking tray of potatoes or mixed veg and cover it so it doesn’t cook too quickly. Or maybe be healthy and have a big salad instead. And what to do with the falling heat over the next few hours or overnight? Slow cooked casseroles , smoked food, slow roasts, the list is sort of endless and depends on your organisational skills and ability to prepare in advance.

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baked fish
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At least you have the option, if you really don’t want to cook anymore, is to rake out the fire and load the embers into a firepit , chuck on a few logs and sit around while the sun goes down. I nearly always did that and still do when I have friends round.