Build Your Own Earth Oven: a low-cost, wood-fired, mud oven, simple sourdough bread, perfect loaves
by Kiko Denzer, with Hannah Field
Hand Print Press, 129 pp., $17.95 (paper)
It used to be the case that only alternative-lifestyle, off-the-grid hippies were interested in such subjects as How to Build an Oven out of Mud in Your Back Yard. But what started out as a pamphlet is now a full-length book going into its third edition, and more people than ever before are interested in this sustainable and practical project.
Earth ovens combine the utility of a wood-fired, retained-heat brick oven with the ease, economy, and timeless beauty of earthen construction. Whereas a professionally built brick oven will set you back $3,000-6,000, an earth oven can be built for as little as $30 and deliver the same superior culinary results.
Build Your Own Earth Oven is fully illustrated, giving hands-on, step-by-step instructions to every phase of the process. Author Kiko Denzer has conducted hundreds of workshops and built dozens of ovens, and his instructions have the clarity of experience. Every detail is covered, from finding the right soil to tending the fire to making perfect pizzas and artisan sourdough hearth loaves. Dozens of designs are given, along with inspiring photographs, troubleshooting, and artistic advice.
This book seems especially appropriate for Texans; there is a peculiar insanity to firing up the oven, inside your house, in Texas during the summer (an insanity akin to putting, say, an electric blanket in the refrigerator). All of those who lived here before us Native Americans, Mexican settlers, early Texan ranchers and pioneers were sane enough to build their summer ovens outdoors. As energy prices soar, it might be a good time for us to rediscover this ancient innovation.