$100 Pizza Oven


I was hungry for pizza so I built a pizza oven, that makes sense right? As most of you might of gathered by now we like food an awful lot, especially baking and our, lets call it a “healthy” obsession takes up a good portion of our time. So when we heard the Melbourne Pizza Festival was coming to town we were sold on the idea. Mouth watering succulent pizza would be on offer and who are we to refuse, but sadly we only managed to get our mouths around just two slices and that just wasn’t quite enough to tame our wild stomachs. I’m not saying the festival or pizza wasn’t good, far from it, but unfortunetly for us they had failed to allow room for half of Melbourne to fit and so resulted in a very crowded venue, and a very hungry us. It was decided: we need a wood fired oven, but one that could be abandoned should the need arise due to our renting status, and it must be completed on a budget. Challenge accepted.

pizza-photo-stripThink of this as a first try; the pizza oven you build to hone your pizza oven building skills. If everything goes to plan over the next twelve months we will be moving on and buying our first home and a whole new oven will need to be built. 

The basics of an oven are somewhat simple, heat – in this instance from a fire and thermal mass – bricks and render (clay would have been a better for thermal mass but I’m lazy so render will do). The fire heats the oven and the bricks store the energy to be released and used to cook your pizza, bread, roast, whatever your appetite calls for. This oven was built with this in mind but on a budget, here we go…

Materials and Cost breakdown

5 Pallets – Donated
18 Cement paving stones – Had
180’ish Bricks (old clinkers) – Had
Chicken wire (about 2sqm) – Had
Chimney if required  – Had
Sand – $60 for 2/3 meter 
Lime – $10
Cement -$15

Total $85

With the fifteen dollars we had spare I’m going to buy a bottle of wine and christen her this weekend, results to come!

Instructions – The boring bit

The pictures are pretty self explanatory, I started with a base (pallets donated by a local builder) and then built up. I wanted to use some cement sheeting for insulation over the pallets but with the budget in mind I laid some old cement paving stones insteed, tightly layering them on the pallets. Then I mortared (MIX 4-1-1) in a line of bricks around the edge of the base and filled the centre with tightly packed sand. The sand was then covered with bricks that were persuaded into place with a mallet, the base is tightly packed but not set with mortar as it’s the baking surface.

Then I started laying my bricks, around and around leaving some room for an entry at the front. Using an old length of steel from our garden, I formed a lintel and set a terracotta arch on the lintel and continued to taper the brick dome inwards. From here I created a platform inside the dome and covered it with sand shaping the inside of the dome and giving the bricks something to rest on while being laid and then setting in place.

I added a length of chimney from the front of the dome, held in place with chicken wire which also helps to strengthen the structure. After a day I carefully removed the platform and shaping sand and then set to work rendering the facade, this not only looks nice but increases the thermal mass. The render is about the same mix as the mortar but with a little more lime for flexibility. Over the bricks I have a render layer then a sheet of chicken wire to aid with strength and topped with a smooth render layer. At its thickest point the oven would be almost twenty centimetres.
What could I have done different?
Well if money wasn’t an object, almost everything, but this amaizingly cheap project took me about six hours in total and came in under budget. I call success, now who’s for a slice of pizza?


High five! St Johns, Alexandra

jam rule

Recognition where it’s due.

We’d like to high five the ladies at the St Johns Anglican Church fete in Alexandra, Victoria. They made a delicious Raspberry and Blood Plum Jam.

I have been waiting to open this jam since March because of the the 2 jam rule.

The 2 jam rule is, not suprisingly, that we are only allowed to have two jars of jam open at any one time. It’s not weird.  Things get out of hand quickly otherwise. Fridge space is very important real estate in our house. There have been murmurs to adapt this rule for chutneys… but that dog won’t hunt, monsignor.

A day off work, some of rigoniman’s fresh bread, some fancy French butter (naughty), and this jam. Happiness.

I was going to be a baker, but I couldn’t raise the dough.

Bread. Whether baguettes or bagels, focaccia or flatbread: it’s delicious, and something all of us can enjoy, Unless you’re gluten intolerant, in which case it can kill you. Celiacs aside, Bread has been a staple for over 12,000 years and is one of my favourites.

It’s Paris and your appartment is just off the Rue de Rivoli and not too far from Hôtel de Ville. You wake to the smell of freshly baked bread and you’re instantly compelled to find it and make it your own. “You stay here and make coffee while I pop downstairs to retrieve breakfast”. This bakery is so small that they only bake a dozen loaves at a time, so they bake all day, and it’s all day that you get this amazing aroma filling the street, Paris is not the city for dieting. But I’m not in Paris today, nor do I feel like dieting, so it’s time for a spot of bread and the baking of it.

Many people have trouble baking bread, Some use packet bread mixes or even go as far as to buy a bread maker. They may be considered shortcuts or not really baking by many but I personally have no problem with whatever method you chose. Whatever it takes to get you out of the supermarket aisle and into the kitchen is fine by me. Its not all that difficult and here is a great recipe I’ve used for some time now that works a treat.

But first some tips.

Flour, Get some good bakers’ flour, 10kg of good bakers’ flour can be purchased from any good market for under $20. Yeast, I use freeze dried yeast that I add to a 1/4 cup of water with a pinch of sugar and let it sit for 20 minutes prior to adding it to dough. And time, dont rush your baking, a good bread shouldn’t be rushed.

  • 500 grams baking flour
  • 320 mls Warm water
  • 15 grams Yeast
  • 15 grams Salt
  • 15 grams Sugar
  • 15 grams Olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl or mixer and knead into a dough for about 5 minutes. Cover and place in a warm place and let rise for at least half an hour.

photoFrom here I knead and shape the dough and in this case I’ll sprinkle a course flour (Semolina or Polenta) of the top, then I cut some lines atop the loaf, this isn’t purely decorative, it also helps to prevent bursting. It also adds extra crust which every bread lover knows is the tastiest part of the loaf. Let the dough rest again for another 30 minutes and preheat your oven to as hot as it will go.

I use a stone to bake on, you can pick up a baking stone or pizza stone from most kitchen shops and is well worth it. A preheated oven with baking stone is as close as you’re going to get to building a brick baking oven and for now it’s a great start.

After your dough has re-risen, sprinkle your baking stone with some course flower and slide your dough into your preheated oven, turn the temperature down to 180-200C and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.  When baked place bread on a wire rack to cool and listen to the crust cracking. Serve with anything!