Last Saturday I had the opportunity to meet Lauren Bushnell and to see her partially completed brick oven. There was a small reception and an informal talk given. Lauren has worked at the Red Hen and the Medici Bakery. Most recently she has been baking at home and delivering to people in the Hyde Park/Woodlawn community. With this oven she will be able to produce an incredible amount and hopes to broaden her operations to include subscription services in the community and surrounding areas (e.g. you might sign up for 2 deliveries a week from her and then receive a quantity of fresh bread on the designated days).
The oven is being created with the help of master oven-builder Alan Scott. Above you can see the arch being built on top. The domed shape will help even out the temperature more than flat surfaces would. On the day before one wishes to bake a fire is made in the actual baking chamber out of wood and the heat is stored up inside the oven walls. The next day the charred remains of the wood are scrapped out and the oven is ready for baking. These remains are scraped through a section in the front of the oven and can be removed through the hole in the bottom (see above). Thus, interestingly there is no fire involved while baking the actual bread. The oven will hold enough heat to bake for up to a week. It will cool slightly as the week goes on, so the breads to baked will have to be thoughtfully scheduled throughout the week depending on what temperature they should be baked at. Lauren thinks she will be able to bake 80 loaves at a time several times in a day and will bake twice a week.
Below you can see the arch in more detail and what will eventually be the inside of the oven.
If all goes as planned the oven will be done sometime in August. The oven is being built in Woodlawn at the Experimental Station and it seems that the goal is to ideally have as many people involved with the oven as possible. Whether that will Lauren teaching youth how to bake, community home bakers organizing time to use the oven, or pizza parties using ingredients from the community gardens just across the street.
Many people have offered their support in this endeavor, yet more fundraising needs to happen before the oven can be completed. If you would be interesting in helping out checks (made out to the Experimental Station with "Brick Oven" in the memo line) can be mailed to:
The Experimental Station 6100 S. Blackstone Ave. Chicago, IL 60637
The Experimental Station
6100 S. Blackstone Ave.
Chicago, IL 60637
The Experimental Station is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
I am so happy for Lauren, this truly must be a dream come true for her. I look forward to eating what I am sure will be superb bread and hopefully being able to try the oven out as well.