Making Pine Bark Bread

In most of Europe, bread made from bark was a famine food. It was more regularly eaten Europe’s far North. The “bark” in bark bread is actually the cambium layer that grows under the bark. Pine was a common tree to use for bark breads. The cambium layer is pealed from the tree, dried, and ground into a flour. If used alone then it makes a cake — an unleavened bread — and if mixed with flour — rye would be a good choice in keeping with the breads of the Northern Europe — it bakes into a loaf bread.

I have never done this. The author of this video suggests tasting the cambium before stripping the tree to be sure it has a good taste. Taste is apparently  variable.

If you have made bark bread, please leave your report in the comment section, below.

Peruvian Watia Oven made with Spaded Soil

The impromptu Peruvian oven that is is built in the Peruvian highlands to bake potatoes can easily be adapted to bake bread. While the Peruvian watia dome is heated and then collapsed onto the potatoes, one can use the form to bake bread the usual way.

The Peruvian potato oven is constructed in situ with sod or weedy soil. If your soil has a high clay content then using clumps of soil that are already bound with roots is more or less equivalent to building a cob or adobe oven. I don’t know how big a dome one can build out of sod but if one doesn’t have a weedy field to dig up I imagine the following experiment: seed a prepared bed of clayey soil large enough to construct the dome of an oven that is three feet (1 meter) in diameter with grass and when the grass is well established shovel clumps to build an oven as illustrated below. Continue reading “Peruvian Watia Oven made with Spaded Soil”

Building a Mud Oven with Soil/Concrete

The ovens demonstrated here are based on designs from the Jewish Moroccan community in Israel. They were built at the Jewish Moroccan Museum and Archive for Living Culture at Moshav Sedot Micah, a village in the center of Israel.  There is a profound way in which these ovens are traditional constructions. The ovens are built on the ground, but with the ground elevated so that one doesn’t have to sit on the ground to operate the oven. The same effect could be achieved by excavating a place to stand or sit in front of the oven which was a common system for military ovens in field kitchens.

The oven is built over a pile of manure and straw is used to separate the manure layer from the mud. The mud is made up of sand, soil, and a little concrete, so this is a concrete/earth construction material similar to the material called for the  Sunset Magazine’s Adobe oven (which is three parts soil and 1 part portland cement). The use of a small amount of portland cement greatly simplifies the mixing of the mud as it virtually eliminates the need for any skill in preparing the soil (clay) mix.

These ovens are not insulated. That are designed for making breads with a fire going in the oven which is also why the door opening is much larger than in a conventional European domed oven.


Making Tortillas from Nixtamal

Bear with this grainy video. It is shot in low light with a simple camera. The video documents two women making tortillas on a clay griddle (a comal) fired with branches from masa (dough) that is prepared from nixtamal (whole corn kernels boiled with lime (cal in Spanish) and ground on a grindstone (matate). The nixtamal has already been ground into masa by the time the film opens but you see the dough on the matate. The tortillas are being formed by being slapped between two hands AND in a separate technique by being placed on the bed of a metate over a piece of thin plastic and then slapped into shape. It is not clear in this video but the comal will be made of terra cotta and coated with a layer of whitewash which is lime and water.


Fry Bread

Many Native American tribes have adopted fry bread as their national bread. In this video Naomi Good Shield from the Lakota demonstrates her version of the bread in a thorough well-paced documentary. Note the detail that she does not want it to puff up in a ball, like a pita bread, and so she puts a hole in the dough when she is flattening it into a disk before frying. I found the discussion at the end where a couple men commented on her baking explaining that in their families (and tribes) the bread was made differently. The men clearly didn’t make it themselves but were at least able to recognize that there are variants. Continue reading “Fry Bread”

Building a Clay or Cob Oven

This is part 6 of a multi-part video by Kurt Gardella. Kurt is affiliated with the Northern New Mexico College adobe construction program. He offers workshops in building a traditional New Mexican horno. Kurt also offers online workshops.

This is a brilliant video. Anyone interested in building an earth oven (clay, cob, adobe, argile) will find this an invaluable recourse. Kurt refers to Kiko Denzer’s invaluable book, Earth Ovens, during the course of the video. I’d love to post the rest of the series but have so far not been able to find other episodes.


A Simple Moroccan Oven


This is one of the most extraordinary baking videos posted on You Tube. The baker, a Moroccan woman, is sitting in front of small oven fired with brush. The bread is baked on a griddle within the oven. She crisps the puffed up bread by building up flames to radiate heat down on to the bread. I think she also, at one point, pricks the bread to let out steam. What I find most extraordinary is that this seems to be an oven similar to the ones one sees in ancient Greek terracotta figurines. Until seeing this video I had never quite grasped how the ancient Greek ovens were operated but I think this video makes clear that they were fired with straw or brushwood and that the seated baker (the terraccotta oven figurines often shows a woman seated on a stool) has a pile of straw or brush that she can easily reach.


Saj Bread with Recipe

The sound track is awful — a solo piano piece that grates on my nerves — and the baker is a professional from an odd kind of restaurant where he wears latex gloves while baking. This said, there is a recipe (modern, it includes sugar and is made with the whitest of white flour), and a reasonably careful demonstration of stretching the dough over a pillow which is also used to turn the bread onto the convex griddle, the saj. Towards the end one of the breads is baked with a filling.


Extensible Dough — Shraq

What I find remarkable about this Bedouin bread is the rolling out — or pushing out — by hand and then the stretching by tossing. The tossing is the basic pizza dough technique but this bread is incredibly thin. Note that the griddle is not evenly hot, it is cooler at the top, and so the bread is cooking unevenly which the baker seems to correct for towards the end of the video by folding the bread in half and putting it back on the griddle, called a saj.