Masonry or brick ovens have been used since time immemorial for cooking and baking.
Traditionally fired using wood as fuel, these highly efficient ovens retain heat due to their large thermal mass (thickness and type of the masonry), so that even after the fire has subsided in the oven, the heat is retained allowing many hours of baking from a single firing.
Despite its low-tech origin, modern masonry oven construction is a highly technical science incorporating both centuries old ingenuity and the most up to date engineering technology.
Modern professional electric deck baking ovens, common in large scale production line bakeries with their stone floors and steam injectors, are all modelled on the good, old-fashioned masonry oven. Unfortunately a copy is never as good as the original. With its massive stone hearth and its specially constructed brick dome, the masonry oven combines all three types of heat transfer (convection, radiation and conduction) in the most efficient way possible whilst retaining the natural moisture of the product being baked. The highly prized masonry oven is therefore the prime choice for baking high quality artisan breads.
The Saidel Jewish Baking Center masonry oven is an Alan Scott original. Alan Scott, co-author of "The Bread Builders" (1999, Chelsea Green Publishers) is one of the world's leading experts in masonry oven construction. Built according to the strict guidelines in Alan's custom plan and with his constant guidance throughout the building process all the way from Tasmania, the SJBC masonry oven is one of only two such unique ovens in the entire Middle East.
Constructed with century old bricks imported from Belgium and with its Shakespearean, Tudor facade, our oven is not only the tool of our trade, it is a wonder to behold and attracts tourists and baking enthusiasts from all over the country.
Seeing one of the largest masonry ovens in Israel is a captivating and somewhat primordial experience. It is rewarding to watch the flames lick the brick interior of the oven, in the knowledge that our ancestors baked this way and that we are continuing their fine tradition.
Here are some pictures of the oven being built.
All projects start with good markings and an able bodied crew.
An oven that weighs over 20 tons needs a solid foundation and base.
Laying the hearth bricks.
The walls of the oven go up.
One of the most rewarding parts of the building, the arched roof. It's amazing how those bricks stay up.
Preparing to pour the oven cladding (roof).
Pouring the oven cladding.
Preparing to construct the facade. Staring into the mouth of the beast.
The inside facade is up.
Preparing the outside facade.
Fitting the flue.
We have a chimney.
Before closing it all up, the insulation....
Doing the highwire act, laying the roof shingles.
The painting crew arrives.
A job well done. It looks positively Shakespearean.
Balance of weights after the 2 month project - New brick oven: +20 tons, Oven builder: -15kg
Fire in the hole!