How to make bread like a pro with the Alfa oven.

In Pizza Oven Recipes

Baking home-made bread is a timeless tradition that’s gaining new popularity. Bread has been a dietary staple for many ancient civilizations, with its simplest form consisting of just two ingredients: grain flour and water. While making bread is not difficult, it can seem daunting, especially when preparing dough or baking it. Using gas or electric ovens is straightforward, but it becomes more challenging with a wood-burning oven.

In this article, you’ll find a step-by-step guide to baking bakery-quality bread at home. We’ll explore the differences between pizza dough and bread dough, and teach you how to cook like a pro with a wood-fired Alfa oven.

Bread is the most widely consumed food worldwide, coming in countless forms and made from various types of flour, each reflecting distinct geographical varieties. In Italy, for instance, the Mediterranean climate has led to the cultivation of over 1,200 varieties of wheat, most suitable for bread-baking. Bread, especially when baked in a wood-burning oven, holds a significance beyond nutrition, encompassing cultural and religious elements.

While pizza shares the same basic ingredients as bread, it’s common practice to toss some pizza dough into a wood-fired oven to test the temperature before baking bread. Though pizza is relatively young compared to bread, having emerged in the late 19th century, it has become one of the world’s most beloved foods.

Key Differences Between Bread and Pizza

  • Symbolic Importance: Bread is a unifying symbol for many civilizations, providing a cheap source of energy and nourishment, even for the poorer segments of society.
  • Baking Characteristics: Bread puffs up during baking, requiring more time to cook through to the center. In contrast, pizza remains thin and cooks in just a few minutes due to direct contact with the oven floor.
  • Ingredients: Bread can contain spices, fruits, nuts, or seeds, but it is not topped with various ingredients like pizza.
  • Dough Hydration: Bread dough has lower hydration (50-60%) to produce a denser, closed crumb, longer shelf life, and maintain shape during baking.
  • Baking Method: Traditionally, bread is baked in a wood-fired oven after embers and ash are swept out, utilizing the residual heat from the oven walls. Pizza, on the other hand, is cooked quickly by direct heat from the fire.

By understanding these differences and using a wood-fired Alfa oven, you can master the art of baking both bread and pizza at home.

How to make bread at home

Making bread is much easier than you might think; you just need some basic ingredients and to be careful not to make mistakes when making bread dough and baking it. In this regard, we refer you to our blog’s article on how to make a terrific pizza dough and how to bake it perfectly.

Four factors to make great bread dough:

Quality of raw materials
It’s as simple as that! To get a quality product you need high-grade ingredients (a more expensive flour or mineral water instead of tap water can really make the difference).

Right amount of ingredients
We suggest that you lower the quantity of yeast and lengthen the fermentation process to give the gluten network more time to grow.

Types of dough
A low-hydration dough involves a ton of kneading to get the flour incorporated and the gluten developed.

Proofing
Unlike pizza dough, bread dough is not stretched and divided but it’s shaped into a loaf and baked.

Watch this vivalafocaccia.com video to learn how to make bread and bake it in an Alfa wood-fired oven.

How to bake perfect bread at home

Oven Temperature

Bread is typically baked at 220°C, a lower temperature than pizza, ensuring it’s fully cooked in the middle and crispy on the bottom.

Humidity in the Cooking Chamber

Humidity is crucial for bread baking. Steam keeps the crust soft during the initial minutes, allowing the bread to expand properly. Humidifying the cooking chamber before baking is a good practice, as bread releases moisture while cooking to maintain the oven’s humidity level.

Cooking Time

The cooking time for bread varies based on the size of the loaves and the oven’s temperature. Each oven performs differently, so don’t hesitate to experiment to find the perfect balance between time, temperature, and humidity.

Type of Oven

The type of oven significantly impacts your baking results. Electric and gas-fired ovens are generally easier to use than wood-fired ovens, although wood-fired ovens offer superior performance.

Quality of the Oven

No matter the type of oven, ensure it is of high quality, constructed with solid materials, and possesses high thermal mass.

By understanding these factors and using a reliable oven, you can achieve bakery-quality bread at home.

Mastering Bread Baking with a Wood-Fired Oven

A wood-fired oven is a formidable cooking tool once you understand its workings. Cooking with wood infuses food with rich flavors and enhances your baking skills. To bake great bread, you need to balance the bread size, baking time, temperature, and oven humidity. Here’s how to bake different sizes of bread loaves:

Baking a 1 kg Loaf

  • Increase Oven Humidity: This helps in achieving the right texture.
  • Delay Baking: Wait until the temperature drops to 210°C.
  • Lengthen Cooking Time: Ensure the bread is thoroughly cooked by wetting the oven floor with a damp cloth a few minutes before baking.

Baking a 500 g Loaf

  • No Need to Humidify: Excess steam can create a thin, crumbly crust.
  • Higher Temperature: Bake at around 220°C.
  • Shorten Baking Time: Avoid hydrating the oven floor to delay crust hardening.

Tips for Using a Wood-Fired Oven

Bread is typically baked after clearing the embers from the oven floor, with the door slightly ajar to allow the temperature to decrease slowly. Start by cooking pizzas at 450°C to enjoy the initial high heat, then bake the bread as the temperature drops to 220°C.

Proper Cooling

After baking, cool the bread properly to maintain its quality. Place the bread on a cooling rack resting on four upside-down glasses to prevent residual moisture from making the crumb soggy.

By mastering these techniques, you can bake perfect bread in a wood-fired oven and enjoy the rich flavors it imparts.

Cooking with Alfa wood-fired oven!

Cooking with a wood-fired oven isn’t difficult, but it requires a trial-and-error approach and continuous tweaking to understand the oven’s workings completely. If you’re considering upgrading your appliance, why not opt for a high-performance home professional oven?

Benefits of Alfa Ovens

Alfa ovens are perfect for baking both bread and pizza. They optimize cooking time and fuel consumption thanks to their fast-heating steel dome. These ovens come in a variety of models to suit different needs:

  • Ciao: A compact and versatile oven.
  • Allegro: A large oven for bigger batches.
  • 4 Pizze: A spacious oven with a wide mouth for easy access.

Choosing the Right Oven

Alfa offers the best ovens for all cooking needs, ensuring you achieve professional results at home. With their efficient design and robust performance, Alfa ovens make mastering wood-fired cooking a delightful experience.