by Les Saidel - June, 2013
Saidels Bakery is unique in that it caters both to those who do not bake themselves and also to those who do. We therefore provide a wide variety of ready baked products but also a wide range of organic flours and a consultancy service for anyone wanting to learn to bake or advance their existing baking skills.
One of the main features of our bakery is our massive brick oven and the high quality of baking it provides. It is the constant envy of many customers who repeatedly express the wish - "If only I had a brick oven in my home too…."
To build your own brick oven in your home is not so far fetched. You do not need a 20 ton structure like ours, but perhaps a less grandiose "pizza" style oven for smaller scale baking. This is definitely an option and there are a number of companies that will do the job for you. The only two caveats with this option are the mess and the expense. Building a brick oven is real construction work, mixing cement, laying bricks etc. It is messy and can tie up the area intended for the oven and its surrounds for up to a month or more, depending on the size and complexity. It is also extremely expensive, running into tens of thousands of dollars, as it requires not only highly skilled labor, but also special refractory materials which carry a high price tag. For this reason, only a privileged few can afford this luxury.
It has been a pet project of mine for the last two years to provide home bakers with the advantages of a genuine brick oven, but using a no-fuss, low-cost solution. We have finally ironed out the final details in the model and have tested its efficacy in many beta-test sites in customers' homes and the launch was this month - the Saidels Portable Brick Oven (TM).
The ingenuity of this solution is that it works as part of your existing electrical oven, requires no construction or complicated assembly and is low cost. To fully understand the workings of a brick oven and its advantages, I recommend you read my blog article from August 2010 "The Romance of Brick Ovens", but for convenience I will briefly summarize the main points here.
The main difference between a regular electrical oven and a brick oven is the amount of radiation heat transferred to the item being baked. Radiation is a form of heating that travels in waves, similar to the way the sun heats the earth. There are two types of radiation waves, long waves and short waves. Long waves penetrate the item being baked more deeply, while short waves heat mostly the exterior and bounce off.
The quantity and quality of radiation produced by the electrical element in your regular kitchen oven cannot compare with that of a brick oven. The special refractory brick stores large amounts of heat which provides a much larger dose of radiation to the item being baked, mostly of the long wavelength, as opposed to an electrical element which are mostly short waves and in much lower dosage.
The end result is that baking time is shorter in a brick oven, the item being baked, bread for example, acquires a much crisper crust and the internal moisture level of the baked item is higher, as it bakes for less time. This contributes both to improved texture of the bread and an increased shelf life. These are the unique features of a brick oven.
We designed the Saidels Portable Brick Oven to provide all the above advantages in a low cost, easy-to-implement solution. It consists of specially designed fire bricks that are arranged in the existing space in your own electric kitchen oven.
These fire bricks are specially designed both to withstand high temperatures (up to 1500 degrees celcius) and to store large amounts of heat for lengthy periods of time. They are made with a unique balance of alumina and silica fire clay that has been specially adapted for baking, They are imported from Belgium and are of the highest quality.
In addition to providing all the advantages of brick oven baking - shorter baking time, crispier crust and moist texture, our portable oven eliminates one of the most common electrical oven problems - hotspots.
Most electrical ovens have something called "hotspots", areas which are hotter than others. This drawback of an oven heated by an electrical element, causes uneven baking or cooking in various regions in the oven. Most manufacturers try to solve this problem by fanning the heat (convection) to various parts of the oven, but this never works in all cases. It is highly dependent on the quality of manufacture and even if of the highest quality, the problem persists because of various obstacles such as baking trays or large loaves of bread obscuring the air flow and preventing it from reaching every corner.
The Saidels Portable Brick Oven solves this problem by relying on radiation heat, rather than convection. The special fire bricks spread the heat evenly all over their surface area and radiate it equally in all directions, thus eliminating hotspots. The food cooks evenly on all sides in all parts of the oven.
Our brick oven is great not only for baking, but for cooking too. Foods are juicier and more evenly cooked.
You might think to yourself, "Oh, I'll just get a few paving bricks from my yard and 'plonk' them in my oven and voila! - the same as the Saidels Brick Oven." That's a cute idea, but it won't work. Not all bricks are the same. Regular bricks crack under heat and do not have the heat storage and thermodynamic properties of the specially designed refractory fire bricks in Saidels Portable Brick Oven.
Finally, every home can enjoy the advantages of a real brick oven, in your own kitchen, at low cost and with no fuss.
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