Oh for a four à pain
The pumpkin bread recipe I put up the other day has got me onto a bread theme.
Hardly a day goes by when we don’t regret that the farmer who rented Les Fragnes before us demolished the bread oven (four à pain) so that he could squeeze a couple of extra square metres of crops in. All we have left is the door in the chimney place. It was all the rage to destroy them in the 1960s, but these days, thank goodness, the emphasis is on preserving them rather than pulverising them. These ovens are such an integral part of a French rural house. Every fortnight they’d be fired up to make a batch of bread, that indispensible food item.
The actual shape of the bread oven depended on the skill and preference of the mason who built it. Usually they were arched. They were deep and lined with heat resistant bricks to keep the warmth in. Faggots of wood were put in to heat the oven. When the oven was hot enough, these were pulled out and the loaves of bread inserted on a long-handled wooden spade. The oven’s cast iron door ws shut and the bread was left to cook. The gentle heat gave them a golden crust.
It would be nice to rebuild our oven. Our Caiti, an enthusiastic pizza and bread baker, would love it. Hopefully we will one day, but it’s not top of the to-do list just at the moment. We need to reinsulate the house, sort out a septic tank related problem, finish painting the living room, build a porch at the back of the house, insulate the kitchen ceiling, and outside we need to get a new, sturdy polytunnel up, create a proper vegetable patch with raised beds and erect several kilometres of fencing for new llama fields …. You get the idea!
If you’re inspired by the idea of a homebuilt bread oven, here are two links you might like