Wood-Fired Bread Oven
30,000 years ago seems to be the earliest account of flour being used by man as a food source according to modern archaeologists. The palaeolithic European diet was mainly based on meat and fats. Cereals and bread only became a staple food source around 10,000 years ago during the Neolithic period, when wheat and barley were among the first plants to be cultured and then turning man sedentary versus nomadic. The chances that ovens were used to bake primitive bread is extremely unilaterally. In fact, it is believed that wood-fired bread ovens were invented only a few thousand years ago by the ancient Greeks. Unlike unleavened bread, leavened bread is flour mixed with water and yeast, kneaded and allowed to rise before being baked in an oven.
There is speculation that the ancient Egyptians discovered the method to make dough rise though this remains uncertain. What is certain is that their bread was not cooked in ovens but instead in clay pots over wood fires that were then broken to release the cooked bread. It was once believed that using wood-burning ovens was the only way man made bread but of course, there were always exceptions, such as the Egyptian method. Bread can also be baked under pots over which embers are shoveled and can usually be cooked in metal dutch ovens and heated from the top and the bottom. Flat spreads can even be cooked on smooth stones that have been heated directly in a fire. In any case, bread and cooking go hand-in-hand. Today, large wood-fired ovens and French White Ovens are used for commercial bread baking. The near extinct European tradition of baking bread in wood-fired bread ovens at home is becoming popular once again as the commercialization of ovens.
A traditional wood-burning oven is a cooking chamber that is enclosed by material such as stone, brick, metal or concrete. These ovens were traditionally heated with wood, straw and charcoal or any other material that would burn. Newer ovens may also be heated with coal, steam, or flames generated by burning propane or natural gas. A wood-fired bread oven can either contain the heat source directly in the cooking chamber, such is the case with a wood-fired pizza oven, or can contain a separate combustion chamber located directly below the cooking chamber. As bread cooks quite quickly at high temperatures, it is interesting to note that it will cook perfectly with residual heat once the fire has gone out or if the fire was only used to initially bring the oven to temperature.