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Is it always wrong to fall in love with baking equipment? I used to (and still do) feel this way about certain items of stationery. The perfect pen or a decent post-it pad for instance, who doesn’t? I’ve become besotted with my Fourneau cast-iron bread oven. It is quite an investment but it is really at the luxury end of covered bakers, being designed and made in the US with attention to detail and the best materials.

The baker resembles a Nissen hut, being a long, narrow dome, closed at one end. Made from thick cast iron and weighing in at a little over 7kg, there is no compromise on quality. The baker has its own purpose-made peel which sits inside the baker during baking. When the baker and dough are ready, a cast-iron handle is used to withdraw the peel and the dough is tipped gently onto it, slashed and slid back into the baker. The handle is then removed and the cast-iron door put in place. The oven door is then closed followed by a wait of about 45 minutes. Amazing bread should result.

When I do a batch of bread baking, usually 4-6 loaves, I prove them in my fridge overnight and then bring them out one-by-one about an hour before each is due to be baked. Then, I have a mini-production process, load the hot Fourneau, bake a fantastic loaf and repeat. The shape of the oval loaf (the 1kg heavy-duty banneton is ideal) is very good for making sandwiches so for my family at least, it is very practical.

Aside from the robustness of the cast iron, it has some other advantages over an open oven. It soaks up heat from the oven and then radiates it inside so that the dough is cooked evenly from end to end, helping to shield it from uneven ovens (most are) and the ravages of an oven fan which is no friend to a baking loaf. Bread likes a steamy atmosphere for baking and the enclosed environment provided by this baker does just that, giving a golden, crackly crust. If desired, water may be sprayed into the baker for extra steam and even more crustiness.

How the Fourneau Bread Oven can be applied to different types of baking