This article comes to the Fourneau Bread Blog courtesy of Larry Watson, an avid baker and Fourneau oven user. Enjoy!
In hopes of getting a more authentic wood fired oven flavor from my Fourneau, I tried adding a few wood chips to the oven while baking. The effect is rather subtle, but I do believe it makes a contribution. (Though I recall that in “Tartine,” Chad Roberston claims that ovens, wood fired or gas, make no contribution to the flavor of the bread, and he would certainly know being a professional who has used both.) I agree that compared to other key factors such a fermentation time, the contribution is minimal, but I believe it exists and is quite enjoyable.
The chips don't actually burn in the oven, but rather “toast." Which means some gases from the wood mingles with the bread as it bakes. Since I'm also a wine maker, I had some American Oak chips used for flavoring red wine, which worked well. I also had some BBQ Mesquite chips on hand that also worked nicely.
To give this technique a try, I suggest adding a small handful of wood chips to the Fourneau with the dome top in place, pushing them to the sides with a spatula. Then remove the top and move any chips that may impinge on the baking surface off to the sides. Put the lid back on, without trapping any wood chips under its edge, and transfer the Fourneau to your oven and pre-heat. When the oven is sufficiently heated, proceed with loading the loaves and bake as you normally do.
The one caution is that some chips will inevitably stick to the bottom of your loaf, so you will need to carefully inspect it after baking to avoid biting into them!
I find that for breads that have a heavy flavor like rye breads or multi-grain, the effect isn't as pronounced. With white sourdoughs, the effect is more evident.
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