The Wheatley Lane oven is an Alan Scott design (Ovencrafters), retained heat, wood fired oven.
Baking in a retained heat oven is quite different to a gas or electric oven (it is way more work!). The whole bake is designed around the oven intensity and temperature falling during the bake. The first load in the oven is the Candelo Loaf. The Candelo Loaf is based on a 'Pugliese" (Italian Hearth Bread) which is traditionally the first loaf loaded in the oven in Italy. This loaf bakes dark and fast, scrubbing heat off the oven as it caramelises. The loaves that follow continue to drag the heat out of the oven and they are ordered depending on flour and whether fruit or honey is added to a loaf. With the oven now at a lower temperature and a lower intensity it is now ready for enriched doughs such as brioche, Zupfe and pastries. After the bake and into the next day, the retained oven heat is perfect for roasting, stewing and baking delicate cakes and biscuits. The old village bakery was not only a hub for bread but an important resource for the cooking of village food as it was often the only oven in the village. There is a timelessness and romance using the oven which I think comes out in the bread, making the chopping of wood enlightening. 'Before enlightenment chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment chop wood, carry water' - Zen saying.
Alan Scott was an Australian raconteur and traveller who lived in many places and tried his hand at several artisan pursuits. He landed in California in the Point Reyes region, blacksmithing and living on boats. He grew interested in wood fired ovens and naturally leavened sourdough bread. He researched and brought up to date, with modern materials, the classic design of a retained heat oven. His work pre-empted the sourdough revolution of the 80’s and he became a driving force, inspiration and networker with his ovens.
I became aware of Alan Scot through Les Bartlet of ‘Les’ Sourdough Breads of Crystal Waters’ who was wanting to set up a wood fired bakery. In 2000 I flew to America to find out more about wood fired ovens and hand mixed sourdoughs. Alan Scott was a very generous person who networked me with several bakeries and provided me with a home and work on building wood fired ovens.
I returned to Australia to begin building Les’ oven and Alan Scott turned up to give us a hand!
Alan Scott returned to Tasmania to pursue his dream of milling. Sadly he became ill and passed away in 2009. Les and I were lucky enough to spend some time with him before this happened. His business lives on through the stewardship of his daughter Lila Scott and son Nick Scott.
We began building our oven in 2013. Our fellow bakers, oven builders and friends turned up to help us and we are very grateful to Damon Telfer, Les Bartlet and Graham Teakle.