Bakers Journal

Brick by brick

March 9, 2010

One of the developments sweeping the food industry is the hankering
among consumers for products that epitomize elusive qualities such as
“artisan,” “hand-crafted,” “organic,” “all-natural,” “additive-free” –
and other buzzwords.

Doug Lawrence prepares a batch of date bars fresh from the Ovencrafters oven at Millstone Bread.

One of the developments sweeping the food industry is the hankering among consumers for products that epitomize elusive qualities such as “artisan,” “hand-crafted,” “organic,” “all-natural,” “additive-free” – and other buzzwords.

Thus, to maximize their appeal to trend-conscious consumers, bakeries are increasingly turning to traditional wood-fired brick ovens. Specifically, the type designed, marketed and sold by Ovencrafters.
Based in California, Ovencrafters got its start in 1982 when founder Alan Scott, an Australian citizen who had immigrated to the United States, was asked to build a brick oven for a friend. After the first loaf of bread came out of the oven, he knew something special had happened.


Today, Ovencrafters is run by Alan’s children, Lila and Nick Scott, and the roster of countries to which they’ve exported their ovens includes Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Venezuela and South Africa.

Some 15 bakeries across Canada have done business with Ovencrafters, including Red Rooster bakery in Prince George, B.C.

Monika Muntener runs Red Rooster with her husband Roman, and like a lot of other bakeries, they insist on freshness, starting with the type of oven to bake their bread in.

“We are baking exclusively in a wood-fired Alan Scott brick oven and wouldn’t trade it for any other oven,” Muntener says.

According to Red Rooster, the next step to good bread includes healthful ingredients. They believe in baking simple breads without the use of additives.

“All of our breads are sourdough-based without yeast, fats, eggs, or sugar. Most of the flour we use is whole-grain, whole wheat or whole rye, milled on our own stone mill,” Muntener says.

Another Canadian bakery that uses an Ovencrafters-designed oven is Millstone Bread in Cobourg, Ont., owned and operated by Jill and Doug Lawrence.

Although Doug says the Ovencrafters model is inexpensive to build and operate, “We also thought it would be a great centerpiece for the bakery, something to differentiate us from other bakeries.”

Doug adds that from a personal standpoint, he has the greatest respect for Ovencrafters and the legacy left by Alan Scott, who passed away Jan. 26, 2009.

“Alan Scott was a very generous individual who has helped hundreds of bakers achieve their dreams by designing affordable, self-built ovens,” Doug says. 

According to the Ovencrafters website, small ovens can cost as little as US$4,000 while medium-sized versions aren’t much costlier at $4,000-$5,000. The largest Ovencrafters design will set you back $12,000. The prices are for the main baking chamber of the oven and this does not include the finished housing around the oven or the base the oven rests on.

Caledon, Ont.-based Spirit Tree Cidery has also installed an Ovencrafters wood-fired brick bake oven. Owners Nicole Judge and Thomas Wilson say the ingredients they use, such as organic red fife wheat flour, contribute to the quality of their bread, but the oven adds the finishing touch that boosts their products’ appeal to consumers.

“Our oven would definitely be the largest contributor to that quality,” Judge says. “We have experimented with baking the same dough in different ovens (gas and electric) at the same time that the dough went into our wood-fired oven. The results were surprising. Even at higher temperatures in these ovens to match, the bread had a much better result from the wood-fired oven. The subtle taste and unique baking results from our oven makes our bread special.”

The rest of the time, Judge and Wilson prefer to use a wood-fired oven.

“For bread, I would use nothing else, unless absolutely necessary,” Judge says.

In terms of what their oven cost, the final outlay came to about $18,000.

“We chose to use some specialized products (Kastite, Kastite Light) to build the oven that would extend its life. They added $4,000 to the cost.”

All three bakeries and more use Ovencrafters-designed models because they ensure good-quality bread, sourdough in particular.

“Sourdough bread is very well suited for baking in a wood-fired brick oven as it is usually made with a moist dough that can tolerate high heat and results in a superior tasting product that is also less prone to getting stale compared to straight yeasted breads,” Muntener says.

Millstone Bread and Red Rooster say they have a health-conscious customer base and thus the Ovencrafters design proved perfect for the high-quality style of bread and baked goods their clients are looking for.

“Our main customers are retired transplants from Toronto. Plenty of professionals and other high earners who appreciate top-quality food and aren’t afraid to spend a little extra to ensure they get pure food” says Doug Lawrence.

While it may cost a business more to make such high-quality food, the staff at Red Rooster insists that it’s worth it.

“Our customers are health-conscious, care about the environment, shop locally and, most of all, appreciate great-tasting, honest foods,” Muntener says.

On the web:
Reham Saeed is a second-year print journalism student at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ont. She can be reached by e-mail at

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