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Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Gather ‘Round The Wood-Fired Oven

Keith Romaine wants to turn his neighbors into bread bakers. He has plans to build a community wood-fired oven in his backyard.

  • four loaves of dough on a table

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    Photo: Annie Corrigan/WFIU

    Keith Romaine has been baking loaves of sourdough bread like these for five years.

  • dutch ovens for cooking bread, pulled out of the oven

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    Photo: Annie Corrigan/WFIU

    Romaine's oven has room to cook two loaves of bread at a time.

  • keith romaine bakes bread

    Image 3 of 4

    Photo: Annie Corrigan/WFIU

    He removes the dutch oven to check on the status of the bread.

  • two loaves of sourdough bread

    Image 4 of 4

    Photo: Annie Corrigan/WFIU

    Gorgeous loaves of sourdough bread, made by Keith Romaine

The Art Of Baking

Baking is a scientific exercise. As compared to savory cooking, there isn’t much room for experimentation or spontaneity — or, well, art.

Although, Keith Romaine probably wouldn’t agree with that. He’s discovered that bread baking can be an artistic outlet.

He has visions of getting his neighbors to pick up some dough by building a community wood-fired oven in his backyard.

Romaine has been baking bread for five years, which, when compared to his forty years as a professional artist, is hardly any time at all. It seems as though creating edible artwork is his new passion. “It’s nice to see my artwork on people’s walls, but it’s easier to make a living if they eat the art,” he says.

All of Romaine’s dough is made from simple ingredients — organic wheat flour, water, yeast and the bacteria on his hands. “There’s this relationship that we have with bread,” he says.

Community Support

The first day a wood fired oven is lit, it will stay at 500 degrees for about four hours. It takes up to a week for the heat to fully dissipate, so as the oven cools, it can be used for cooking meat, vegetables, pies and pastries at a lower temperature.

Romaine had heard about community ovens in other cities and wanted to bring one to Bloomington. He scheduled a planning meeting and advertised it on Facebook but didn’t expect a very large turn out. He was surprised when almost a dozen people came to voice their support.

The plan is to build the oven in his backyard, so he hopes he can organize a schedule for visiting bakers.

“Breaking bread is a very old term for communion, like bringing community together,” he says.

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