Like so many home bread makers, we started making bread when we learned about the “No Knead Method" popularized by Mark Bittman in The New York Times. The first time we made a loaf of bread at home in our dutch oven, it seemed like a miracle. Just as the recipe promised, it was so delicious, and it was so easy! We were hooked.
We became avid home bakers, and explored all kinds of variations of the basic recipe. Different ratios of flours, the addition of every imaginable ingredient, natural starters, longer fermentation times, and on and on and on … The recipe allowed for a huge amount of experimentation and creativity.
However, the tools available for baking did not. While the super-heated container method for baking produces incredible results, it's dangerous; After pretty much ruining our enameled dutch oven, we started looking for alternatives, and found that the right tool for the job just didn’t exist.
In the name of perfect crust, we had tried just about everything, and we got tired of hefting scorching hot casserole dishes out of the oven. We loved the result of baking in this way, but we were tired of the clunky tools.
We started to ask some questions …
What if you didn’t have to take the baking container out of the oven?
How could we have more control over the shape of the bread?
How could we make a baking device that felt more intentional for the method, but also felt like a classic piece of cookware?
As designers, we always see problems as opportunities. As avid bread makers, we felt motivated to do something about it.
After more than a year of design, development and prototyping, we’ve come up with a simple, elegant solution — The Fourneau Bread Oven — The perfect tool for making the most beautiful and most delicious bread at home.
Whether you are a practiced home baker or just starting to dip your hands in the flour, here’s why we think you’ll love The Fourneau ...
Place The Fourneau in your oven to preheat. When your oven gets up to temperature, you just put your dough on the peel and slide it into The Fourneau.
The cast iron walls heat the dough evenly, and the enclosed cooking space traps the steam from the baking bread — the magic ingredient for creating a golden, crispy crust.
It’s Easier, and Way Less Messy.
Since it’s designed to work with a bread peel, you simply slide your loaf in like the pros do. The days of tossing your bread into a scorching hot pot are over.
There’s no need to remove it from your oven. Just open and close the hatch to capture or release the baking steam.
It accommodates multiple loaf shapes and sizes, giving you the freedom to bake rolls, baguettes, boules or even pizzas.
The Fourneau is made in the USA from cast iron. With care and use, it will just keep getting better.
This is a tool that will stand the test of time. We chose to make The Fourneau from cast iron, for it’s beauty, durability, and ability to evenly radiate heat. The peel, a classic bread baking tool, is crafted from solid wood, and has been designed to fit The Fourneau perfectly.
We began the design process by identifying what the tool needed to do in order to be a true improvement. We looked at all kinds of accessories, cookware, and baking products, and sketched hundreds of shapes and orientations. We made sketch models from cardboard and paper to test the size and fit in home ovens. Of all the materials we explored, we decided that cast iron would be the best choice for our baker. After establishing our basic design direction, we brought the design into the computer and worked through countless 3D computer models. Some were complicated, with pins and hinges, some were simple, just two parts. Of course, digital models and mock-ups are awesome but will only get you so far ... we wanted to get baking!
To transition from concept to reality, we started to search for manufacturing partners. We talked with dozens of foundries and learned from them about the possibilities and limitations of working with cast iron. With new perspective on the process of casting iron parts, we revised the design several times until we were ready to make prototypes.
We chose an exciting new method for creating the prototype molds; 3d printed sand molds. Working with a pattern shop in Indiana, we produced the first set and took them to our foundry partner for pouring. A special alloy of iron was mixed, melted, and poured into the molds. After cooling, we took the parts back to Chicago and after trimming, cleaning, and seasoning, we got baking!
Nothing reveals more about a design than high fidelity prototyping; in addition to being able to test the design in our home oven, we were able to get pre-production feedback from the manufacturer. The first prototype round led to new insights and improved our design. In order to have total confidence in our design revision, we made another high fidelity prototype. After baking dozens of loaves and testing it with amateur and professional bakers, we think it's ready to go!
The Fourneau is ready to go into production. We'll work with the same local toolmakers and foundries that created our prototypes to perform the engineering and manufacture of the tooling and set up our initial production run.
While our prototypes were cast in molds made from 3d printed sand, the production Fourneau will be cast in traditional green sand molds. The green sand is formed into a block and the impression of the parts to be cast is pressed into the sand with a tool called a match plate.
The foundry pouring the iron parts for The Fourneau is decades old and routinely produces products for respected, multinational companies. The foundry is staffed with experienced metallurgists and engineers. Because we developed our prototypes at this foundry, the team is already familiar with The Fourneau and its production requirements.
Match plate tooling for The Fourneau will be CNC machined from solid aluminum billets. There are many materials that can be used to make match plates, but aluminum is the best. Because we want to deliver the best possible parts, we've chosen to make the extra investment in aluminum tooling.
The standard peel will be manufactured from solid maple and finished with a food safe mineral oil coating. The profile of the peel is cut using CNC routing and the shaping of the surface is finished by hand sanding and hand oil application. We've partnered with a manufacturer who has more than 20 years of experience making wood products for the kitchen.
Strand Design is the collaborative partnership of designers Ted and Sharon Burdett. Founded in 2009, Strand Design has created an impressive breadth of work— from designing and building furniture for the movie industry, to wholesale product manufacture and fulfillment for international retailers. At the core of every project we design, regardless of scale, is a passion for local manufacturing.
You can learn more about us and our work on our website: http://www.stranddesign.org
Thanks to our bread testers and kitchen companions: Carly Cannel, Kevin Estrada, Joey Nakayama, Virginia Matos, Matthew Seliger, Alexa Lennard, Caitlin Grogan and Nick Martin, Patrick Gipson, Luz Agudelo Gipson, Bob + Lin Burdett, Billy + Katie Burdett, John Sayler Coon, John + Peggy Coon, Thanks for getting your hands in the dough with us.
Huge thanks to Alex and Sandra from Floriole Bakery Chicago, who let us perform a test run in their kitchen using some of their exceptional dough and gave us some great bread wisdom.
Risks and challenges
The main risk we face will be potential delays in production. All of the manufacturing partners we're working with have given us lead times and we've based our schedule on those quotes. However, there is always a chance that production can be delayed due to setbacks in material supply and work flow.
Additionally, there is a chance that the tooling we produce will need to be modified slightly after initial testing to modify the gating system and optimize the iron flow into the mold. However, we've reduced the possibility of having to take this step by working with the same factory to make both the prototypes and the production run. Working with highly engineered, 3d printed molds has already allowed us to test the gating accurately and to inspect the results of casting with the experts.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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