Bloomington man rolls out neighborhood oven idea

5/9/2013 8:45 AM
By Associated Press

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Keith Romaine of the McDoel Gardens neighborhood has always enjoyed baking bread. As an artist, he sees a batch of french bread for his neighbors as another extension of his work.

You feed them art. They like it. They want more.

But to make his sourdough creations the right way, to really perfect his work, Romaine has decided he needs a bigger oven — in particular, a wood-fired oven. Your conventional home oven doesn't produce the steam that allows french country bread to rise to its best quality. He had been thinking about starting a little business around his bread-making, something to bring to the local farmers' market.

Then, he heard from his neighbors an idea that has arisen out of Canada, where residents put brick ovens in their backyards. There was an idea that was even more delicious to an artist who wants to share his work.

"He had been thinking about this bread thing," said Jan Bulla-Baker, his next-door neighbor and co-owner of the Bloomington Cooking School, "but then this idea came, and it didn't have to just be a personal thing. It could be something for the whole community."

Romaine has decided to push for this idea in McDoel Gardens, a community baking place for every neighbor to share, The Herald-Times reported ( ). Residents would have open access to his backyard oven via two side alleys, and it will also be close to the B-Line Trail. Bulla-Baker is intrigued by the idea of people walking by on the trail, smelling freshly baked pizza and stopping by for a bite.

Part of the plan is to create a space where a long, collapsible table can be set up near the oven, serving as a neighborhood location for dinner parties and pot lucks. Romaine imagines get-togethers along the line of the Italian "slow food" concept.

Romaine said the wood-fired, brick oven could produce up to 100 loaves of bread per day, as well as an assortment of pastries and pies. The oven is also efficient: one week after the oven is lit, the oven can maintain a temperature of 200 degrees.

The catch: the oven will cost roughly $7,000, according to Romaine, which includes costs for parts and installation.

To make this plan come together, Romaine and his neighbors will be organizing an online fundraiser in the next couple of weeks. The hope is to have money in-hand for the oven to be installed in June.

Romaine's project will also have to pass muster with the City of Bloomington, potentially with the plan commission and the board of zoning appeals, because Romaine is planning to take some of the bread off-site and sell it elsewhere. The fire department has also been consulted about the plan, Romaine said, and it will conform to safety codes as long as it remains 10 feet away from other flammable structures.

If the idea comes together, Romaine and his neighbors see it as a way to unite the community around the basic concept of "breaking bread."


Information from: The Herald Times,

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