Vergennes Laundry opened in early December 2010 as the brainchild of owners Julianne Jones and Didier Murat. Julianne has a unique and artful style to her baking and cooking honed from summers preparing foods for local farmers markets. Didier is an artisan in many mediums, among them candy making. He produces Vadeboncoeur Artisanal French Nougat. Working together they have a doubly excellent design sense and visioned to bring forth the transformation of a former laundromat into a full-fledged bakery, cafe, and cheese shop.
When Julianne approached us about her project I asked her to create a list of all the bakery products she might want to bake at any time. It was a long and varied list which would require the ability to maintain different baking environments simultaneously. In addition we had to retrofit an oven into an existing space and also make use of the size and location of an existing steel and concrete support column.
Julianne had been following the oven building of John Fisher, a mason of excellent design and building skills based in Gothenburg, Sweden. (www.fishermureri.se) Johnís work showed us the potential of building a wood-fired double deck oven. This made a lot of sense for the project both in terms of maintaining different baking environments and building up instead of out, thus reducing footprint.
In June 2010 I started design work for the oven. I devised a hearth and channel system to maximize flexibility in oven firing, such that the decks could be fired either independently or together. The result was a design for an oven with two four by six foot hearths stacked on top of each other and channel system allowing for independent firing as well as simultaneous firing. That way the oven could be used for both pastries and hearth loaves at the same time. As well the oven could be fired to even temperatures in both hearths (combined 48 square feet), enabling production bread baking.
The oven was built in six weeks over August and September 2010.