Build an outdoor adobe oven - summer family project

Beehive horno ~

An horno at Taos Pueblo in New Mexico in 2003.
An horno at Taos Pueblo in New Mexico in 2003. | Source

Outdoor adobe oven ~

We are going to find out how to build an outdoor adobe oven, called an horno by the puebloan people. This will be a great summer family project. Along with some history of these amazing ovens and a recipe, you will soon become an expert on the subject.

Horno (pronounced or-no) is the name of the Pueblo outdoor ovens where the wonderful breads of the villages are baked. The smells that drift through the Pueblos when these ovens are fired up and going all day long is so aromatic it is mouth-watering!

If you have one going in your own backyard filled with breads, your whole neighborhood will be drooling. You may even have a few visitors at your front door with a tub of butter to help you eat the breads - or, you can put up a "Bread Straight from the Oven for Sale" sign.

Brief history ~

Prior to 1540, the Puebloans grew and harvested corn for their bread, which they baked outdoors in a fire pit or cooking pit. They would grind the kernels into flour. Mixing blue corn flour with lime, they made piki bread. The dough was patted and smoothed out onto hot flat rocks to cook. Tortillas, with yellow corn flour and water, were cooked the same way.

When the Spanish came into contact with the pueblo peoples, they introduced wheat and the concept of outdoor ovens built above ground. These beehive shaped ovens were then used by the puebloans to bake their wheat or corn flour breads. The Spanish taught them how to build the ovens. The construction and use of these hornos is done in pretty much the same today as it was back in the early days.

Hopi women grinding corn ~

Photo by Edward S. Curtis, 1906
Photo by Edward S. Curtis, 1906 | Source

The family horno ~

Each family, or village, may have their own unique way of building hornos by using sandstone, lava rocks or adobe bricks made with clay and straw.

The basic method is to first clear and level the ground where the horno will stand. Lay down two layers of brick right on the ground in a circle. This is the middle area of the oven and is left empty. Around the outside edge of this circle is where you begin carefully laying the bricks that are to become the wall and roof. This requires precise placement, one brick at a time with mud mix being used to fill in spaces between bricks.

The placement of bricks is done in such a way that eventually you will be forming a beehive shape. The open space for the doorway should be at the bottom and at least a 1'X 1' space. A small vent should be placed near the top of the oven. After the oven is of the desired size and shape, the inside floor and the outside wall are covered with layers of adobe plaster. It will require re-plastering each year in order for your oven to last for several years.

Note that the man stays inside the horno till the oven is plastered inside ~

Fire it up!

When your oven is ready to be fired up to bake bread, gather some cedar wood, build the fire inside the hornos and watch it closely to make sure it lasts for 45 minutes to an hour and a half.

When the fire dies down remove the charcoal with a shovel. A clean, damp mop can be used to take out the ash residue. Keep this mop clean and just for this purpose. Toss in a small sheet of newspaper or dried corn husk. If this burns up quickly the oven is too hot, so use the damp mop again to help it cool down. If it is still too hot, leave the oven to cool down by itself, with heat escaping through the door. When the temperature is right for baking, put your loaves in the back first then work forward with the rest of the loaves.

Place a cover over the door. In thirty minutes to one hour, you should have some wonderful breads. There is nothing like the smell that drifts through the pueblo (or your neighborhood) on bread baking days! The loaves can be placed in pie pans or on cookie sheets before putting them in the oven.

Bread baked in an horno is wonderful ~

Various breads
Various breads | Source

There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.

— Mahatma Gandhi

Bread Recipe For Your New Hornos ~

The following recipe is basic. After awhile, you will probably be experimenting and create your own unique breads.

Cook Time ~

Prep time: 1 hour 30 min
Cook time: 1 hour
Ready in: 2 hours 30 min
Yields: One loaf.

Ingredients ~

  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup honey or sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 5 cups flour, all purpose

Instructions ~

  1. Dissolve yeast in ¼ cup of warm water, add a little sugar to help those little granules grow. Mix and set aside (there should be a layer of bubbles on top when this is ready).
  2. In a large bowl, mix the shortening, honey (or sugar) and salt. Stir in one cup very warm water. Set this aside till it is room temperature.
  3. Add the yeast mixture in to large bowl and blend in well. Add one cup of flour at a time, stirring well, until you have 4 cups of flour in mix. Stir well after each cup is added. Sprinkle the fifth cup of flour on your breadboard or counter and knead until it it feels like a baby's cheek when you put it up to your cheek, it should be smooth and elastic after about 15 minutes of kneading.
  4. Put dough in a large lightly greased bowl, turning to grease all sides. Cover bowl with a cotton towel, put it in a warm spot out of drafts until double in size. Punch down and knead for about five minutes. Cut dough in half with sharp knife. Shape each half into a loaf and place on a cookie sheet. Cover with the towel and let them rise again till doubled in that same warm spot. Make sure your oven temperature is 400 degrees.
  5. Place a shallow pan of water on the oven floor. Place loaves in oven, starting from the back and work forward. Bake in 400 degree oven until lightly browned - 50 to 60 minutes. When baking those breads in your outdoor oven it will turn you into the envy of the neighborhood.

Please rate this bread recipe ~

5 stars from 1 rating of Adobe oven bread

Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,

A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse - and Thou

Beside me singing in the Wilderness -

And Wilderness is Paradise now.

— Omar Khayyam

Meats ~

Meats can also be cooked in an horno. A 21 pound turkey will cook in about 3 hours. The fire is burned down to white hot coals. The smoke hole and door is sealed with mud after the turkey is placed inside. The adobe wicks the moisture into the food and the meat comes out very succulent.

Note from author ~

Thank you for reading my article. Your opinions are important to me and let me know your interests. This helps me to offer more of your favorite subjects to read about. Your time and interest are very much appreciated. I hope to hear from you in the comments section below.

I write on several different subjects, all evergreen articles. You can read more about me and see more articles I wrote by clicking on my name by the small picture of me at the top right of this page.

Blessings and may you always walk in peace and harmony, softly upon Mother Earth.

Phyllis Doyle Burns - Lantern Carrier, Spiritual Mentor
~ ~ ~ ~

© 2015 Phyllis Doyle Burns

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Comments 20 comments

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 19 months ago from England

Hi phyllis, how fascinating! I have often seen them on tv but never knew how they built them, interesting stuff! voted up and shared, nell


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 19 months ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

How delightful to hear from you, Nell. Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. I have had bread from an adobe oven and it is so good. Thanks again, Nell.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 19 months ago from Queensland Australia

This is a great hub Phyllis. My wife and I have actually built four of these. Two for ourselves, two for other people. We call them "cob ovens" and often fire ours up when we are having a party or people over for a meal. Apart from bread we cook roast meats, pizzas etc in ours. Once hot they cook everything so quickly and wonderfully. You just have to keep an eye on things because food is often cooked much sooner than you can imagine. We originally attended a course where we learned to build them. I have often thought about writing a hub on how to build one but never got around to it. You beat me to it :) Photos of one of ours is on my hub "In Search of Self-sufficiency". Ours are on a stand not the ground though. Good recipe too. Great job, voted up.


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 19 months ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

Thank you so much, Jodah. This is a wonderful and useful contribution to my adobe oven hub. I have heard them called "cob ovens" before. I do hope you go ahead and write a hub on your experience with building and using your ovens. I would love to read it. Thanks again, Jodah - for your visit, comment and votes. You are awesome !


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 19 months ago from southern USA

Oh, how interesting, useful and fun! I would love to have one. I appreciate you sharing your great bread recipe too here. I enjoyed the history as well.

Wonderful hub, Phyllis.

Up +++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

Peace and blessings


jhamann profile image

jhamann 19 months ago from Reno NV

Yes...I so badly want to build one of these in our yard! I have to talk to Erica. Thank you Phyllis for the great interesting and instructional hub. I hope you are having a good Saturday. Jamie


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 19 months ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

You are most welcome, Jamie. I am having a great Saturday, thank you. Hope your weekend is wonderful. If you build that adobe oven I would love to hear all about your experience and what you first cook in it. I am so happy to read about your enthusiasm for this outdoor oven. If I smell the bread baking, I will know you accomplished your goal. Make sure you take pics or a video of the constructing process - it would make a good hub.

Thank you so much for reading and commenting on this hub. Blessings to you and yours.


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 19 months ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

Hi Faith. Thank you very much. That bread recipe is so good. I used to make breads once a week and it really kept my arm and shoulder muscles in good shape thanks to all the kneading I did. Hope you get an adobe oven soon - you will love it. Jodah has built four of them - maybe he can hop over and help you out. LOL

Thanks for the votes and sharing, Faith. I appreciate that.


CatherineGiordano profile image

CatherineGiordano 19 months ago from Orlando Florida

I bet the bread tastes delicious. I think it would work as a pizza oven too. It is a great idea for a family project. Voted up++


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 19 months ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

Hi Catherine, good to hear from you. Yes, it can be used for pizza - also meats, like a big juicy roast. It would be great fun to have the whole family participate in building the oven. If I had a yard, I would certainly have an adobe oven out back.

Thank you so much for your visit, comment and votes. I appreciate it.


Marina7 profile image

Marina7 19 months ago from Clarksville TN

Such a wonderful hub!!


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 19 months ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

Well thank you, Marina. It is nice to meet you. I will hop over to your page in a little to get acquainted with you.


Romeos Quill profile image

Romeos Quill 19 months ago from Lincolnshire, England

If I ever build one of these Phyllis I'll be sure to bookmark your Hub. I bet you could make some wonderful fresh pizza in there too.

An interesting history of how it came about and a pretty sobering quote there by Gandhi as well.

Thanks for the read and a joy to share.

R.Q.


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 19 months ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

Hi Romeo. Yes, it would make great pizza. After all the cooking is done the pueblo people would toss in a lot of corn on the cob, not husked, and let them stay in the oven all night. The next morning they would take off the husks, cut the kernels off and the kids would have parched corn to nibble on all day.

Thank you for reading, commenting and sharing. Take care.


DebMartin 19 months ago

Fascinating. I wonder if these would work in N. Michigan or do they require a warmer and drier climate? I would love, love, love to bake bread in my backyard.


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 19 months ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

Hi DebMartin. Thanks for reading and commenting. I do not know if an adobe oven would hold up in wet climate. Adobe is used all over the world for walls and buildings and I know it is quite durable and strong. If you did build an adobe oven, it would have to be on a concrete base to avoid moisture from the ground seeping into the adobe material. This is something that is well worth your time to check into. I would go to a home improvement center, like Home Depot, Lowes, Ace, and talk with one of the experts on garden structures. There is also a site on the internet (Green Home Building with Quentin Wilson) where you may get some good advice. Wilson is an expert on building adobe structures. He has a "Ask the Expert" section. I would suggest you give him a try on your question.

Thanks again, Deb - and good luck with an outdoor oven. Let me know, please how you fare with that. To have your own bread baked in your own backyard oven is a wonderful thing to experience and brag about.


DebMartin 19 months ago

Thanks Phyllis. Ahhhhh, I can smell the bread baking now. ;-)


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 19 months ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

You are most welcome, Deb.


Lady Lorelei profile image

Lady Lorelei 18 months ago from Canada

My husband commented the other day "We should live in one of those little round houses" so seeing this today was so very appropriate. An outdoor wood stove is on my list but we have not quite decided yet what style.


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 18 months ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

Little round house? A yurt? I love those! Thank you, Lorelei, for reading and commenting. Hope you get your adobe oven going soon so you can enjoy it.

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