On the subject of brick ovens, I got this very interesting note from a fellow by the name of Mexico Bob:
A few years ago I was in the City of Veracruz, Mexico and I went to visit the house of Hernan Cortez at Antigua which is a few miles north. He built this house in 1523 just after he arrived with his conquistadors to conquer Mexico. He landed at Veracruz but it was open and windy so he moved up the coast and then up a small river to a quiet spot to build his house. He soon abandoned it because he conquered the Aztecs at Mexico City and that’s where all the gold was. The house was lost in the jungle for many years but as you can see in the attached pictures it was more or less preserved and held together by the trees that grew up around and through it. I am not a great photographer and I was rather in a hurry because my buddies from work were with me and were hung over and bored with the whole idea. I was amazed to stumble upon the brick oven that the Spaniards used to bake bread and I thought that you might be interested in the pictures. This has GOT to be the first bread making oven in the Americas and it is a miracle that it is still there.
Fascinating indeed. One very interesting detail was this shot of the interior:
What this shows (I believe) is the domed interior of the oven, a design that has a long pedigree in the Mediterranean, going as far back as the ancient Greeks. This “beehive” construction style is still common in places like Italy, though much of the rest of the bread baking world has long since gone over to a low, vaulted ceiling design, which radiates more heat on the top of the bread.