Baking Stones And The Art Of Perfect Bread
There was a time, not so long ago, when baking bread for the family was an important part of every day's meal preparation. Kitchens were big, and until electrical and gas ovens were invented, had built-in wood burning brick ovens.
Having hot, crunchy bread fresh from the oven for their breakfast was something that people just took for granted. Very few lucky cooks today have brick ovens, but anyone who wants wonderful, crunchy home made bread can have it using a range of baking stones.
The Nature Of Cooking Stones
Baking stoneware are the next best thing to a wood-burning brick oven. They are usually made of hard-baked clay, and the best ones are unglazed. They can be round or rectangular, flat or with a lip. Some baking stones are glazed, and others are made of marble or other natural stones. What makes them such a wonderful tool for baking is the ability of the stone, in particular baked clay, to absorb and retain heat, and to distribute it evenly to the bread, or anything else baked on them. Porous clay also absorbs moisture from the dough, hugely improving the texture of the baked product and making crust exceptionally crunchy and golden brown.
There Is Little Difference Between Pizza And Baking Stones
There is no real difference between the two. Good porous, unglazed stones can be used for breads, pizzas, cookies, pastries, tortillas, pita breads or anything else one wishes to bake evenly.
The Most Popular Brands Of Baking Stones
Old Stone Oven produces affordable products for under $50. Dacor makes a professional line that is three quarters of an inch thick and go for more than $200. Le Creuset and Emil Henry also make high end but very popular baking stones. Finally Fibrament makes one that is around $50 for home use but one can get custom-made sizes. We cover Old Stone Oven and Fibrament on our other page.
Heat The Stone Together With The Oven
Because they are made of natural material like clay, which is fragile when exposed to sudden changes in temperature, they have to be heated together with the oven. Normal temperature for baking breads and pizzas is over 500 degrees in restaurant, home or commercial ovens, so placing your bread or pizza dough on a very hot stone is quite a challenge. The easiest way is to use pizza paddle and slide your dough into the wood burning pizza oven. Before taking your baked bread from the oven, prepare heat resistant surface to place the stone on. Use heavy, heat-resistant oven mitts. Since some stones, particularly thick, professional ones, are fairly heavy, they should be handled with care
Clean The Baking Stone With Water Only
Like any porous stone cookware, pizza stones should be cleaned with warm water only, without the use of detergent, which could leave the residue in the clay. The longer it is used, the more "seasoned" it becomes and more resistant to sticking. To avoid spills, especially from pizzas, it is not a bad idea to use parchment paper, which is fairly resistant to burning/ even at 500 degrees. It should be heated and cooled slowly, to avoid cracking.
Purchase Use-Specific Stones And Avoid Masonry Tiles
Most manufacturers sell their products online. Good kitchen supply stores also carry a fair assortment of different types. Although some reviewers suggest that using masonry tiles is the same as a special purpose stone, it can be risky, because it is not always possible to know if the tiles contain lead or other harmful substances. Manufacturers that make product to be used for preparing food have to follow strict regulations to avoid any kind of health hazard to the customers, so it is must safer to by a product already made for food.
A pizza stone is smoothed stone made of terracotta or other clay material which permits even heating of pizzas for a crisp texture.
Use a pizza peel (paddle) to put item in or take them out of the large capacity oven.
An outdoor wood-fired oven is perfect for hot days when indoors cooking is unecessarily hot.