If you read this blog often, you might remember that we are avid pizza eaters. This week we had zucchini and rosemary pizza TWICE. And it wasn’t just because we were trying to use up our zucchini (that’s what zucchini bread is for) but because it just tasted THAT GOOD.
When we moved in to our last rental house, we inherited a Pampered Chef pizza stone from the previous renters. We were friends with them and they were transferred back to the US with the Army so we didn’t have to wonder just where the stone had been. Unfortunately, I never really learned to use one. It seemed simple and straight forward: put the crust on the stone, add toppings, bake. But if you do this (with or without the corn meal, your pizza is most definitely going to stick on there like glue. Or the pizza is not going to bake evenly and will be all soft and doughy on the bottom. So I tucked the stone away for months years without thinking about it…until this week. Stefan can be thanked for bringing it back to life. Otherwise it might have ended up on eBay with a bunch of our other trappings.
Using a pizza stone is almost as simple as I wanted it to be…I just didn’t know one crucial thing: you need to preheat the stone to the temperature you’ll be cooking the pizza at BEFORE you put the dough on. This is usually about 425 degrees Fahrenheit (220C). You have to preheat your oven anyway so just toss it in there when you start. But don’t ever throw a cold stone in your fully heated oven unless you want it to crack. Pizza stones usually need at least 20 minutes to heat up fully but just because your oven is hot does not mean your stone is too. If you tend to forget your stone until the last minute, you can even leave it in your oven all the time to give things a more brick oven flare. Casserole dishes can be set on top of the stone and other kinds of breads will also develop a wonderful crust when you use a pizza stone. You’ll also maintain heat better and distribute it more evenly in your oven if you leave the stone in all the time. Just remember that you are using a fire stone and sometimes a normal potholder will not be enough to keep you from burning your hand.
Pizza stones should be made from unglazed terracotta…and you can even make your own from a tile. Just make sure there’s no glazing of any kind because some glazes contain lead which you certainly don’t want to be eating. You also want to avoid washing your stone with soap or detergents because the porous terra cotta may absorb it, only to release it back into your pizza later. Just use cool water instead. But make sure to let the stone cool down before you run cold water on it. The oils that build up on the stone actually help to season it and will make cooking on it even better in the future.
Baking on a pizza stone will give your crust a wonderful, crunchy texture on the bottom but leave your pizza wonderfully moist inside. Unfortunately they are usually rather heavy and can be difficult to get in and out of your oven. A lot of people recommend using a pizza paddle to prevent burning yourself and I may just be getting a short-handled one this weekend (they’re quite easy to make yourself). The paddle also makes it a lot easier to transfer your dough full of toppings from the counter onto the hot stone.
Now I just need to master tossing the dough (Allie you would have laughed like crazy at my lame attempt to toss dough – although I find it really hard with such sticky dough). We’re taking pizza to a whole new level!
What’s your favorite kind of pizza?