Most home bakers know that pizza stones are ideal for obtaining a rustic hearth-style crust on breads and doughs. There are many commercially manufactured pizza stones available on the market, however, the rustic baker did not start at the kitchen supply store, and neither must you. Unglazed quarry or ceramic tiles used for anything from walkway paving to wall tiling are traditional tools that can be used for stone bread baking as well. You can find these at any hardware or garden store for a fraction of the cost of commercial baking tiles.
Things You'll Need
- Ceramic or quarry tiles
- Pizza or bread dough
Use unglazed quarry tile. You can purchase large quarry tiles to use as a baking stone from hardware stores. They are safe and contain no harmful chemicals. Make sure you do not attempt to use a granite quarry stone, as they are not safe for culinary baking use. Quarry tiles are made of fire clay and are usually a reddish brown. The clay comes directly from the ground and thus is made of all-natural material. Glazed tile of any kind should not be used. Glaze contains lead, and when heated to very high degrees inside your oven, the lead could seep into your food.
Bake with unglazed ceramic tile. Similar to unglazed quarry tiles are unglazed ceramic or terra cotta tiles. They are made out of clay just as quarry tiles are, and are therefore safe to come in contact with both heat and food. The difference is that ceramic is made from refined powdered clay, and though they are thinner than quarry tiles, they are stronger. For both quarry and ceramic tiles, the possibility of cracking over a period of a year is likely. However, large unglazed tile pavers are very inexpensive, around $1 a tile depending on the size, thus they are easily replaced.
Unglazed tiles also have the advantage of drawing the moisture out of the crust and into the tile, thus creating a naturally crisper crust.
Place the tile in the oven. If you are using a gas oven, unglazed tiles should only be placed on the bottom (floor) of the oven. For electric ovens, you can place the tile on any rack, and bake either with conventional or convection heat. Before baking for the first time, you should condition your tile by washing it thoroughly, and then baking it for 2-3 hours beginning at low heat and slowly increasing to maximum heat.
Preheat the oven at least an hour before baking. To fully take advantage of hearth-style baking with clay tiles, you should always preheat the oven to the temperature you wish to bake your pizza or bread at an hour before baking. This will allow the tile to heat up, because it takes much longer for the tile to absorb heat, even if the oven feels hot.
Bake the dough. "Pizza stone" is a basic term used for the tool; it does not necessarily mean that it is used for pizza alone. Aside from pizza, pizza stones are most commonly used for artisan bread baking. If you are baking a pizza on the stone, you should follow the temperature and heating time of your recipe, whether fresh dough or frozen. Pizza generally cooks at very high temperatures (450 - 475 degrees Fahrenheit) and 15 minutes of baking time is usually all that is needed at that temperature. However, as with all baking instructions, the specifications of your oven will alter the baking time slightly. It is always a good idea to keep an eye on your oven and check the color of the crust after 10 minutes. The stone will help it crisp, but it should not turn black. After you remove the baked pizza (or bread) from the oven, allow the stones to cool completely inside the oven for a few hours before you remove it.
Tips & Warnings
- You can purchase commercial baking or pizza tile stones, however these come at a much higher price. Some of these commercial tiles will come glazed. These glazes are safe to use because for a commercial pizza tile stone to be sold for baking purposes, it is required by law to be tested for food safety.
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