A pizza stone is heavy. It’s awkward. It gets hotter than Hades. It’s the sort of thing you might “forget” and leave behind in the oven when you move, just to avoid figuring out how to pack it.
But once you’ve baked with one and discovered the deep golden brown difference, the crisp crusty difference, there’s no turning back.
My first pizza stone—could we change the name from pizza stone to baking stone? Poor thing got pigeon-holed and can’t get out—was a large, extremely heavy rectangular stone. I left it in the oven most of the time because it was so heavy to lift, and then where would I put it anyway? Chicago apartments aren’t generally outfitted with a spot for a large baking stone that’s heavier than the fridge. I have no idea where that stone is today; it was a casualty of the more frenzied of one of my moves, when buying a new stone seemed much easier than bringing it with.
The baking stones we used at Tante Marie’s were the down-home kind. Meaning cheap, heavy terra-cotta tiles from Home Depot, or a construction site somewhere in the hills of San Francisco. God help you if you were the one who had to clear the stones from the hot ovens at the end of a baking day. That towel you’re using as a hot pad (because hot pads are for sissies)? Next time you’ll be sure it’s bone dry when it touches the heat.
I found my graceful, elegant, black stone from my handy, favorite little kitchen shop here on Main Street. It’s the only stone they had, and I’m glad for that because I may not have otherwise selected this one. Once I got it home and christened it on the grill, mid-summer with all the family, I discovered how I love the dark glaze and the brilliant handles on each side. The only thing I’d change is to make it much bigger, and rectangular, to fit the better part of the floor of my oven and give me some elbow room. I’d like space enough to bake several loaves of whatever I’m baking at once. Well, what I’d really love is an entire brick oven. A girl can dream.
Find the Emile Henry stones all over the place, from high-end to big box shops, and here. If no stone is in your world and won’t be any time soon, not to fret. There are other options to get where we’re going: an overturned heavy duty sheet pan will suffice and hold some good heat.
The difference, and why the stone is preferable, is that a stone gets hotter and absorbs moisture from the dough, taking crustiness to a whole new level. The Emile stones are glazed in such a way that still allows for moisture-absorption (and easier cleaning when your toppings take a header onto the stone). They’re also made to be used stove-top, which is very unusual.
What we’re baking this week is so good, so incredibly GOOD, it will make a baker out of even the most hesitant among us. If you live in Lebanon, you just walk out your door to the corner bakery, and head on your delicious way. The rest of us, we have to fire up the oven for something that’s going to be this game-changing good.