Favorite Things: A baking stone, with handles
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.
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I like the clean look of this stone….mine looks like it went through a war…dough war.
Maureen, the memories you evoke. My Dad was a steel man, and one day, as a surprise, he so proudly brought home to my Mother a 1/4″ square of steel for her oven to use when she made Syrian bread. He went out to the forge, found a piece of suitable scrap steel, had the forge square it off (her oven of almost 70 years ago to my memory, was square-as everything was smaller in those day), smooth it all over, and shine it. I still remember that day, he was so proud, and she was so happy. Her bread was the best. She would make it on cold winter Saturdays and just be bringing the first loaves out of the oven as my Dad rounded our corner bringing us home from the 25 cent movies. You could smell the delectable aroma wafting all the way to that corner! She always said all the kids from her neighborhood in Johnstown PA would smell her Mother’s bread baking and race over to the Attiyeh home for same.
Memories all right!
My Wisconsin younger brother gave me 2 or 3 large square stones that he salvaged from his restaurant pizza oven, apparently the old oven was junked. I proudly brought them home to Maryland and they are here somewhere, my wife wouldn’t use them, they are clumsily to use and are covered with baked in stains. Besides, she won’t take my advice when it comes to cooking!
About 25 cent movies, it must be wonderful to be that young. I remember when movies went from 10 cents to 11 cents, in one unbelievable 10% increase. We kids were not happy. That would have been in the early 40’s as I was born in 1933.
As for the handles, that is a nice addition.
Jerry, you precede me by a decade, but, those were great days weren’t they? I loved growing up in LA in the 40s and 50s–and, fortunately, being Lebanese, we continue to have a zest for life no matter our age. Carry on, Cousin!
Thank you Maureen, always, for the emotional memories you evoke with your beautifully crafted writing–
Maureen, you are a bad bad influence. At least once a week I end up purchasing something after reading about it on your blog :~).
How could I resist this lovely stone that can also be used on the grill? My current stone is a large rectangle that I mostly keep in the lower oven, but it’s light colored and shows all of the high-heat and burned cheese overrun spots.
This one is elegant and functional.
i am not really planning on baking bread, but you have planted a seed.