Artisan Bread or Gourmet Pizza? Make a Baking Stone!

Ahhh, the flavor and texture of bread or pizza baked on a stone… Pizza crust is crispy and the bottom of a loaf is light and crunchy! Baking stones heat evenly, absorbing moisture, and the intense heat emulates a wood-burning oven. Follow the steps below and you will have a long-lasting baking stone and feel very gratified with the results! Some might say, “Why bother?”¬† Well, it might take longer than just running down to Williams-Sonoma and buying one, but that’s not the point. A certain satisfaction comes from using something you made with your own hands. It is a double pleasure to make bread dough and bake it on a stone you also made. To use your baking stone, place it in a cold oven, then preheat the oven for 3o minutes. Placing a cold stone in a hot oven will cause thermal shock and cause it to crack, which would make it unusable. Right before you place the pizza or loaf on the stone, sprinkle some cornmeal on it to prevent sticking. Afterward, when your stone is cool, clean it with water and brush. Dish soap will soak into the stone, then taint the flavor of what you bake on it, so don’t use it. It will naturally darken with age. Store the baking stone on its side.

(Note: A big thank you to Gary and Otto who showed me how to use sheet rock in the following manner.)

  • Decide if you want a round or square baking stone.
  • If you want a round stone, make a paper pattern first. Aim for a fired stone that is 15″ across, so cut a pattern that is larger, to account for shrinkage.
  • For a square stone, have a long T-square or yardstick on hand.
  • Roll out a large slab of red clay. The thicker the slab, the better it will retain and transfer heat. Aim for a fired baking stone that is 1/2″ thick, so account for shrinkage when you determine thickness.
  • Carefully place the slab on a piece of sheet rock (at least 3″ overlap).
  • Round baking stone: trace around the pattern, remove it, then carefully cut your circle. Remove excess clay and clean up the edge.
  • Square baking stone: Use your T-square or yardstick to measure out a square that will be about¬† 15″ x 15″ after firing…cut it larger to account for shrinkage. Remove excess clay and clean up the edges.
  • Make even slashes about 1/8″-1/4″ deep across the top of the slab (to prevent warping).
  • Move the slab and sheet rock to the damp room.
  • Place another piece of sheet rock on top of the slab, making sure it overlaps.
  • Put something heavy, with even weight, on the top of the sheet rock (heavy plaster molds are ideal).
  • Cover the sheet rock loosely with plastic. The plaster in the sheet rock will leach out moisture and the weight will keep the slab completely flat.
  • When the slab is leather hard, remove the sheet rock on top and place carry the slab on the sheet rock to the work table.
  • Complete any finish work on the edge or top.
  • Move the and sheet rock back to the damp room, cover with sheet rock and leave it uncovered till it’s bone dry.
  • If you want a smooth surface on your baking stone, now is the time to sand it (wear a mask!).
  • Bisque fire your stone, then send it through the final firing without glazing it…as the surface must be porous.
  • Voila! It’s done…and now your ready to bake.

Enjoy using your new baking stone!

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