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RevJToad 05-14-2006 02:04 PM

Just got my first stone... it's the start of a legendary addiction.
Hey folks, as the topic says, I just used my first pizza stone last night, and I can already tell this is gonna get out of hand. It's a 15" round stone, which just fits in my oven. I commented to my girlfriend as the first pizza went in that I need a bigger oven, so I could fit an 18" stone in there, at which point she suggested a backyard oven, which led me here... as if I needed another obsession. :>

The root of the obsession is actually my desire to eat proper New York pizza here in cold and forlorn Winnipeg, Manitoba, and the acquisition of the stone and peel yesterday has gotten me closer than ever - I'm also getting pretty close on the dough recipe as well, last night was the first time I managed to stretch out a pizza the way I've seen them do it countless times on my visits to the big city. Well, my own somewhat lame attempt at doing that anyways, I'm a long way from tossing it up in the air and all that.

Anyways, I'm interested in any comments on my recipe and technique.

For the dough, I measured:

15 oz water
approx 2-3 tbsp olive oil
4 heaping tsp sugar
2 tsp instant yeast

dry mix:
approx 1 tsp salt
5 cups all-purpose flour
5 tsp vital wheat gluten

I mixed the sugar in the water, added the yeast and let it dissolve, added the olive oil and then about 4.5 cups of the flour mixture. kneaded that in a Kitchenaid mixer for 15 minutes and let it rise for an hour.

This got me a very stretchy dough that, in one case, pulled thin enough to see through - first time I ever had the problem of one of the pizzas coming out with too thin a crust, a failure that made me very happy.

The sauce was a can of tomatoes, drained, a head of garlic and a liberal shaking of italian seasoning, put through the blender. I don't say this very often, but I'll probably use a bit less garlic next time. :>

Anyways, I made the zzas on the flat side of the peel, with a liberal helping of flour underneath. I learned from my first pizza that just because the stretched dough slides around, that doesn't mean the fully loaded pizza will. I've read that it's better to use cornmeal, because flour can burn, but cornmeal on the bottom of a pizza just seems utterly wrong to me, and I didn't have a problem with the flour.

Aside from the first one, which I did manage to save (it came out a bit misshapen), I got the hang of working with the peel pretty quickly. I've been mentally preparing for this pretty much my whole life - since I was six and first visited my relatives in Jersey, and watched this gigantic smiling Italian man make a pie. I coulda sat in that little pizzeria all day. Probably still could, if he's still alive.

But I digress. The oven was set to 350, but I'm pretty sure that my oven is hotter than the markings, so I can't really say exactly what temp it was at. I had the stone on the bottom rack after the first pizza, in an attempt to cook the bottoms a bit more.

So, here's what needs work. First off, the top cooked a lot faster than the bottom. Not to the point inedibility, but I had to pull them out when the cheese started going brown, but the crust could still have used a few more minutes on the bottom to get that nice crispiness.

Anyone who's had zza in NY/NJ area knows that it's characterized by a thin but crispy crust (a lot of people fold their slice in half), and then the edge is chewy, kinda like a pretzel. My pizzas might only need to get the cooking evened out to get this effect (I don't know if it's the gluten or the long kneading or what, but I'm very happy with my results so far), but any suggestions, both in terms of recipe or oven technique, are appreciated.

I was thinking, after reading about the short cooking times in the outdoor ovens, that maybe a hotter oven is the way to go - if the stone is hotter, it'll cook the crust in a shorter time, and if the increase in speed in cooking the bottom is more than the increase at the top, it would even things out.


james 05-14-2006 07:02 PM

Hot, hot, hot

A pizza stone today; pizza oven tomorrow. It's a lifelong obesssion. :)

Try setting your oven to 550F, and pre-heating your stone for at least 45 minutes (preferably an hour). That way the stone will absorb enough heat from the oven to be able to cook the bottom of the pizza to sync up with the top. Otherwise, the air temperature in the oven will bet a lot hotter than the actual temperature of the stone.

I did a test of the Forno Bravo Stone and found that while our stone heats up faster than the one we had before, it still takes a good 45 mintues.

Take a look at this heat up time table:

Welcome to the group -- I think you will enjoy it.

redbricknick 05-14-2006 10:02 PM

We use polenta on our peels at home. Its like little ball bearings.

james 05-14-2006 10:32 PM

How is the flavor? And texture? I find that corn meal is a little gritty.

I got a tip from a local commercial microbakery, and just bought some rice flour. I'll let you know how it goes. Otherwise, I just use flour.


RevJToad 05-15-2006 12:52 AM


Originally Posted by redbricknick
We use polenta on our peels at home. Its like little ball bearings.

Isn't Polenta Italian for corn meal? :>

jengineer 05-15-2006 08:19 AM

Polenta is usually yellow and is boiled corn meal

CanuckJim 05-15-2006 02:49 PM

James, JE, RevJ,

Here, at least, polenta is a slippery term. We're all familiar with cooked polenta, that's made from cornmeal and water. However, there is a very coarse cornmeal grind confusingly called Polenta as well. Go figure.


I'm very familiar with the pizza styles in ;NYC, NJ and Philly, but I, too, live in cold and comfortless Canada, but in the palm zone northeast of Toronto. I'm a bread guy more than a pizza guy, but welcome aboard, eh.


sssmasi 05-16-2006 06:45 PM


Originally Posted by RevJToad
I've read that it's better to use cornmeal, because flour can burn, but cornmeal on the bottom of a pizza just seems utterly wrong to me, and I didn't have a problem with the flour.

cornmeal on the bottom of the pizza is the devil. i used to do that when i first started. when i switched to flour my pizzas got way better. Also try putting your stone in your BBQ. BBQ's get a good heat from underneath the stone and also if you have an infrared option you can get your toppings nice and cooked.

Sailfish 06-13-2006 03:28 PM

I'm a pizza stone guy. I use cornmeal because I'm a novice and it is easier to use from what I can tell. I plan to go all flour one day. One of my pet peaves about pizza stone cooking is the cornmeal starts to burn on the stone after you finish the first pizza. I tried sweeping it off and boy what a mistake that was! I can't wait to get my wood fired oven up and online so I can just sweep it into the fire.

james 06-13-2006 04:08 PM

EEEEK. No corn meal!
Just say no. :eek:

I think cornmeal has both a bad taste and a bad texture. Use a little extra flour, and your are set. Your pizza won't stick and it will taste a lot better.

I just bought a bag of rice flour (Trader Joe's) and am going to see if that really works.


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