BREAD BAKING TIPS - BAKING ISSUES & STONES

Uncooked Pizza! Pizza! Pizza!            Baking stones are fun to experiment with, but rarely needed in bread baking. I only use a baking stone to stop the bottom from burning when making a large loaf that requires extra baking time.

            Baking stones are sometimes misunderstood. Years ago, a friend of mine bought a pizza stone. The directions said to make the pizza on the stone and then put it in the oven. That completely defeats the purpose of the stone. The whole idea of the stone is to preheat the oven with the stone in the oven to get the stone hot. The stone has mass and holds heat. Baking stones, pizza stones and oven bricks all perform the same function. The theory is that you will get a better crust.

            When using a baking stone, in your home oven, you are trying to simulate a brick oven. Stones are great, but you can make "artisan" loaves in your home oven without using a stone. You can get a crusty loaf by varying the temperature at different stages of baking - first hot, then normal, then leaving the bread in the oven at low heat to dry out. When a loaf is finished baking it out gases hot vapors and wets itself. That is why bread comes out of the oven crispy and then the crust seems to soften as it sits for a while.

            The only time I use a baking stone is when I'm making a huge loaf. When the baking time is so long that the bottoms would otherwise burn. The stone retards the cooking on the bottom of the loaf. When I have bottom burning issues, I use a stone.

            I make a seven pound loaf on a deep dish dark coated pizza pan. It looks like something out of the middle ages. I bake the loaf for 52 minutes. I use a stone to stop the bottom from burning because the loaf takes so long to bake. I also put a tin foil shield on top of the loaf, after 15 minutes, to stop the top from burning.

            Even pizza does not require a pizza/baking stone. I use a dark coated pizza pan. Pan color really makes a difference. When making a loaf of sandwich bread I always use dark pans - never the silver pans. If you use silver bread baking pans, the bottoms of the loaves will not cook properly. I don't even own silver pans.

            Position in the oven also affects the bottom. If you want something darker on the bottom then lower it in the oven, closer to the element in your electric oven. If you want less dark then raise it in the oven. If you have top burning issues, cover with tin foil after the loaves are browned to your liking.

            Baking stones are great to experiment with, but very rarely required in bread baking. You may discover how to make your perfect loaf. I use mine only for bottom burning issues due to extended baking times on large loaves.

More Tips at the following links:

Active Dry vs. Instant Yeast

Coloring Your Loaf - Dark Bread

Artisan Sponge Starter

Wholesome Ingredients

Whole Milk Mozzarella for Pizza

Elusive Oven Spring or Oven Shoot

About Flour

Economics of Home Baking

Temperature and the Craft of Bread Baking

Pizza: Thick Crust vs. Thin Crust

Shaping Hot Dog/Hamburger Buns

Artisan Breads

It's Always the Yeast

Using Enough Yeast?

Buying Yeast

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