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cooking pizza at home


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#1 EvaB

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Posted 17 April 2006 - 03:02 PM

OK, hope I'm doing this correctly...

I'd like to know what the best set-up is for cooking pizza in a home gas oven--oven temp, baking sheet/pizza stone, etc.??

Also, order of ingredients on crust vs. ability to maintain crispness.

I've been using the New Seasons crust dough.

Thanks!
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with apologies to Jack Prelutsky's "Bleezer's Ice Cream Store"

I am Eva Marianna
I run COOL MOON ICE CREAM STORE,
there are flavors in my freezer you have never seen before,
twenty-eight divine creations too delicious to resist,
why not do yourself a favor, try the flavors on my list...


#2 sfspanky

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Posted 17 April 2006 - 08:17 PM

First off, a pizza stone is very important as it retains heat and has thermal mass, which allows for conduction during baking, giving you oven spring and which will also allows for a crispy crust. When you buy a new stone you need to "cure" it by throwing it in the oven and removing any residual moisture. Please following the directions that come with it, but generally you can throw in on the center rack and then turn your oven on to the highest temperature for a couple of hours, which should remove any or all moisture.

Once the stone is cured, before making a pizza it is important to get the stone thoroughly saturated with heat. Place the stone in your oven and turn the oven up as high as it will go. Once it has reached it's highest temperature, allow the stone to sit for at least 2 hours. NO, I am not kidding here. These stones are high density and need quite a bit of time for the heat to saturate. I recommend placing the stone on the center rack the first time you bake and adjusting thereafter. If the pizza bakes too quickly on the bottom and not so quickly on the top, etc. adjust the stone on your racks acccordingly. All ovens are different.

Hopefully your oven goes to 550. If it only goes to 500, follow the steps above, but before you are ready to bake the pizza, turn the broil feature on "high" for at least 5 minutes (possibly and most likely more) before baking, but turn it back to the normal bake setting before placing the pizza on the stone. Again, all ovens in the world, whether commercial or residential, act differently and it takes multiple tries to find out how best to work with the oven you own.

As far as an order of ingredients to maintain a crisp crust, I have had great experience with sauce first or cheese first when making a plain pie or a margherita. However, when it comes to any uncooked vegetables that contain a lot of water (i.e. mushrooms, onions, peppers), I find it best to slice (no shredded) loaf mozzarella and lay that down on the "skin" first before the sauce. This allows a fat or oil barrier between the dough and wet ingredients, much in the way that mayonnaise does for sandwiches.

Let me know if this helps or if you have more questions.
Brian Spangler
Apizza Scholls

#3 Steph

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Posted 19 April 2006 - 10:37 AM

[As a follow-up, what if you have a convection oven?
The few times I've used convection/bake for biscuits the product browns quicker/darker.
Would using either the pure convection or convection/bake function be worthwhile for pizza crust?
Thank you.

#4 sfspanky

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Posted 19 April 2006 - 11:04 AM

I never had good experience with convection baking of pizzas in a home oven. The air has always dried out the sauce and browned the cheese too quickly. I always recommend to people that they try it without convection first and then try one with convection. Not all ovens are created equally.
Brian Spangler
Apizza Scholls

#5 EvaB

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Posted 19 April 2006 - 11:05 AM

Thanks Brian!
I do have a few more questions:

Could one "cure" the stone in, say, an outdoor charcoal BBQ (indirect heat of course!--seveal hours at 500+ indoor oven is a bit daunting!)

What do you think about unglazed 12x12 quarry tiles instead of an official pizza stone?

Am I baking the pizza directly on the stone, or on a baking sheet on the stone?

Good analogy RE: the cheese. I was thinking about putting it down first too, with a "more stuff" pie. A friend of mine makes Chicago style deep dish, and he always puts the cheese on first.

Regarding the tomatos, let me know what you think about this approach:
I wanted something less like sauce, and more like tomatos. I used Muir Glen diced regular tomatos, drained for a while then chopped and drained some more (just sitting in a colendar, not mashed or pressed). Then I mixed in chopped garlic that I'd sizzled in olive oil (and the olive oil) and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Just before I put this on the pie, I folded in lightly chopped basil. It's more like something that gets sprinkled around on the crust rather than applied in an even "bed." This seemed to work pretty well. The garlic flavor was well distributed, the tomatos were flavorful and not too wet, the basil didn't get charred in the baking process.

Mozarella: Whole milk loaf type (not Precious) from N.S.

Mushrooms/peppers: (if used) presauteed to reduce moisture.
Cool Moon Ice Cream

with apologies to Jack Prelutsky's "Bleezer's Ice Cream Store"

I am Eva Marianna
I run COOL MOON ICE CREAM STORE,
there are flavors in my freezer you have never seen before,
twenty-eight divine creations too delicious to resist,
why not do yourself a favor, try the flavors on my list...


#6 sfspanky

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Posted 19 April 2006 - 11:46 AM

You could cure the stone on a outdoor grill, but the temps of a charcoal or gas grill could easily exceed your oven, so start a small charcoal fire or turn the gas grill on low. Follow the directions given by the manufacturer, but these stones are fairly fragile, until they are cured and could crack easily if you take it to an extrememly high temperature too quickly. I have not baked a pizza on a baking stone on an outdoor grill, but I always encourage people to do it, as it will get much hotter than any home oven. With a gas grill, turn the side burners on and place the stone inbetween them, so it doesn't get too hot. Same with a charcoal grill, move the coals to the sides and place the stone on top. Keep lid closed in either case until you are ready to bake, put the pizza on the stone and check after 2 minutes. All grills are different, so experience will teach you the best way to do this.

Unglazed quarry tiles are good, but not great. Cheap cost but low density, which means you don't have a lot of built up heat which will go away quickly when you put the pizza on top. Baking stones are high density and retain heat longer. This is better for the "oven spring", crispier crust as well as doing multiple pizzas. I didn't mention before, but you should always let these baking stones rest between pizzas so they can recoup their heat. I usually recommend at least 20 minutes... again, this all depends on your oven and how efficient and hot it gets. Experience is the only way to tell, but 20 minutes is a good guide.

Pizza goes directly on the stone. Keep that baking sheet for cookies, etc.

Tomato approach sound good. Add a little sea salt to bring out more of the tomato flavor.

Mozzarella... always whole milk. Try experimenting with fresh sometime as well.
Brian Spangler
Apizza Scholls