Sotsil

Does Your Baking Stone Resemble a Pre-Historic Map? February 17, 2010

 

Nothing to worry about!  Mine looks like this:

 

baking stone 1

 

It’s been used about five times and already it’s looking like an artifact that’s been freshly dug out of deep dirt and grime.  It may look disgusting, but think of it this way:  when a woman has more wrinkles, that means she’s got more character.  When a baking stone has marks and stubborn stains, it could probably give your baked goods that extra flavor.  And character.  You may not believe this, but once I scraped off a piece of hardened pizza crust and put it in my mouth.  It tasted like the world’s best potato chip!  No hyperbole there…

 

In my haste to use my baking stone for the Norwich sourdough I made last month, I read the instructions too quickly.  What stayed in my mind were two things:  when using it the first time, bake the baking stone for a good hour inside a hot oven.  This will make it sturdier.  I managed to do that.  Second, never expose the stone to cold water.

 

After I used it, I would wait for it to completely cool, and then use a potato cleaning brush to scrape off excess crumbs after which I put it back into the oven.  Yes, you can leave it there almost permanently.  For baked goods not requiring a baking stone like cookies and cakes, you can just set the baking sheet on top of it.  But be careful about putting heavier pans or pots on top of it.

 

This morning my brother asked me, "are you sure we can’t wash that baking stone?"  Typical of someone who knows that a quick reading of instructions has its pitfalls, I took out the box and re-read the instructions.  I also read people’s comments online about how they cared for theirs.

 

So everyone, this is the consensus:

  • you can wash your baking stone but only with hot water (I wouldn’t wash it after every use; I’d wash it only occasionally or when it’s beginning to look like a war zone instead of a stone)
  • never use soap.  Why?  Most baking stones are porous and soap will penetrate the stone, giving your baked goods a soapy taste (once in awhile I enjoy soaps but not in my food)
  • take off any crusts or leftover "stickies" with a good metal spatula
  • wipe your baking stone with a damp cloth

I read that someone put her stone in the dishwasher.  She said it came out fine.  I’ll pass on that one!

 

I bought my baking stone from Keilen Ltd, a division of Indiana-based Columbian Home Products LLC.  I’d like to reproduce – verbatim – what their care instructions are:

 

Quote:

The traditional way to clean your pizza stone is to brush or scrape it clean and wipe it with a dry cloth to remove any crumbs.  If you prefer to wash your stone, never use soap, as the residue will accumulate in the unglazed stone itself.  Use hot water only, after the stone has been allowed to cool.  Your stone will darken with use.  This is normal and does not affect the baking performance in any way.

Unquote

 

Hope that eases your fears.  And did I say you could leave it inside the oven?  Yes, do leave it there, unless you absolutely need to take it out.  Frequent handling may cause an accident (of the worst kind). 

 

In a previous post, I said that my pizza tasted great when I baked it on the stone, but I’ll say it one more time:  homemade pizzas taste so much better with this clever invention!

 

 

baking stone2

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Testing my Baker’s Scissors July 17, 2009

 

pain d'epi

The first time I was smitten with bread making (my “dough odyssey” started early this winter), I didn’t want to go all out for baking gadgets because I was afraid it might be just another passing fancy.  Baking one loaf alone takes about 3 to 4 hours so I wasn’t sure my new bread hobby would stick.

One of the first baking tools I spent money on was a good pair of baker’s scissors. The shape of the pain d’epi (wheat stalk bread), which requires the use of scissors, seemed like a challenge especially for a bread novice.

The pair of scissors was rather expensive, but I thought it was a good idea to invest in good quality tools if I wanted to create acceptable bread shapes.

pain d'epi1

Now my confession:  the first picture you see isn’t a real pain d’epiPain d’epi, like the baguette, is a crust bread.  What I used to practice my “cutting skill” was a regular recipe for bread rolls.  Like I said in an earlier blog, I have not yet ventured into crumbs, crusts, rye and sourdough.  I like to make plain white loaves, rolls and sweet breads. I’m sure there’ll be another time for learning how to achieve excellent crust breads.

If you want to try a genuine pain d’epi recipe and want clear instructions on how to shape it, go to this link:  http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/?p=152.  The owners of this web site wrote Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day which I enjoyed.  Their pain d’epi looks a lot more attractive and authentic than mine does.  You can certainly see the huge difference.  Their pain is a lot thinner with a much better crust (and bite). 

As far as shaping the bread is concerned, though, I was pleased with the outcome, considering it was my first attempt.  For the pain d’epi cut, remember to:

  • hold your scissors at a 45 degree angle
  • gently hold one end of the dough as you make a swift and precise cut on the dough, without boring your scissors all the way through.  The recommendation on the web site is to leave a 1/4 inch space from the cutting board
  • after the first cut, gently manipulate it over to one side (that is, away from the dough roll, as if making a leaf)
  • then make another cut at a distance of half an inch from the first cut and gently manipulate over to the other side (if you laid your first cut to the right, the second cut should be to the left)
  • repeat the cutting method until you’ve reached the end of the dough

Here’s a close-up of one cut:

pain d'epi2

If the prospect of spending 3-1/2 to 4 hours to make bread discourages you, I recommend Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  It refutes some of the generally accepted methods of bread making with surprising results that prove the authors know what they’re talking about!  In the link I provided, there is a step-by-step on the cutting procedure with crystal clear photographs.  And, they have very good recipes for no-knead bread.  Yes, no-knead!