Baking stone placement in gas oven?

Discussion in 'Pastries & Baking' started by nostalgia, Feb 15, 2006.

  1. nostalgia

    nostalgia

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    Greetings, programs! I've been having a ball baking many of the formulas in Rheinhart's "Bread Baker's Apprentice."

    I read somewhere that it's acceptable to put the baking stone on the floor of a gas oven, and bake on it down there. This being quite convenient, I gave it a go.

    A few weeks ago I made some pane l'ancienne using parchment to slide it onto the stone. The bottom burned very badly, very quickly. I thought it was the parchment's fault.

    Tonight, I made 3 ciabatta loaves. The first two I put directly on the stone, sliding them off my peel. Within 5 minutes, the bottoms were burning. I moved them to an upper rack, but the inside was done long before the crust could develop. The tops of the loaves didn't get any color at all.

    The third loaf I baked on the back of a sheet pan. It cooked normally (in about 20 minutes total) and developed a gorgeous, brown, crispy crust.

    So, is this normal? I'm looking to get a bigger stone, should I avoid keeping it on the floor of the oven? I'm not quite sure I understand why putting it on the floor makes the stone so darn hot.

    Thanks in advance!

    -Joe
     
  2. scott123

    scott123

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    The stone gets so hot because it's directly in contact with the heat source. A thin baking stone sitting directly on top of the heat source is almost going to have the effect of cooking bread in frying pan. Great for tortillas, not quite so bad for pizza, but not so good for loaves.

    Place the stone on the bottom shelf. The distance between the stone and the heat source will prevent it from overheating. If you find the bottom of the crust is cooking faster than the top, place it a higher shelf to take advantage of the rising convective heat collecting in the headspace of your oven.

    A stone cooks very differently than a sheet pan. If you've logged in a lot of hours with a sheet pan, a baking stone will take a bit of a learning curve.
     
  3. panini

    panini

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    agree.
    want to add that you should always have recovery in the back of your mind. When you alter the internal temp of your oven, by opening the door, adding h2o etc. The decrease in temp will call for more heat which in turn will have your gas jets open on the bottom. does this make sense?
    If you open you door and drop your bread quickly and shut the door, there will certainly be less the flame going full force to recover to the desired temp.
    If you dropped 20-30 deg. when you put in your bread. Then you probably had more direct heat towards the stone then if it droped 10 deg.
     
  4. nostalgia

    nostalgia

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    Thanks for the info! When I get the new stone, I'll definately put it on the bottom rack. I'll most likely leave the smaller pizza stone on the floor. It did do a great job on the crust last time I made pizza that way.

    As for the stone cooking differently than a sheet pan, can you give some examples of what I should expect? I've baked bread with the stone on the bottom rack before, and didn't notice much difference from cooking on the sheet pan.

    Thanks again,

    -Joe
     
  5. scott123

    scott123

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    Joe, to understand how a stone works versus how a baking pan works, it helps to learn a bit about thermodynamics. Although this article doesn't go into the specifics of baking stones, it's fantastic for learning the basics of how cookware absorbs/stores/conducts energy:

    Understanding Stovetop Cookware

    I've done some research on my own regarding ceramic materials. Read this article and then come back and I'll give you an idea of where ceramics fit into the picture. That should give a good idea of what's going on when you bake with a baking stone.
     
  6. nostalgia

    nostalgia

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    Thanks for the link! I'm pretty comfy with the thermodynamics and conceptual parts. I'm curious to read-world differences in behaviour of the loaves when baked on a stone vs. a sheet pan. I've heard all kinds of ideas, ranging from, "The stone absorbs moisture from the crust to make it crispy," to, "The stone should be soaked in water before baking to provide moisture to the dough."

    By example, I baked a set of Pane Siciliano loaves from Bread Baker's Apprentice this weekend. The recipe specifically says not to bake them on a stone. When they came out of the oven, they were easily my best loaves to date. Beautiful, thick, chewy crust, soft, open interior. What would have been different had I baked them on a stone instead?

    I haven't baked enough loaves on pans and stones to see a real difference myself, other than baking times. I've always baked on a dry stone, and (until I tried putting the stone on the oven floor) have had excellent results. I'm just a curious baker :)

    Thanks again,

    -Joe