For Christmas, my best friend bought me a wonderful pizza stone and peel that I'd been eyeing up for a while. For so many years, I eschewed the pizza stone because of lack of storage space. And, also because I tend to like tools and equipment that I use very frequently rather than silly or single use tools.
Let's just say, I'm really thrilled that she bought me the stone and peel and even though I won't use it every week, the results are so spectacular that it's absolutely worth the extra space and storage creativity I need because of it. I wrote a post over on one of the other blogs I write for, The Cook's Kitchen, and there you can read all about the stone itself and how much it's seduced me. In a word, the difference? Crust. It's crispy, fully baked and delectable.
I didn't make the pizza dough myself this time around, I must confess I was feeling lazy and getting too many weekend chores done to spend the whole afternoon in the kitchen. So, I walked around the corner to the local pizza shop, we have one on every corner in New York, and bought the dough from one of the cheery neighborhood pie makers.
We had half veggie pizza and half with prosciutto and cheese and both kinds were just wonderful. The stone bakes the crust so evenly from the bottom, while the sides and toppings are also cooking and bubbling away. Here's the basic recipe:
1 small pizza dough
2 cups homemade tomato sauce
1 can artichoke hearts, chopped
6 cremini mushrooms, sliced
12 kalamata olives, pitted and halved
3 oz. fresh proscuitto
1/2 lb. grated fresh mozzarella cheese
3 T. chopped basil
1. Place the pizza stone on the middle rack of the oven while the oven is cold and then turn on the oven to preheat to 500˚F.
2. Roll out the dough on a flat countertop space using a little extra flour and heavy rolling pin. Make sure to get the dough even. Dust your peel with a little cornmeal and place the dough on top of the peel. Crimp the edges of the pizza upward to try and contain some of the sauce and toppings.
3. Layer your toppings as desired, in our case we used tomato sauce on the whole pizza, then a handful of mozzarella cheese. Then, we layered the veggie side with mushrooms, olives, artichoke hearts and more cheese and the meat side with mushrooms, prosciutto and more cheese. Sprinkle the top with fresh basil.
4. When oven is fully preheated, open the door and slide the pizza onto the stone by sliding the peel forward to cover the stone and then quickly jerking the peel backward toward your body, leaving the pizza on the stone. If it doesn't fit properly, try to adjust the pizza to be centered on the stone.
5. Close the oven door and let the pizza bake about 20-25 minutes or until the pizza is bubbling and the crust is a light golden brown. The last 10 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 475˚F.
6. Lay out a cooling rack on the countertop and remove the stone with the pizza on top and place on top of the cooling rack. I chose to leave the pizza on the stone so that second and third serving pieces were still hot. If you do this, however, you should not use a pizza cutter directly on the stone. Instead, use a pair of sharp kitchen shears to cut the pieces after the pizza has cooled slightly. If you want to use a pizza cutter to make uniform slices, then use the peel to slide under the pizza and remove it from the oven, placing on a cutting board. Make sure to let the stone cool gradually at room temperature.
7. Cut, serve and enjoy this delicate and crispy yet airy crust!
The only thing about the pizza stone that isn't optimal is that it's nearly impossible to keep it 100% clean. Even from the first use, it's normal for the stone to get stained. Clean it with water and a scouring pad and a little baking soda, to remove all the food itself. But, it's pretty certain you'll not get any tomato or cheesy oil stains out of the stone completely. That's okay, it's worth it!