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Friday, April 27, 2012

I ♥ stoneware

 Aurora @ Island Dreaming

Two Christmases ago we were given a stoneware pizza stone; and it has proved one of the most useful presents we have ever been given. Our oven has a bottom heating element that creates a column of heat that turns the base of anything you are trying to cook black before the rest is even warmed through. This especially spells disaster for anything going in at a high temperature - bread for example. If you consistently fail at baking, it may not be your technique, but your tools. Glass, metal and Teflon (which we avoid anyway) just don't compare if you have an oven like mine.

Our pizza stone has changed all of that. It distributes heat evenly, but insulates the edges of the food from very high heat, giving the bread the best chance at rising and cooking evenly. It also 'seasons' to a smooth, genuinely  non-stick surface that requires very little oiling or lining. As well as loaves, we have also made pizza at least once a fortnight - quick, healthy (if you are frugal with the cheese) and easy to eat on the go if need be. We have since invested in a stoneware brownie tray, not that we eat a lot of brownies (though that might change!), but because it is the perfect size for baking and roasting small quantities of vegetables. I also envision a lot more trays bakes coming from our kitchen in the near future.

New stoneware is a fairly pale, unglazed variant of stone coloured. If it is to perform its non-stick duties well, it will need to be seasoned. An initial seasoning can be achieved by either brushing the new pan with oil and baking it empty at a high heat for an hour or so, or by making sure that the first few times it is used to cook actual food, that that food is quite oily. The latter method is the route we took, the initial result is not as even, but it soon evens out with repeated use and this method also saves energy. The stoneware will initially turn golden, becoming a deeper shade of brown with every use:




Once well seasoned, stoneware can be cleaned with soap if absolutely necessary, although by this time it will be so non-stick that a wipe with a warm damp cloth or short soak in hot water should suffice. Burnt on residue can be scraped off with an old debit card. You can cut food on stoneware, but be warned it will likely blunt your knife, not damage the stoneware itself. The only thing that will truly damage your stoneware is extreme changes in temperature - therefore it should not go from the fridge to a hot oven or vice versa, or be exposed to direct heat. Care should be taken to ensure that stoneware pieces are not dropped or knocked. They may remain intact, but will be weakened and may instead break whilst in use at a later date, when you least expect it.

If you want to invest in stoneware, as always, buy the best you can afford and buy the unglazed variety. You can buy everything from casserole dishes to muffin trays and we are gradually adding pieces to our collection as funds allow. Be prepared to show it a little TLC in the beginning and it will serve you well.

4 comments:

risa bear said...

For those who are still saving up for their stone, in the meanwhile, reduce burning by putting a cookie sheet on the lower over shelf and baking on the upper one; the deflection eliminates burning in my experience.

LindaG said...

What an interesting post. When I first saw the title, I thought you were talking about dishes. :o)

Mitty said...

Stoneware should not be washed with soap or detergent as it can bond to the seasoned finish and make food taste "soapy". Sprinkle it with baking soda and scrub with a nylon brush or nylon scrubber if there is something stuck on or too much oily residue. The stoneware can also be soaked in plain water for a few minutes. Neither step is usually necessary if you scrape it with a credit card or the scraper that comes with the pan.

Emma said...

Do you leave the pizza stone in all the time? Does it go on the floor of the oven, or just on the lowest shelf? I have a regular electric fan oven with (I think) elements in floor and roof --- I say think, because there's nothing visible in the floor of the oven, and just the grill style element in the top!
Thanks :)