Saturday, May 21, 2011

Technique: Cooking Surfaces for Pizza (Part 9)

During this series, quite a few people commented about the value of using parchment paper to transfer pizza to the oven, so I figured I’d give it a try before I moved on to more stones.

Since I used the King Arthur Flour baking stone for the test with the pizza screen, I figured it would be fair to use that same stone with the parchment paper as well.

As usual, I heated the stone for 1 hour at 550 degrees before I slid the pizza, with the parchment paper under it, into the oven.

To get the pizza into the oven I still used my peel, since moving a floppy pizza on a flimsy piece of parchment paper would be silly. It all worked well enough, except that I’m used to a peel with cornmeal and pizza on it rather than a peel with a parchment paper on it.

I was assuming I could slide the pizza off the same way, but that didn’t work as expected. I had to pull out the rack with the stone on it and pull the parchment paper and pizza onto the stone. As a result, the oven door was open longer than usual, which I’m sure led to a loss of heat.

If I was going to try this again, I’d be a bit quicker. Or maybe I’d find a way to get the parchment to leave the peel better. This time, though, it was clumsier than simply sliding a pizza off a cornmeal-sprinkled peel.

About four minutes into baking, I wanted to turn the pizza around so it would bake evenly. I figured that the easiest thing to do would be to grab a corner of the parchment paper and spin the whole thing around. The corner was crispy, so it tore. I tried again and ended up with the parchment crinkled under the pizza. I had intended on leaving the parchment under the pizza for the entire baking time, but at that point it made more sense to pull it out, turn the pizza, and shut the oven door. So that’s what I did.

The parchment slipped out easily. One corner of the parchment was well-browned, but I’m sure it would have lasted another four minutes. On the other hand, pulling it out was so easy there was no reason to leave it in.

After eight pizza minutes, the pizza was ready to come out. Whatever loss of heat that occurred when I had the oven open didn’t seem to affect the pizza’s cooking time, a testament to the value of a pizza stone. Both the bottom and the top of the pizza were well cooked, possible because of that open oven door – the loss of oven heat undoubtedly prompted the oven to cycle on right away, which helped to cook the top of the pizza from heat convection, while the bottom cooked nicely due to the heat retention of the stone.

When I cut into it, there was a reassuring crunch. The bottom was mottled brown. It was slightly crisp, not limp at all, but not as crunchy as some of the pizzas baked directly on stones. It resembled delivery pizza, in a good way.

The texture was great – no sogginess or gumminess or doughiness. It was as good as the pizzas baked directly on the stone, except for the difference in crispness. I was surprised there was such a noticeable difference, considering the pizza spent the last four minutes on the naked stone. I suppose it might have been more crunchy if I had removed the parchment earlier in the baking time.

Not everyone’s looking for a super-crunchy crust, so parchment seems to be a good way to adjust that crisp-crunchiness without impacting the quality of the rest of the crust. Whether it’s easier is up to you to decide.

6 comments:

sandy axelrod said...

Oooh that pizza looks so good. The crust is just how I love it! I have a pizza stone I'll have to try it but I think I'll skip the parchment.

L Jansen said...

I use parchment on a stone when I make pizza. I don't have a peel so I use a rimless metal baking sheet instead. I've never had a problem with maneuvering it into the oven.

chefpandita.com said...

I want pizza NOW :)

Anonymous said...

I use PP every time.. you figure out how to slide it quickly.

For part 10.. get a sheet of quarter-inch cut steel (see the thread at Fresh Loaf).. only need to pre-heat the oven for 20-25 minutes.. save on power AND have pizza ready to eat much sooner (and still very crispy).. also less heat in the house during the summer.

Anonymous said...

Have you tried using a kiln shelf as a pizza stone? I googled 'kiln shelves pizza' and found that some wouldn't work, but some were used in commercial pizza ovens.

Donna Currie said...

I haven't tried kiln shelves. Not sure if we're going there or not.

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