A Tale Of Three Pizzas

by A.J. Coltrane

I recently received a Baking Steel as an early holiday gift. The Steel is 16″ x 14″. It *just* fits in our undersized oven:

151119 baking steel

It’s pretty tight against the top of the oven too — the directions call for placing the Steel on the 2nd rack from the top.

I wanted to start with some small, simple, and very manageable pizzas to get a feel for how everything was going to behave, and to ideally introduce as few variables as possible. I was targeting pizzas 8-10″ in diameter to keep things from getting too interesting.

The Recipe:  450 grams AP Flour, 270g water (60%), 11g kosher salt (2.4%), 9g olive oil (2%), 1 TBP of “Italian Seasoning”, and 1 tsp instant yeast. Combine all ingredients and mix on low speed for 10 minutes. Lightly oil the bowl and dough ball, cover and let rise 1.5 hours. Divide the dough into 3 roughly equal pieces, shape into balls, cover with a towel, and let rise 30-45 minutes or until “poofy”.

I stretched each dough out by hand, trying to take care to preserve the gas bubbles around the edges. (The remaining doughs hid under the towel until it was their turn for shaping and baking.) The pizzas were topped with pepperoni and a Roma tomato sauce from the garden that was doctored up with garlic, onions, “Italian Seasoning”, diced bell peppers (from the garden again), and kosher salt. I used a floured peel to slide the pizza onto the Baking Steel, in an oven heated to 500F. The Baking Steel instructions call for a 9-minute bake. I went 9 minutes on the first pizza, 10 minutes on the 2nd, and I-don’t-know-because-I-failed-to-set-the-timer on the 3rd.

Some cheap pre-shredded parmesan was tossed on top of the pizzas shortly after they came out of the oven.

The Results:

Pizza One:

151119 pizza1

Pizza One Crumb:

151119 pizza1 crumb

Pizza Two:

151119 pizza2

Pizza Two Crumb:

151119 pizza2 crumb

Pizza Three:

151119 pizza3

Pizza Three’s crumb wasn’t “all that”, so I didn’t bother with a picture.

———-

I selected AP Flour because I wanted to use some up. I think the color and structure would have been better had I used Bread Flour instead. Alternately a little bit of sugar might have been a good addition.

Even so, the pizzas were all fairly airy, especially so considering the AP Flour. They were really easy to eat without realizing how much had been eaten — the small, savory slices went away fast.

Conclusion: The Baking Steel seems to perform as advertised. It’s definitely an improvement over the pizza stone, and as an added bonus it’s basically indestructible. At $80, it’s not a cheap toy, but I’ll think we’ll get years of value out of it. It might be the right answer would have been to spend $100 and get the unit that’s 3/8″ thick, rather than the 1/4″ of the regular version, but $100 seemed like too much to throw at something that I wasn’t totally sure about.

Still, I’m happy with it.

(I think Pizza Two was the most attractive.)

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