Why does bread go stale?
Recently, a reader commented that he was having trouble with his pizza dough and wondered if it was because he didn’t have a pizza stone, but had a pizza pan with small holes in it. An interesting question, and one easily put to the test.
For this experiment, we made a batch of pizza dough and divided it in half. After rising, each half was kneaded with additional flour so that it was not at all sticky and rolled out to the same size. A Tb or two of cornmeal was spread under the dough so it moved smoothly on the board.
Then, each dough circle was spread with half of the prepared tomato sauce.
A mixture of shredded cheeses was used as a topping, consisting of cheddar, gouda and indeterminate creamy cheese, (because it was snowing too much to go out and buy mozzarella). Two slices of sausage were added to each pizza to make sure there was some fat to soak into the pizza dough. The cheeses were obtained at Stop and Shop and the pizza stones at Williams Sonoma in Westport.
One pizza was placed on a pizza stone in a 465° F oven and baked for 15 minutes. The other pizza was lifted with a pizza peel and slid onto the pizza pan having small air holes and placed in a different 465° F oven and cooked for 15 minutes.
The pizzas were removed and compared. To our great surprise, there was very little difference between them. The pizza cooked in the pan had an ever so slightly softer crust, but both could be picked up easily and the slices handled with one hand. In fact, it is unlikely that an unbiased viewer could tell which was which! In the picture above and in all pictures in the slideshow below, the pizza cooked in a pan is on the right.
Our conclusion is that using a pizza stone imparts a very small advantage, and of course you end up with a hot stone in your oven that you must remember to remove when it cools. Overall it is nearly a draw. It is just important that your pizza dough is kneaded with enough flour that it is not at all sticky, so it can be slipped onto the pizza peel and either onto the pizza stone or onto the pizza baking pan.
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