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Baking tiles


Richard Kilgore
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I have read a few threads regarding baking stones or tiles. Some say to use tiles from a building supply house and place them on a cookie sheet; some say also put a skillet in the bottom of the oven and add water when baking; some say it's best to use two baking tiles.

Can some of you experienced bakers clarify what kind you use and how you use them. Where do you get a baking stone? Where do you place one or more? Is some building tile not safe to put food on? Do you use water in the bottom of the oven?

My interests focus on minimal breads or cakes, many sweet and savory tarts, and a few cookies incuding biscotti --- for home baking only, in a small conventional oven. But please feel free to discuss this in a broader way for more applications. Of course, I will be doing other roasting and baking in the oven, so an additional question is do I need to remove the stone(s) during these operations?

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I can't answer the type of tile question specifically. I use a pizza stone I bought from a kitchen supply store that works perfectly well for most applications like tart and pie baking. I only wish it were bigger for bread baking since it limits me to one boule at a time, although I can bake 2 baguettes on it. The stone stays on the bottom rack of the oven (electric) virtually 100% of the time no matter what I am baking, broiling or roasting.

Besides bread, tarts and pies are baked directly on the stone, which greatly aids browning the bottom crust. You just need to make sure the stone is properly pre heated. Cakes and cookies/biscotti are baked on a middle rack or higher above the stone, not on the stone.

I am not a fan of leaving a pan of water in the oven, and prefer to spray the interior of the oven a few times in the early stages of baking with a spray bottle. Note that either of these techniques only applies to bread baking and some similar yeast raised pastries (croissants, danish). In particular, I think leaving the pan of water in ruins the texture of croisssants and danish, even though it is recommended in Beranbaum's Pie and Pastry Bible.

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I have not noticed a difference, but my oven is very new. My understanding though is that because of the heat radiant qualities of the tiles or stone, they help maintain an even oven temperature, which could obviously be a big help if you oven has problems maintaining a set temperature.

There are recipes that call for example, baking 10 minutes at 475, then dropping the temperature to 400. With the stones, you might expect the drop to occur more slowly, but I have not noticed any problems with this.

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You want to use unglazed quarry tiles. They are brick red in color and cost about a buck each. You can fit four 8" x 8" tiles in your average oven.

PJ

"Epater les bourgeois."

--Lester Bangs via Bruce Sterling

(Dori Bangs)

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I bought some tiles at Home Depot for about 40 cents each. They are unglazed and I put them directly on the rack. My oven turns on the broiler to heat up faster, so I do a timed bake to avoid cracking the tiles. I don't know if that would happen, but I thought it might. I have a pizza stone, but it is too small for loaves of bread (ciabatta), and the big stones at the kitchen specialty stores are really expensive. In Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking she shows this and suggests these tiles. The book came out 40 years ago and maybe baking tiles weren't commonly available then.

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I bought my baking stone from King Arthur. I tried to locate the unglazed quarry tiles at the DIY/Hardware stores in town. At each location I was assisted by uninfomred 17 year old boys often found repeating "unglazed???" "Cory tiles??" .

Crystal

We like the mooooon........Coz it is close to us...........

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I finally made it to Home Depot, where I found six inch square gray unglazed tile for 30 cents each. Six will fit on my bottom rack snugly. I am not sure if gray and red perform differently, but I'll post when I see how they work out. If you know there is a problem with gray, please speak up.

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I use tiles that are 6 and 1/2 inches square and about 1/2 inch thick. Cover the upper shelf wall to wall and front to back. My old GE electric stove takes 6 tiles. They last quite awhile...sometimes one will crack but they are still usable. I recomend taking them out during cleaning cycle. Properly made ciabatta has enough moisture (75 to 80%) not to need water in the oven or spray on the walls. For other rustic breads I pour hot water into a cast iron skillet on the bottom shelf. Carefull with water on the glass door of the oven...it is expensive to replace.

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So, does anyone use a stone/tiles on the bottom rack/floor AND one on the top or middle rack?

Side note: I noticed that in The Pie and Pastry Bible, RLB covers her tiles on the floor with aluminum foil.

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I think your grey tiles will be fine, it's just the color of the natural materials used to make them. The fact that you paid only 30¢ each for them also indicates you've bought the right tile. I also got mine at Home Depot and I had to find them on my own. If you have trouble locating them in the store and the sales-help aren't any, just ask for the cheapest tile they sell.

I leave mine on the bottom rack and only remove them to clean them.

PJ

"Epater les bourgeois."

--Lester Bangs via Bruce Sterling

(Dori Bangs)

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They are no more than plain clay tiles, elyse. Apparently valued for their durability and hardness in commercial-type flooring applications. They also have a low absorption characteristic. All this leads me to believe that they are also very brittle. So don't drop one. You might be out 50¢. :wink:

PJ

"Epater les bourgeois."

--Lester Bangs via Bruce Sterling

(Dori Bangs)

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Tiles have two purposes:

1) They act as heat reservoirs, evening out the variations as the thermostat controlled heating element cuts in and out. Modern ovens don't have enough mass to give the gentle even heat of old fashioned brick ovens.

2) The help the bottom of the loaf or tart cook. You would not want a soggy bottom. However they only do this if they are in contact with it, either directly or with the tin directly on the tiles.

Steam is different. For bread, a burst of superheated steam at the very beginning of the bake gelatanises the outside of the dough and gives better crust formation. The steam must be very hot. In the old days this was achieved from the wet mop coming into contact with the hot stones on the oven floor, an then the steam from the other loaves baking. One way to replicate this is to splash water onto the hot tiles when you put the bread in, or if you are afraid of cracking them, put an empty cast iron skillet on the tiles when you light the oven, let it get very hot , and throw a cup of water into it after you put the dough in, and slam the door. The water vapourises immediately.

!Caution! Hot steam! Most modern ovens are ventilated, so the steam comes straight out, but it will have done the job. The surface of the dough will look sticky and shiny. You can achieve a similar efect by spraying water into the oven from a garden mister, where the hot walls of the oven turn it into steam, or painting the bread with water before putting it in the oven (not as good). You may want to remove the glass oven light, as they can crack from the thermal shock.

Steam during the first part of the bake is said to assist in rise by keeping the outside flexible, otherwise the crust will form too early and holds the bread down, but I don't believe this, especially if the loaf is properly slashed.

You can achieve both of these effects by using an oven cloche. such as Sassafras's "La Cloche". King Arthur carries both round and oblong versions. The ceramic base retains the heat, and the cover keeps the steam in. For domestic ovens, they really are worthwhile and work well.

For tiles, as mentioned above, use a pizza stone, unglazed quarry tiles, or engineering bricks, but a cloche is easier and better.

Edited by jackal10 (log)
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Just thought I'd share my approach, since I haven't seen it discussed here or anywhere else. I have a 30 inch stove and one of the large, rectangular pizza stones. Like a lot of people, I found that one stone wasn't big enough but two wouldn't fit. My solution was turn the stone 90 degrees so it goes front to back on the oven rack. I then bought a second identical stone, measured the amount left uncovered by stone on the rack, and had it cut to size with a wet saw (luckily I have a neighbor who's a contractor) So now the whole rack is covered in two big rectangles. The leftover strip of stone (about a third of it) I wrapped in foil to use for heat retention/deflection in my cheapo charcoal grill. Obviously this is not a very economical way to go, but I don't regret it one bit.

"Tis no man. Tis a remorseless eating machine."

-Captain McAllister of The Frying Dutchmen, on Homer Simpson

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Good info, jackal10.

My favorite French chef recommended throwing a few ice cubes into the bottom of the home oven while loading the loaves.

My bread still sucks though. :wink:

PJ

"Epater les bourgeois."

--Lester Bangs via Bruce Sterling

(Dori Bangs)

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Tried my new 30 cent tiles on a pizza. Tiles on the bottom rack, pizza on the middle rack. Amazing! The oven is baking much more evenly. I think I will cover the tiles with aluminum foil for easier clean up as some writers suggest, unless someone knows a reason not to do it.

Would it be better to put the pizza either on the bottom tiles or on a stone in the middle position vs on the bare mid-level rack with tiles on the bottom?

Edited by Richard Kilgore (log)
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What if you placed a 2 inch thick slab of super insulating silicone in an oven and baked on top of that. Do you suppose that would provide the even heating desired for this type of heat transfer?

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www.motorestaurant.com

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What if you placed a 2 inch thick slab of super insulating silicone in an oven and baked on top of that. Do you suppose that would provide the even heating desired for this type of heat transfer?

Nope its the heat capacity, not the insulating properties you need.

You need weight. Tiles or stone or bricks.

And yes, you need the pizza in contact with the stone (or the foil over the stone) to give you that crisp base.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Tried my new 30 cent tiles on a pizza. Tiles on the bottom rack, pizza on the middle rack. Amazing! The oven is baking much more evenly. I think I will cover the tiles with aluminum foil for easier clean up as some writers suggest, unless someone knows a reason not to do it.

Would it be better to put the pizza either on the bottom tiles or on a stone in the middle position vs on the bare mid-level rack with tiles on the bottom?

Did you bake the pizza on a rack positioned above the tiles? I thought you were supposed to bake the pizza directly on the tiles on the lower rack. Yes?

Anyway, I just bought the 6x6 red quarry tiles at Home Depot. $1.20 per square foot, or $8.40 for a box of 28 tiles (30 cents each). 12 fit on our oven rack, so I lined the rack fit into the lowest level. Hmm, maybe I should have washed them first? I'm planning on getting a couple cut so they fit in our spare tray for the toaster oven. That way I have a convenient way to heat up leftover pizza too.

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Rachel - Yes, those are the ones, and the pizza should go on the tiles or on the aluminum foil on the tiles, although I did bake it on the middle rack the first time.

I washed mine first because the HD box said something about silica dust being a hazzard when you cut them. I did not need to cut mine, but thought rinsing off any dust from manufacturing would be a good idea. I soaked mine for about 15 minutes.

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this is what i do for bread:

loaves are placed (on baking parchment) directly on baking/pizza stone on middle rack, with one of the baking sheets or pans (the deep ones) on bottom rack, into which i throw, say, 150 ml. water at start.

parchment removed when bread has "settled".

i don't see any reason for rinsing the stone after using it.

this is what i'd like to know:

why don't my slashings produce a "professional" rift? not that it seems to matter that much, but still...

Edited by oraklet (log)

christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

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why don't my slashings produce a "professional" rift? not that it seems to matter that much, but still...

How much oven spring are you getting?

Are the slashes deep enough?

The dough before you slash should have a sort of taut skin from moulding and the slight drying effect during proof

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How much oven spring are you getting?

Are the slashes deep enough?

The dough before you slash should have a sort of taut skin from moulding and the slight drying effect during proof

oven spring, differs. between 1/2 inch and 2 inches.

deep enough? like, 1/2 inch.

perhaps the damp cloth i use for covering the loaves is too damp, cause it isn't "slightly dry". the slashes seem to work best if made in loaves that are rather heavily dusted with flour. ?

christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

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