Saturday, January 17, 2009

Pizza from the Home (Depot) Hearth, Part. Deux/Dough/Doh!

I have a confession to make. Since publishing the results of my "Home Depot" pizza story, I've had to go back to the drawing board. As you may recall, the whole point was to circumvent the trap of gourmet store's overpriced pizza stones and find a cheap alternative that would do just as well. I've kept you in the dark about the past two months of drama. I've had to go back to the drawing board three times, reached some humbling conclusions, made some great pizzas, and now find myself totally unsure of anything I've allegedly learned. I guess I should probably bring you up to speed.

Red onion and sausage (GimmeLean brand fake stuff - delicious)
on the Home Depot red brick slab


At first, it seemed like I'd done my homework, cuz the pizza came out fine using a tile from Lowes as my pizza stone. Sure, there was a slight stuffiness in my house from running the oven with a big rock in it, but I figured that would dissipate with time - maybe part of the seasoning/curing process. Karen kept any critical comments to herself, cuz she didn't want to rain on my parade. A couple days later, I was using the leftover dough to make calzones. They came out awesome (but the pictures didn't, so you never heard about'em). Loaded with veggies and 3-4 kinds of fake meat, and weighing at least a couple pounds each, they'd have brought in big bucks on the Grace Street corridor.

However, this time around, I noticed a crack formed in my tile (makeshift pizza stone). Also, Karen and I both couldn't ignore the chemical smell in the air. So, the stone went out to the alley and into the supercan and I set out on another hunt. This time, I went to an actual Home Depot instead of a Lowes and brought home a virtually identical stone. Having selected it using the same Flintstonian process of elimination (it didn't look glazed), I may have actually picked the same brand, make, model (but it said, "natural" on it! probably referred to the color. doh!)

The next experiment was like an instant replay: Beautiful pizza, terrible smell, and a trip to the supercan. After looking online and seeing that others had sought out smaller "quarry" tiles (mine were 18"x18) at local tile specialty stores, I poked my head into Best Tile on Broad Street. When I asked for an unglazed and untreated tile, they acted like I was crazy. When I told them I wanted to cook with it, they acted like I was from Mars. Moving right along then. About the smaller tiles, I asked Sketchy, a local blogging baker, about this and he said Home Depot had them. When I asked if they slide around in his oven during use, he said that he always puts parchment paper down, and that makes everything easier (mental note).

Same pizza, out of the oven, with especially bad lighting
(it's light on cheese, cuz we ran out and I refused to add cheddar - but you can really get into the crust if it's not over-cheesed).


Back at Home Depot, I actually got up the courage to inquire with the staff. "Quarry tiles? Never heard of'em" They didn't think they had anything that would work. (next time don't mention the cooking/pizza part). Then on my way out, I noticed 16x16 red brick walkway stones. They were 2" thick and weighed 39lbs each. Hey, brick ovens are supposed to make great pizza, right? For $3.99, why not? I even stopped by Mary Angela's and picked up a large dough ball for $2.50, saving myself some work.

Back at the house, it was deja vu all over again. Only this time, I got a headache from the fumes and I'm pretty sure Karen had had enough of my subjecting the baby to this questionable air quality (although we were both crazy about the chewy crust on the pizza (thanks Mary Angelas). With a little effort, the red brick was heaved out the door. At this point, Karen points out the obvious, "How much have you spent so far? Couldn't you have just bought a pizza stone for that?" I'd spent almost $20, and yes, that's how much they cost at Bed Bath and Beyond, but those models are crap and they'll crack over time (according to the discussion forums). I wanted something equivalent to the high end pizza stones and I wanted to pay pennies on the dollar. Plus, I'm doing this for yall! My loss is your gain (if I actually find a suitable alternative).

Peeking at the crust told me that it was gonna be chewy. I was going for crispy, so I put half of it back in and got that distinct twice cooked sensation you get with pizza sold by the slice - but it did crunch.

My next stop took me to Southern States. I was looking for a huge piece of terra cotta. Someone online said they'd just flipped a 16" base over and used the flat bottom of it. Well, they had one that size, but it had a ridge on the outside and some other grooves that would have gotten in the way. Plus, it was $14.99.

Gang, you're gonna be so disappointed in me. You know where I went next? Bed Bath and Beyond. Dammit, I just wanna make good (and safe to eat) pizza at this point. To heck with an industrial strength stone. To heck with the irresistible bargain hunt fueled by self-righteous principles and a touch of OCD. I read right up to the recipes section of this amazing book about the search for the perfect pizza. Reinhart's search is over and mine won't begin until I have a rock in my oven to burn the bottom of my pizza. So, I cheated. But, I'm not satisfied yet and I haven't given up. There must be a way to hearth your home oven from hardware store products. If you stay tuned for the third installment, you'll find me further confounded, but still hot on the trail of this mystery. You'll also find recipes for Napolitana pizza dough and... some really fantastic breakfast pizzas. See you on the flip side.

This is the box for the 15x14 stone, by Oneida from Bed Bath and Bleccchttt! (it's really an awful store). On Amazon, it's basically this one or this one (one of them will be cheaper and offers free shipping).

4 comments:

  1. Anonymous11:13 AM

    I hate the way Bed, Bath, and Barf smells. It makes my asthma flare up. I also feel defeated when I have to give up and go there because I can't find what I want anywhere else. (Midlo. Mom of 2)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous3:13 PM

    You, sir, are a dumbass. No agency is governing your "natural" home depot tile, ensuring that it doesn't have harmful chemicals. If you want to kill yourself from frugal stupidity, go ahead; but leave your wife and kid out of it. After all, strychnine is "natural". Who the hell knows what chemicals your burning off into your home. While you are there, why don't you pickup some pressure treated lumber plank for grilling up some mesquite salmon. I am all for supporting home depot. My partner is a HD Mgr and sure we want your business, but for the love of God, get a "food-safe" stone.

    ReplyDelete
  3. A little context: My questionable behavior is a centerpiece of this blog. Sometimes artistic license is employed to play up the dumbass element, while other times, it's honest to goodness idiocy. Regardless, you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. Relax and enjoy the edutainment. Now, as you may have noticed, the "food-safe" stone is in place in my kitchen, and yet, the search is not over...

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  4. I've heard they're also called saltillo tiles & I for one truly appreciate your exhaustive research on the subject. I've been wanting to get one since Alton Brown mentioned that you could use a store bought quarry stone. I plan to look around for this saltillo stone & I'll let you know if I find one. I'm in the Fan so hopefully I can find one close by.

    ReplyDelete

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