Disclaimer: To bake great pizza in a home oven requires a bit of experimentation for best results for your oven. Every home oven is different. This is what I have worked out for my home oven and my style of pizza. Your oven will be different. What works best for my oven may not work best for your oven or for your style of pizza.
In the last pizza post, I documented baking pizzas in a home oven using the Lodge Cast Iron Pizza Stone. In my home oven, even the relatively thin cast iron pizza stone created greater oven spring and better leopard spotting on my pizzas. This time I take it a step further and begin experimenting with A36 steel. Steel has a slightly higher heat transfer rate than cast iron and a 1/2 inch thick piece of steel will hold considerably more heat than the relatively thin cast iron of the Lodge Cast Iron Pizza Stone.
I placed a 1/2 inch Baking Steel approximately 8 centimeters from the top broiler of my oven, on top of a terra cotta paving tile.
Oven setup for 1/2 inch Baking Steel, located approximately 8 cm below electric broiler element.
My current go to pizza dough recipe is the Basic Country Bread recipe from Chad Robertson’s Tartine Bread: just flour, water, salt, and leaven (from wild sourdough culture) at around 78% hydration (I suppose that would be about 80% total hydration if you account for the leaven which is at 100% hydration). I typically fold the dough once after 30 minutes, then divide the dough into 280g portions and place each portion in a separate container and place in the fridge to ferment. I typically bake with the dough anywhere from a 1-4 day fermentation.
Tartine Bread: simplified recipe notes (I add an additional 80g of water with the salt.)
I decided I to bake two pizzas and set up my mise en place.
The oven was set to high and preheated for at least one hour. Just before baking a pizza, I set the oven to broil and let the upper element heat to glowing before stretching the dough.
After shaping, I waited 30 minutes before stretching the first dough ball. I have consistently found the dough to be more relaxed after about 45 minutes after shaping and much easier to stretch. I need to remember to time the shaping to a minimum of 45 minutes prior to stretching and baking the first pizza.
One day sourdough ferment.
After stretching the dough, I made the first pizza and launched it onto the Baking Steel.
Pizza Romana: Tomato sauce, fior di latte, red onion, capers, anchovie, Kalamata olive, fresh thyme.
I removed the pizza when the first spots on the cornicione were just turned black: 3 minutes, 26 seconds. The pizza was removed to a cooling rack for two minutes to preserve crispness of the crust before plating and slicing.
Pizza Romana upskirt
Even after less than 4 minutes, the crust was browned evenly and the cornicione was beautifully soft and airy.
After letting the oven temperature recover, I once again switched the oven to broil and prepped the next pizza.
Pizza Margherita: Uncooked tomato sauce, fior di latte, fresh basil
I removed the pizza from the oven when the first dark spots on the crust turned dark black: 4 minutes, 42 seconds. The pizza was removed to a wire rack to cool for two minutes to preserve crispness of the crust.
Pizza Margherita upskirt
The cornicione was sufficiently cooked and reasonably light and airy. Bear in mind this was just a one day sourdough ferment. Later pizzas should have better development and leopard spotting, especially after 3-4 days.
Pizza Margherita cornicione
Note: As with a proper woodfired oven, the pizzas need to be turned at least once during baking for even cooking. I did not turn these pizzas, hence the uneven cooking.
I still do not have a non-contact infra-red thermometer, so was unable to check the temperature of the stone just prior to launching the pizza. I hope to buy one soon…
I was very happy with how these two pizzas turned out, even after just a one day sourdough ferment. Today’s pizza on the Baking Steel seems to have already outperformed the Lodge Cast Iron pizza stone. I look forward to baking more pizzas over the next several days.