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Pizza Stone Corn Meal Question

Good Day Chowhounders,

A friend gave me a pizza stone for X-mas. I planned on making pizza for lunch. I just noticed it says on the directions of the pizza stone that I have to use corn meal on the bottom of the stone. I do not have any. Is this absolutely necessary? Can I substitute and use something else? If so, what? I want to avoid running back out to the store.

Thanks

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  1. I would say it's not absolutely necessary. Just be sure to very generously flour the bottom of the wooden pizza paddle or rimless cookie sheet that you use to make the pizza on before transfering it to the pre-heated stone. That way the pizza will slide easily from one surface to another (though this does take a bit of practice so don't be dismayed if your first few attempts create a big mess!). The cornmeal mostly provides a nice texture on the bottom of the pizza and makes it easier to slide it onto a hot stone. I've found that if you start with cornmeal on the stone and pre-heat it for an hour in a 500 degree oven like you want to do get the stone hot enough, then the cornmeal burns and makes a huge mess.

    1. Thanks E2E, The instructions say not to use any flour because it'll burn?

      5 Replies
      1. re: LuluTheMagnificent

        There are a couple of things you could do. If you have grits on hand use that. Semolina will work too lastly form your pizza on a piece of parchement paper and if you have sufficiently heated your oven and stone you will be ale to remove the parchment from under the pizza after baking about 3 mins.

        Preheat your oven as high as it will go and heat 30-45 mins with the stone on the bottom rack in your oven.

        Put a sheet of parchment down on the peel. Put your pizza dough on the parchment and roll out the dough and build your pizza. Then slide pizza and parchment on to the hot stone. Remove peel. After 3 mins remove the parchment.

        1. re: Candy

          This is what I do with pizza and bread with the parchment. I cut the parchment so very little hangs out from under the dough, just enough to hold. I never thought to remove it after a few minutes. It darkens but hasn't burned (yet?).

          1. re: Candy

            I did not see these in time, good stuff! It would have saved me so much trouble.

            After I got the corn meal from my neighbor, I had a heck of a time getting that pizza on to the stone. I used foil and just yanked it from under it after about two minutes. So the thinking was similar, but it was stressful and nerve wrecking. Off topic, can I cook steak on this stone? in NYC I had a steak cooked from a brick oven, it was delish. My instructions say this is like cooking in a brick oven. Thanks again.

            1. re: LuluTheMagnificent

              If the pizza stone is the typical rimless kind, I wouldn't recommend cooking a steak on it. All the juices would run off it. I'd guess, too, that your brick oven steak (sounds so good!) was cooked at a much higher temp than you could achieve in a home oven. I use my pizza stone for lots of other things, though, like baking excellent cookies!

            2. re: Candy

              Preheating the stone on the bottom rack might help in your oven. I have found that only on the top rack does the crust fully cook before the topping gets overcooked.

          2. Nevermind, I got some the old fashioned way...from a neighbor. :)

            1. The next time you have the problem you can use flour.

              1 Reply
              1. Thank you Brandon, Candy & Chowser. This really came out great and it's quite economical to make. I made a pepperoni, shallots, and mushroom pizza, delicious!

                I got the traders joes pizza dough. You should have seen me tossing the thing in the air trying to shaping it. Any techniques? I almost made it square like the old Perry's Pizza in Inglewood. lol. I didn't love the crust. I got the garlic and herb, will try the plain next time.

                What other doughs are good? What about personal size crusts?

                9 Replies
                1. re: LuluTheMagnificent

                  Working with dough can be tough, and I haven't at all figured out how folks at pizza places make it look so effortless. The most important thing is to make sure that you're not working with cold dough--leave it out of the fridge for at least an hour to let it come to room temp. Then I let it hang/fall, letting gravity do most of the work, stretching it gently. I make rectangular pizza on baking sheets and it's generally misshapen. But with good ingredients, it's completely delicious.

                   
                  1. re: rose water

                    That Pizza looks delicious! Yours makes me realize I did not cook mine long enough.

                  2. re: LuluTheMagnificent

                    Leave the dough out until its room temperature so it's easy to work with, Making your own pizza dough is, actually, very easy and it tastes a lot better. We just stretch it out to shape but mostly because we're not skilled enough to do the spinning. I've been stretching it out on the back of a cookie sheet, sprinkled w/ corn flour or w/ the parchment paper. Then you put it on the stone. It works okay but kind of heavy so I'm considering investing in a pizza stone.

                    1. re: LuluTheMagnificent

                      It'll be even more delicious and economical when you jump into making your own dough! I think the trick is to expect a few disappointments while you're learning. My first attempt reminded me of those horrible "cracker crusts" at Pizza Hut. Absolutely dreadful.

                      Let me know and I'll post the basic dough I've been making (makes for a good NY style thin/foldable crust with a bit of chewiness to it, and a slight "crisp" to the crust). I don't think the recipe is the trick, though - it's learning to judge for yourself when the dough won't take any more flour. The success of your crust also relies on getting your stone as hot as possible. My oven goes to 500 so I preheat at 500 for at least an hour.

                      As for tossing pizza dough - I'm making a mean pizza these days, but I'm just not coordinated/skilled enough for that. I'll leave it to the pros. I pretty much form it into a ball and gently work it into a circle. (Or at least a close fascimile.) As I generally make three or four pizzas at a time for my family of five, my peel is in constant use, so I shape it on the counter, then transfer it to the corn meal dusted peel by wrapping the dough around a large rolling pin.
                      -----------------
                      Edited to add "recipe."

                      I realized my recipe is pretty basic and more instinctive than anything so I'd just take a minute to add it. After trying a few recipes I decided to go by my gut and this is what's developed. Remember, this makes four large pies, so you might want to just shape part of it into a loaf and bake it as bread, since it's an adaptation of a bread recipe I use frequently.

                      1 slightly heaping tablespoon bread machine yeast (it's cheaper to buy a big jar and keep it in the fridge if you bake often)
                      2 1/4 C warm water (you're going for very warm, not hot)
                      about 1 T sugar
                      about 1 T salt
                      1 heaping T vital wheat gluten (find it in the baking aisle)
                      Up to about 5-6C All purpose flour - there's no way to say for sure, it'll depend upon the humidity in your house.
                      Extra virgin olive oil - about 1/4C

                      Combine the warm water and yeast, then add sugar, salt, vital wheat gluten and about 1/2 cup of flour. Mix and let sit for about five minutes. (This is a good time to put your stone in the oven, start preheating, get the rest of your prep area ready for you.)

                      If you have a mixer with a dough hook, add flour about a cup at a time until the dough starts to pull away from the sides. At this point, if you pinch off a piece of dough, it'll look like it's started to be "dough" but will be very soft and sticky on your fingers. Turn out on a floured surface and sprinkle with flour and start to knead your dough. Since it's a relatively soft dough your hands are going to pretty much be a mess (not coated in stickiness, but close), but the trick is to only knead in enough flour so that you can work the dough. You'll probably knead in about a cup or more of flour - the goal is a soft, pliable dough that will stick to your counter if you don't keep moving it and adding small amounts of flour as you go. (A pastry scraper is handy at this point in letting you pick up the dough and slam it back down on the counter keeping one hand out of the way, doing most of the kneading with one hand.)

                      When the dough is still soft but you're just almost able to knead it without adding any more flour, pour the olive oil into a large bowl and place your dough in the bowl, turning so the top is coated. Cover with plastic wrap (loosely, but so the dough is covered) and place in a warm - not hot - spot near your preheating oven. Let the dough rise to double, about an hour.

                      Punch the dough down and divide into four pieces and let rest for a couple of minutes. On a lightly floured surface, pat/roll into a circle and transfer to your pizza peel.

                      At this point it can't be stressed enough - work as fast as you can to avoid warming the dough too much if you're using the corn meal method.

                      I'm not convinced that the "recipe" is the trick at all, as I've said - I managed to make a perfect dough a few weeks ago and since then I've made it a couple more times and realized it's really about knowing when to leave your dough alone and not try to get it too easy to knead.

                      1. re: shanagain

                        For what it's worth to those interested in tossing the pizza dough, the dough I make is essentially this same recipe, but I don't coat it with olive oil before it rises. I used to, but my husband can actually toss pizza quite nicely, and he says it's a lot harder to do if the dough was coated with oil during the rise (though I still put a good amount of olive oil in the dough). So if you really want to toss, you might try omitting that step.

                      2. re: LuluTheMagnificent

                        I've tried that TJ's pizza dough and find it needs flour, otherwise it is too sticky. Mine was a mess. That was about 2 years ago. Since then I've made my own pizza dough (I use Cook's Illustrated Best Recipe version) and I love it. It makes two large, I freeze one. I make it almost once a week in the winter. Adding semolina to the pizza crust adds texture and makes it more crunchy. I'm also a fan of parchment and gently stretch mine into a rectangular shape as well. If it won't stretch out, let it rest a few mintues and then try again. Also, like others point out, room tempature dough is best. If you do use TJs I'd recommend having some flour handy.

                        Edit / Add: I also cook it at the hottest temp I can get ~550. I put the cheese on top as I really like browned cheese (putting ingredients on top prevent this browning from fully developing).

                        1. re: huruta

                          I, too, use Cook's Illustrated Best Recipe but did not know I could freeze it!! Do you freeze the ball?? I use the Bar-B-Que , heat it to 500 for about an hour but then have the darndest time transferring to the stone. I thought I had enough corn meal to help it slid but obviously not. HELP!!

                          1. re: firechief43

                            Just use parchment and slide it back out after the pizza has baked for a few minutes.

                        2. re: LuluTheMagnificent

                          If you are SoCal Chowhound, try Gelson's;

                          Gelson's has a Wolfgang Puck area where they sell his pizza dough, both fresh and frozen.
                          $1 each for small ones and $4 for the large one.

                          I like it a lot, and it is very good proofed in the fridge a day or so before proofing at room temp.