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I got a pizza / baking stone...now what? - Need a cookbook

I got the stone as a Christmas gift. I've never baked anything other than a box of brownies or an occasional apple pie. I really want to learn to make some good, hearty, crusty breads (baguettes, italian, tuscan, cibatta, etc...). Can anyone recommend a beginners book for me? Thanks!

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  1. "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" by Peter Reinhart. One of the best.

    http://www.amazon.com/Bread-Bakers-Ap...

    1 Reply
    1. re: JoanN

      I agree . Anything but peter Reinhart is great for novice bread bakers. The King Arthur books have great recipes, but Peter explains the theory that all bakers should know.

    2. My husband has unsuccessfully been trying to perfect pizza and bread cooking for around 15 years now. At least that was until I got him the King Arthur cookbook and now we bake pizza and/or bread at least once a week with the results he has always been looking for.

      1. I'm sure many will disagree with me since you're asking for a beginner's book, but I'll still go ahead and recommend Rose Levy Barenbaum's Bread Bible. If you have the patience to read her techniques and recommendations and to follow her recipes you'll be rewarded with excellent bread from your home oven. Once you've got her techniques down you can pretty much imagine your own flour/fruit/nut combinations and get pretty creative with your bread baking.That said, you might want to scan her style before purchasing to see if it suits you-- she's pretty detailed. I also love to use my baking stone for pies-- setting the pie plate on a pre-heated stone gets the bottom crust nicely browned which used to be a problem for me. Have fun with your new toy!

        2 Replies
        1. re: Procrastibaker

          I cannot recommend American Pie by Peter Reinhart highly enough! It is fantastic for every kind of pizza dough, sauce, or complete pizzas. It is also a very entertaining read.

          As for breads: I second Bread Baker's Apprentice. I am right in the middle of a BBA baking frenzy. If you click on the Bread Baker's Apprentice category on my blog you can see what I have done so far.

          www.porterhouse.typepad.com

          1. re: Becca Porter

            I third the American Pie rec. Very entertaining, and informative. Gives a great overview of what makes good pizza.

            I need to get BBA!

        2. I really like Bernard Claytons' book The New Complete Book of Breads. His recipes run the gamut from simple to complex, with lots of information about ingredients, techniques, etc. I think there's even a set of instrutions for building your own woodfired oven!

          1 Reply
          1. re: nofunlatte

            Piggybacking on my own post here Anyway, the Clayton book is comprehensive and not necessarily geared toward the baking stone (many recipes call for tins, plus he includes quick breads). So, that may or may not fit your criteria.

            FWIW, I semi-regularly bake homemade crackers on my pizza stone. They come out fantastic (I use the recipe in Bittman's How to Cook Everything).

          2. You might enjoy Crust by Richard Bertinet. The recipes are fully illustrated (step by step) and easy to follow. In addition the book includes a dvd which highlights techniques that are beneficial for novice bakers.

            http://www.amazon.com/Crust-Bread-You...

            1. I had been baking bread for many years and thought I knew a thing or two about it. Then I got The Bread Baker's Apprentice and knew instantly I was still in bread baking kindergarten.
              Rustic/Artesenal breads are nothing more than flour, water, salt and yeast so how hard can it be? The fact is the science of bread baking is very complex and to get a good loaf takes lots of practice and experience. Learning how the dough reacts under certain circumstances and feeling when it is right takes time - years, in fact to become fully proficient.
              I aways recommend that beginner bread bakers start with what are called "enriched" breads. That is, bread which has additions like dairy, sugar and other additives for flavor. You can make some exceptional bread that is very forgiving and a gives you a good foundation for understanding yeasted doughs.
              I would never discourage anybody from experimenting in the kitchen but I would caution that your first attempt at "lean", counrty style bread may not come out quite how you expect it to. But don't give up. Practice, practice, practice. The results in the long run are well worth it.

              1. I kind of think that How to Cook Everything will serve you well here. I bake bread/pizza regularly, and don't actually use that many recipes. I think this is all the more true for a beginner, that what you need are a couple really good, iron-clad recipes to get you going. If you want to try some crazy artisanal bread, you can just get a recipe online, IMO. HTCE has a great pizza dough recipe, plus a good basic French bread. You can alter the proportions of wheat flour and white flour to some degree, and I think he tells you how to do that.

                1. I finally got a pizza peel for Christmas and made pizza directly on my pre-heated pizza stone. Before this I had just placed the pizza on a baking sheet on the stone (I know I could have slid it off the sheet onto the stone, but that seemed awkward somehow). What a difference! It was as good as most restaurant pizza I've had. Wow. I used a variation on the Barenbaum Bread Bible's Perfect Pizza Crust-- so easy and reliable. And her sauce as well. Then topped with fresh mozz, artichokes, and salumi. Whatever book you choose, I highly recommend experimenting with pizza directly on the stone. Yum!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Procrastibaker

                    Of course you bake pizza crust directly on the stone! I have tiles (don't know why I bought them instead of a single stone - probably so they line the entire rack). I use Cooks 75 minute pizza dough recipe and its consistently fab. And by using a really hot oven (500), even if toppings drip, they clean right off. Yum is right!

                  2. I just got this book - Artisan Breads in Five Minutes a Day
                    http://www.amazon.com/Artisan-Bread-F...

                    This book has had amazing reviews. I went out today and got a stone and a peel and mixed up my first batch of dough. You only have to mix up the dough and leave it in the fridge for as short as one day or up to 2 weeks. Just pull of a hunk of dough, shape it and bake it. No kneading! I can't wait to taste my first loaf tomorrow. I'll report back afterward.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: AmyH

                      The baking stone can be used for things besides bread that you want to be crusty.

                      And you can put a piece of parchment paper down if you don't want it to get gunky. One thing I have done is make tortilla "sandwiches." Put a tortilla down on a heated stone and let it heat. Put a mix of vegies and meats on one side. Maybe some cheese. And fold over. Heat a bit more. Voila. Tortilla sandwich.

                      I have done this with sauteed mushrooms and onions, some cooked chicken and some cheese. Can be adapted a million ways.

                      1. re: AmyH

                        I made my first two loaves of Boule bread yesterday. It was a little bit tricky working with such a soft dough. I know it's supposed to be wet but maybe mine was a little bit too wet. I was still able to get it onto the peel and somewhat shaped. It did stick to my hands when I pulled a grapefruit-sized hunk of it out of the tub. It wasn't too bad to slide it from the peel onto the stone, either. The bread was really delicious, and had a great texture despite the absence of kneading. It was somewhat damp inside, because it is such a wet dough, but that was ok. Maybe I would bake it a little longer next time. The only issue I had was with the baking stone. I also wanted to make a pie, but you have to put the baking stone in a cold oven, so I ended up baking the pie with the stone in the oven. I think that might have messed up the timing for the pie. It needed to bake an extra 10 minutes (it was a custard-type pie and wasn't firming up). Plus, you're supposed to leave the stone in the oven until it cools. It's heavy and hot and there wouldnt' be any place to safely put it. So I think it will be hard to bake bread when I want to use the oven for other things. Especially on a major oven day like Thanksgiving or Christmas.

                        1. re: AmyH

                          If you have an outdoor grill, I have seen pizza and bread baked in those. I have not tried it yet - the stones cost $100. But I am planning a purchase as soon as I get rid of these pesky xmas bills.

                          1. re: AmyH

                            I keep my stone on the floor of the oven and never remove it. Is that an option for you? If I'm making something that might drip or is likely to mess up the oven, such as Zuni chicken, I'll cover the stone with foil just so it doesn't get too gunky. When baking pies, I often bake them directly on the stone to ensure a crisp bottom crust. It's odd that your pie took 10 minutes longer than usual. Perhaps your oven hadn't come up to the correct temperature? It does take somewhat longer for the oven to come to temp with the stone in it, but once at temp it should hold that temp more steadily with than without the stone.

                            1. re: JoanN

                              Maybe that was the problem with the pie. I was in a hurry. The oven beeped that it was at temperature, but possibly it wasn't. That's an interesting idea about leaving the stone in the oven. I could do that because the electric coil is sealed under the floor of the oven. Does that shorten the life of the stone at all?

                              To NE Elaine: the stone I bought was $20 at Bed Bath & Beyond. It was a "kit" with a pizza cutter wheel and a rack for putting the hot stone on, I guess if you want to serve the pizza directly from it. And I used one of those 20% off coupons they keep sending me, so it was $16. The book does mention making pizza and bread on the stone in your grill. I may try that in the summer. No grilling in upstate NY in the winter!

                              1. re: AmyH

                                "Does that shorten the life of the stone at all?"

                                It shouldn't. I've had tiles break on me, but they do do that. I don't think it was a result of keeping it in the oven. I know many people keep their stones in the oven and I've heard no anecdotal reports of an increase in breakage for that reason.

                                1. re: JoanN

                                  Thank you JoanN. I just may try that, especially if I'll be baking bread a couple of times a week. It would be much easier than letting it cool, putting it back in the box and schlepping it down to the basement. And it won't take up an oven rack that way. I appreciate your suggestion!

                        2. One editorial comment: You might consider getting a good digital scale that measures in grams - it is really helpful for making bread.

                          You might try Bread: A bakers book of techniques and recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman, or Alton Brown's I'm Just Here for More Food: Food x Mixing + Heat = Baking. I think that Baking Illustrated volume from Cooks Illustrated might also have good guidance. I started off with Beard on Bread, which seems ubiquitous in used book stores - I found myself with more than one copy somehow!

                          I took a breadmaking course at a yoga center in the Berkshires last year - there were beginners as well as one nutty woman who ground her own flour. It radically changed the quality of the bread I could produce. http://www.kripalu.org/program/view/A...

                          1. Why not start with something simple like pizza using already prepared pizza dough. No cook book needed... go to your local pizza shop (I like bettuccis - they even roll it out for you) and buy some pizza dough. Bring it home and put on your pizza stone (heated) and add whatever toppings you love... no cookbook needed... once you master that THEN start bread making. I find making bread to be a frustrating chore that doesn't always yeild the best tasting/techtured products and I consider my self to be a great cook/baker.... KISS Keep it simple sometimes.