So I made a pizza last night, using a grocery gift card from a thankful houseguest. I was off work early and was looking forward to lots of elaborate chopping and dish-cleaning. Call me a cooking masochist. The final product was delish but a little too crispy. I remember thinking, “OK do the exact same thing next time but decrease by 5 minutes.”
It was the first time I had used the new pizza stone correctly. The last time it took like 35 minutes because I didn’t preheat the stone; I was pussyfooting around the hard part: moving a raw pizza skillfully onto a hot stone. This time it was only 15 minutes, which is an amazing decrease! Well, I cheated a little. Instead of making the pizza and sliding it onto the stone, I took the hot stone out and quickly made the pizza on top of the stove. I don’t think it lost too much heat in the 3 minutes or whatever it took.
But let me back up a bit.
I forgot to mention the epic kitchen casualty — the whole reason for this post. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this in past recipes, but I commonly like to have steam in the oven. I don’t have a good oven, much less a good convection oven, so in my imagination this is the next best thing: super-hot steam swirling around, cooking the outer surfaces that much faster. So I did as I usually do and started by putting a big Pyrex dish in the bottom of the cold oven and filled it with water. Sometimes I use a cast iron pan, but then obviously I run the risk of rust.
J was running late because he was talking to someone on the way home from the subway, so he just kept walking while they talked. By 7:20 I had all of the prep, dough, and even the dishes done — but no sign of J. As I sipped on my craft double bock Christmas stout, I realized I was probably running out of steam by now. The oven had been preheating at 500 degrees for at least an hour. Surely the Pyrex was getting empty. I put my glass down, filled a cup with warm water, and opened the oven. Carefully taking out the very hot pizza stone and its wire rack, I set those on top of the stove. With cats watching from afar, I carefully poured in the extra water thinking nothing of it.
The Pyrex dish instantly shattered into a hundred chunks, all…over…the…oven. “Fuck,” I shouted!
So by this point, I had all of my prep done, but no actual pizza was being cooked. The inspired addition of extra water for steam was ironically preventing me from cooking anything at all! I grabbed the mini dust pan and broom but then realized, “oh right, this glass is scorching hot…not to mention the oven itself. These won’t do.” I grabbed a pair of nylon tongs and began picking up the pieces one by one. It reminded me of frying popcorn shrimp, but, you know…less edible. Running through my head were the following thoughts:
- J is going to come in at any minute, take one look at the kitchen, and go straight to Delivery.com
- The oven, not to mention the precious pizza stone, is losing heat left and right as I clean the glass. Remember when you were making a pizza?
- Damn, that’s a crapton of glass! This is taking forever.
I realized the proper triage would be to not worry about the glass for now and finish the pizza. With consensus from 2/3 of the cats, I jammed the wire rack and pizza stone back in, cleaned up whatever fell on the floor, and hoped J wouldn’t realize. He actually never did. So take that, Physics.
As I mentioned, the finished pizza was a little too crispy but overall great. The pizza stone really does help. Sure, our apartment filled with smoke, setting off all of the alarms for 20 minutes, but I think that’s more an internal problem than a problem with pizza stones in general. I personally like pizzas with hints of burned crust here and there anyway. I of course also love the industrially perfect Pizza Hut/Dominos crusts; this is just something different.
Of course by the next morning, the kitchen was a total mess, and I set to rectifying that first thing. I cleaned all of the dishes, the counters, the stove-top, and then finally the carcass of the Pyrex dish inside the oven. It was tragic yet somehow comforting. “Your sacrifice was not in vain, little buddy,” I thought consolingly to the dish. It was one of the last of my original baking dishes brought to NYC over 5 years ago, and it will be missed.
Finally, I set off to cleaning the pizza stone itself. Now mind you, ceramic is just about the least nonstick material as far as I can tell. I read online that you should [unhelpfully] always clean a pizza stone with cold water and never soap, because it could be absorbed and impart bad flavors into your next crust. “Ugh, OK, ” I grimaced to myself.
For the most part, a good deal of scraping and cold water did clean it quite well, but there was of course still that black discoloration that, you know, bothers me. It probably wouldn’t ruin the next pizza, but it’s ugly. Realizing elbow grease was going to be necessary, I set the pizza stone into the sink. It is small enough to fit within our shitty NYC sink but still too big to rest on the basin. It sort of wobbled a few inches from the bottom. With the cold water running I took to some serious scraping. Wire brushes, pastry scrapers, anything was fair game.
I was nearly finished, merely getting some of the trouble spots around the handles — vanity cleaning, if you will — when the stone suddenly shattered in my hands.
This pizza cost me two baking dishes.