Stone baking a pizza is superior to oven cooking. The shorter cooking time leaves you with a base that's crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, toppings that retain their nutrient value and, most importantly, a meal packed full of flavour. Unfortunately, stone baking ovens are a luxury that few can enjoy. However, there are ways to replicate the stone baking method and unique flavour it can provide using a regular oven.
Prepare the Dough
Begin by pre-heating your oven to 450 degrees – the higher the temperature the better. Roll out the dough to create a circular pizza base (it doesn't have to be perfect). Place parchment paper on an oven tray, sprinkle a light layer of cornflour onto it and slide the base on top. Prick the dough with a fork to prevent bubbles from protruding from the surface. Drizzle olive oil over the base, along with a generous seasoning of salt, pepper and basil.
Bake the Base
After 30 minutes of pre-heating, par bake the dough on the top shelf of the oven for around three minutes. When complete, slide the pizza off the parchment paper and directly onto the oven's wire rack. If there is any sagging beneath the base, put it back onto the tray and parchment paper and continue baking for another minute or two. Close the oven door and leave the base to bake on the wire rack for a further three minutes. This process may seem tedious; however, baking on the parchment paper will give the dough just enough strength to prevent sagging. This will allow you to cook the pizza on a wire rack and uniformly heat the base.
Add the Toppings
When complete, remove the base and close the oven door immediately – you don't want to lose that precious heat! Add your toppings. For a traditional, stone baked Italian pizza simply add a thin layer of passata (sieved tomatoes), a generous helping of cubed mozzarella and a tablespoon of olive oil. Put the pizza back into the oven on the top shelf for three to five minutes, or until golden brown. When you remove the pizza from the oven it should be crispy on the outside, soft in the middle, and have retained all of the beautiful flavours.
The next time you feel like a take away pizza, try preparing your own from scratch – follow this guide and you won't be disappointed!