Holy Smoking Oven Stone...,
My old baking stone cracked in two last week. Got 25 years out of it. Not bad considering the abuse it was subject to. Ordered a new stone from Amazon which is made by the "Old Stone Oven Corp". It is molded blast furnace clay composite which is a light pinkish - red in color. Read over the brochure and washed it with water as advised. Let it air dry and put it away till baking time. Placed it in the oven and set the temperature at 450 dF as usual. Twenty minutes later I open the oven door to place the dough on the stone. To my surprise the stone was emitting steam like a high pressure boiler in overdrive. I proceeded to place the loaf on the stone with its parchment paper underneath with the stainless steel steam pan upside down as a cloche. Fifteen minutes later the cloche pan and parchment were removed and bread allowed to bake for 17 minutes longer. The oven was opened to remove the loaf to the cooling screen. The loaf was firmly stuck to the oven stone. Some fast work with a French Spatula freed the loaf but with some of the crust remaining on the stone (it tasted good too).
The moral of this story is to always heat the stone to remove all water before using it after water washing (500 dF for 30 to 60 minutes prior to baking). The blast furnace type refractory material absorbs an almost unbelievable amount of water and would make a great steam source if it weren't for the fact that's not it's purpose.
We're innundated with fresh Basil currently and I was thinking about a making a Pesto flavored sourdough. Anyone have any ideas on this?