Baking bread on Quarry Tiles

There’s been a burn ban in effect for a week here at Chez Bullhog. The air hangs heavy, and in small towns out towards the mountains woodstove smoke escapes chimneys only to spread flat in the air. No outdoor fires; no firing up the oven today. It’s the perfect kind of day for second best: indoor baking in an oven lined with quarry tiles.

Quarry tiles are unglazed ceramic tiles. They’re laughably low-tech and simple to use, but are extremely effective in getting the bottom of a free-standing loaf of bread to be rounded instead of flat, and in getting the crust to be, well, crustier. You can buy quarry tiles at your local tile store for about a buck apiece. If you buy six and put them in a 3×2 pattern on the center rack, you will instantly convert your oven to be better suited to baking. For best results, you’ll need to preheat your oven for a good half hour.

I slip bread or pizzas directly onto the tiles with a wooden peel. For baguettes, I use three long pieces of mat board, so that I can slip the unwieldy loaves into my oven sideways. I’ve also had good success baking panned rolls and even casseroles on the quarry tiles, which come out more evenly cooked when baked this way. Recently, I heard a conversation with a cookie afficianado, who used quarry tiles for her prize-winning cookies.

Here’s a straightforward recipe for whole wheat bread that we bake directly on quarry tiles. My family loves it and I hope you do, too!

 

Whole Wheat Bread baked on Quarry Tiles

Whole wheat in oven 600w

Makes one big 2 ¼ pound loaf

 

2 cups whole wheat flour

(Bob’s Red Mill or similar)

2 cups unbleached bread flour

(Pendleton Mills or similar)

1 ½ teaspoons salt

2 ½ teaspoons dry yeast

1 ¾ cups water at 100º f

 

1 Tablespoon Canola oil for greasing bowl

Extra flour for kneading and finishing

 

Make the dough:  Put the dry ingredient into a bread bowl.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the water.  Using the handle of a wooden spoon, mix to incorporate.

Knead the dough: Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured counter, and knead vigorously for 8 to 10 minutes.  Bring the edges of the dough in to the center several times toward the end to develop the gluten.

First rise: Sprinkle canola oil into a clean bowl, put the dough into it and then turn so that the oiled part is up.  Cover bowl, and put into a warm place to let double in size.  This will mean 2 hours at 80º or 3 hours at 70º.

Second rise: Punch the dough down and let rise for a further 2 hours at room temperature.

Shape loaf and final rise: On the counter, deflate the largest bubbles from the dough turn its edges under to make a loaf, and let sit for 10 minutes to dry. Coat the crevices of a banneton with whole wheat flour (if you’re aiming for the crust as shown in the photo), or rub flour into a cloth napkin and lay it into a round basket about 11” across.  Sprinkle whole wheat flour onto the loaf, put rounded side down in the basket or banneton,cover with a cloth and let proof for an hour.

Bake the loaf: Preheat your oven lined with quarry tiles for at least half an hour at 450º.  When the oven is hot, turn the banneton or basket over onto a floured paddle and slip the proofed loaf directly onto the hot tile.  Bake for 15 minutes at 450º, then lower the temperature to 400º and bake for a further 40 minutes. 

Cool on a rack for half an hour before digging in.

 

Notes: 

The underside of the quarry tiles may be sharp. Handle them carefully.

You can stack the quarry tiles 2-deep with excellent results.

You can use a pizza stone instead of quarry tiles if you like with similar results.

 

Quarry Tiles being used two deep

Quarry Tiles being used two deep

19 comments to Baking bread on Quarry Tiles

  • And it makes such a gorgeous loaf! When are we invited over ?:)

  • I love artisan bread. Yours looks perfect! Banneton are too expensive here…sighs.
    I use tiles (and stones) to bake sourdough bread too.

  • My pizza stone is in 3 pieces from repeated use, and I won’t fork out the money for another, as I expect it will happen again! These tiles work so well.
    I got the banneton as a gift one year, and I only use it for this whole wheat bread. My Como loaves, which are the daily bread here, I proof in baskets lined with cloth.
    Thanks for your comments!

  • This bread look amazing! I’ll look for quarry tiles tomorrow and try them in my oven. Living in Boquete, Panama makes it impossible to get whole wheat flour, but I’ll try it with my favorite bread recipe, proof it in a basket and blog about it using your tiles. Thanks for the idea!

  • Andrew

    Wonderful recipe, though, where does one find quarry tiles in seattle? I looked in my local home depot without success!

  • Home Depot used to carry them, but doesn’t anymore. Tiles For Less on 1st Ave South across from the SODO building has them. Good luck and happy baking!

  • Hi,
    your loaf looks beautiful, what sized banneton are you using?

  • Fay

    Hi

    I am a newbie in bread baking and I’ve learned a lot from your site, thank you very much :-)
    Now I’m investing in my first automatic gas oven and I have a few questions about baking stone…
    1. I’m hesitating in paying so much for the commercial baking stone and wondering if the unglazed quarry tiles will do the same job??
    I’ve seen your picture above and you use 2 layers of tiles, what’s the purpose in stacking them up?
    2. Is the thickness of the tile matter, I’ve heard that you should look for 3/4 – 1″ thick for durability…
    3. Would steaming your oven with garden mister make the tile crack or explode? I’ve read a couple of posts in other website and there’re some scary story of how a drop of water on hot tile or stone make a sudden explosion :-(

    Thank you in advance for your reply, I appreciate it :-)

  • First of all, welcome to the wonderful world of bread baking. If you stick to a few basics – be firm with your dough when kneading, patient with your dough when it’s rising and don’t proof it too hot or you’ll deplete your yeast – you can look forward to many years of successful bread. Somewhere down the list of things you’ll work toward is crust development, and that’s where lining your oven becomes important.

    If you stick a ball of proofed dough onto a cookie sheet and put it on the center rack of a preheated oven, it will cook from the top down in the first 10 minutes, right at the critical time for a free-standing loaf to get its final rise (the bloom). The loaf will look like an inverted bowl, with a flat bottom and a rounded top. This happens because it takes the cookie sheet a while to heat up and relay its heat to the dough.

    When you either use a pizza stone or quarry tiles in your oven, the clay heats up, becoming 425º or so after 30 minutes of preheating. Now, when you slip the same ball of proofed dough into the oven, your loaf will spring up – being heated from the bottom as well as the top.

    A thicker stone or two layers of quarry tile is definitely better for heat transfer, but takes longer to heat. If you can afford a good stone, go for it. Be aware that it will be bulky to move and store. (In River Cottage’s bread book, Daniel Stevens uses one that is 2 inches thick and must weigh 50 pounds!)

    I can’t answer the question about an exploding tile. When I put water into the oven to help the bloom, I use a cast iron skillet, well-preheated on a lower rack. The water never gets near the tile, though I’m very careful to keep it away from the glass on the oven door!

    So why do I use quarry tiles? In a nutshell, I’m tired of paying 40 bucks for a pizza stone, only to have it break. I stood in Dick’s Restaurant Supply here in Seattle considering an 85 dollar upgrade when I determined I would try the quarry tiles instead. Three years later I’m happy with my decision.

    Cheers and happy baking!

  • Fay

    HI Donald

    Thank you SO MUCH for your immediate response and for taking time and effort in writing a long and detailed answer! You are very kind :-)

    The thing is I live in Thailand where good bread is almost impossible to find, that’s the reason I start baking my own bread and now even thinking of selling them to the local store. And because there’re so few of a professional bread baker, the supply of good oven suitable for baking bread is even more impossible…

    After a long search, I’ve decided on a 4 tray/ automatic gas oven from a local supplier. It’ll cost me around $ 1,500, and $ 150 more to line the bottom of the oven with baking stone…The oven will look somewhat like the one in this link, but a 4 tray instead of 2.
    http://bakeryeasy.net/detail%20spec1/002gas%20auto%20oven.html

    My problem now as you can see is the chamber of the oven is only 22 cm high and have no shelf!
    If I line it with tiles at the bottom and bake my bread on it, I have no shelf or extra space to place a broiler tray or iron skillet to pour water and create the steam. The only way for steam is through a garden mister and I don’t know if it’s safe for the tile since that it’s very likely there’ll be a direct contact of water and tiles.

    Should I even bother searching for quarry tiles or should I just pay $150 for the baking stone?
    Or they both will break anyway from the steam and I should use the tiles since it’s cheaper?

    Thank you so much :-)

  • Hi Fay,

    For commercial applications, use the baking stone. It will be well worth the money. The quarry tiles may frustrate you because they tend to move around on the rack, which isn’t a problem for light use in the home.

    If you are truly misting your oven, and not spilling cold water on the stone, I see no reason for this to crack or break the stone. Steam doesn’t affect stones the way that the shock of cold water might.

    Cheers

  • Fay

    Hi Don

    Thank you for your reply!
    Alright then, I’ll go with the baking stone, hopefully it’ll not break too soon :-)

    Cheers!

  • rolls

    hi ive always wanted to try this, but the long preheat always put me off. my oven is electric with a fan, could you please tell me how long id have to preheat and also, does the double layer make much of a difference and would i have to preheat for longer? hope that was clear enough,

    thanks

  • [...] See ‘Baking Bread on Quarry Tiles’ for more info or click HERE [...]

  • Charlie

    Your bread looks so good and certainly worth duplicating.

    With your pizza stone, don’t you soak them first?

  • [...] Photos: quarry tiles woodfiredkitchen.com [...]

  • Paula

    I have never baked bread on a tile and thank you for the info here. Hoping to begin baking after a very long hiatus I got my very large unglazed tile from a local home design/architecural firm. Used as a demo to clients, they were going to throw it away! A terrific freebe!

  • Esu

    PERFECT WHITE BREAD Two loaves of bread crisp of crust and edentr of crumb.1 pkg. active dry yeast1 c. lukewarm water2 tbsp. sugar2 tsp. salt1/4 c. Crisco1 c. hot milk5 to 6 c. enriched flourSoften yeast in 1/4 cup of the lukewarm water for 5 minutes, then stir until blended. Measure sugar, salt and Crisco into mixing bowl, pour hot milk over them and stir, mashing Crisco against sides of bowl until broken into small lumps. Add remaining water and cool to lukewarm. Stir in 1 cup flour. Add yeast and 2 more cups flour and beat with a wooden spoon until batter is smooth and elastic. Stir in 1 1/2 to 2 cups more flour, then, with floured fingers, work in enough additional flour to make a soft dough that does not stock to the fingers.Turn dough onto lightly floured board and knead for 2 minutes, about 100 kneading strokes. Shape dough into a ball and put it in a bowl rubbed with Crisco. Spread surface of dough lightly with Crisco, cover with a towel and let dough rise until double in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. Punch dough down and turn onto floured board. Cut dough in half and shape each half into a smooth ball. Shape each ball into a loaf and put into bread pan rubbed with Crisco. Cover pans with a towel and let bread rise until the sides of the raised bread reach the top of the pans and the center is nicely rounded above it, about 1 hour.To bake: Bake loaves at 400 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes, or until golden brown.When baked: Turn loaves from pans immediately to keep crust crisp, and cool on a cake rack. For a soft, edentr crust: Brush loaves with Crisco as soon as they come from oven. quantum I gave this recipe to a lady who was cooking for 4 comercial fishermen and in her commentsshe liked it very much. I hope you do also.But remember home made bread will not be as light and fluffy as commercial bread. jim b

  • Anita

    I am going just about crazy trying to find quarry baking tiles to used to bake french bread. Can someone please direct me to a website or a store or someplace. I used to have them and cannot remember just where I got them. Please help!!
    Thanks.

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