Author Topic: StrayBullet and the Holy Soapstone  (Read 4958 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline StrayBullet

  • Registered User
  • Posts: 426
StrayBullet and the Holy Soapstone
« on: July 16, 2010, 11:11:38 PM »
Last week when I found this site and started down the road of pizza "perfection" I thought I'd scored a stone for the mere sum of $63 and even passed along the information via the forum (at least 2 people here in Tampa called!) and to my utter dismay I was informed later that day that the sales person was mistaken and they didn't have any soapstone.

I then started calling around to a few places (I was back at work, so meandering around the industrial tile area of Tampa was out) and quickly realized I was better off calling stores that specialized in marble, etc as they were much more likely to carry Soapstone compared to a Tile store, etc.  I also realized it's all in how you ask  ;)  If you simply ask if they carry the stone and if they can cut a piece, you'll be quoted the going sq ft rate which makes these things pricey!  A few of the places quoted ranges like $125 and more!

You don't want to have to buy an entire slab just to get a 16x16, piece and you sure as heck don't want to pay slab rate for something they most likely already have left over from another job ;)  So once you've confirmed that they carry it, ask if they have any remnants and if they can cut a piece to your desired size; you just might be pleasantly surprised!

I don't want to pass along the information quite yet, don't need to repeat my previous mistake but if all goes well, on Tuesday I should have a new 17x17x1.25  $75 Soapstone :D  If all goes well, I'll pass along the info....I know they have several other pieces that would fit this size a few times over!

Mark


scott123

  • Guest
Re: StrayBullet and the Holy Soapstone
« Reply #1 on: July 16, 2010, 11:56:50 PM »
Congratulations!!! Let's hope it all works out, both for you, and for others.

Offline StrayBullet

  • Registered User
  • Posts: 426
Re: StrayBullet and the Holy Soapstone
« Reply #2 on: July 21, 2010, 08:01:11 PM »
Stone is home and dough is asleep....can't wait to fire this baby up :D

Old stone compared to the new stone, new stone, and widths compared...

Offline Jackie Tran

  • Registered User
  • Posts: 6988
  • Location: Albuquerque NM
Re: StrayBullet and the Holy Soapstone
« Reply #3 on: July 21, 2010, 08:19:30 PM »
Wow I'm jealous.  Maybe I can inquire about them shipping me a piece.  Around $100 and I'm game.

JT

scott123

  • Guest
Re: StrayBullet and the Holy Soapstone
« Reply #4 on: July 21, 2010, 08:24:37 PM »
Mark, I have some really bad news for you.  Exceptionally bad news.  It could be the lighting, but I'm 99% certain that the stone you bought is marble  :( Green marble.

Sorry.

I'm attaching a green marble photo for reference. Soapstone image to come.
« Last Edit: July 21, 2010, 09:07:29 PM by scott123 »

scott123

  • Guest
Re: StrayBullet and the Holy Soapstone
« Reply #5 on: July 21, 2010, 08:32:59 PM »
Here's a post with images of soapstone. This piece has a polished and a dull side, but most of the time, both sides are dull:

http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,10224.msg94125.html#msg94125

Bear in mind that soapstone can vary depending on where it's quarried, but, for the most part it looks like this- gray and dull.

Offline StrayBullet

  • Registered User
  • Posts: 426
Re: StrayBullet and the Holy Soapstone
« Reply #6 on: July 21, 2010, 08:47:35 PM »
Jackie...looks like I have issues to work out yet again.  If I get this thing angled out, I'll provide the contact :)

Here's a post with images of soapstone. This piece has a polished and a dull side, but most of the time, both sides are dull:

http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,10224.msg94125.html#msg94125

Bear in mind that soapstone can vary depending on where it's quarried, but, for the most part it looks like this- gray and dull.

Well  damn....when I walked through their extensive yard, she showed me several remnant pieces that all look like the pic you quoted above and what I picked up today definitely doesn't look like that :(.  I know for a fact what I saw there is what you've shown above.  I'm going back tomorrow (thankfully close to work) and straighten things out; thankfully I have a contract ;)

Worst case scenario, I use this as a portable kitchen working table/surface and work out a new soapstone with my contact in Punta Gorda for about 1/2 the price!

Thanks Scott!
« Last Edit: July 21, 2010, 08:51:08 PM by StrayBullet »

scott123

  • Guest
Re: StrayBullet and the Holy Soapstone
« Reply #7 on: July 21, 2010, 09:07:00 PM »
Mark, I applaud your positive outlook  :) Blue marble is the classic pizza making bench surface, but I'm sure green marble will work just as well (and just as beautifully). Marble is also the classic surface for working with chocolate. Have you gotten that bug yet?

I wish I could teleport you to my kitchen so you could see the stone I have and run your hand across it.  Soapstone is a source of talc, and, although, from what I've been reading, the slab kind that bakers use is fairly low in talc, it's still has a bit of a talc-y feel to it. Once you feel soapstone, it's almost impossible to confuse it with anything else.

The saga continues! Good luck!  :)

« Last Edit: July 21, 2010, 11:00:15 PM by scott123 »

Offline StrayBullet

  • Registered User
  • Posts: 426
Re: StrayBullet and the Holy Soapstone
« Reply #8 on: July 21, 2010, 10:26:36 PM »
Mark, I applaud your positive outlook  :) Blue marble is the classic pizza making bench surface, but I'm sure green marble will work just as well (and just as beautifully). Marble is also the classic surface for working with chocolate. Have you gotten that bug yet?

Thanks, a bit unusual for me but I think I took my wife's meds tonite instead of mine :D  As for the "working bench" idea, green has always been a favorite color of mine and for the chocolate, that's the reason I haven't gone down that road too far; I didn't have a proper tempering bench.  I do make French Macarons with a chocolate ganache that is amazing!

Too bad I can't take you up on the offer, I'd bring the macaraons :D

One way or the other, I'll end up with a stone and since my grilling experiment went so well last week, I'm not worried about going without this week :)

scott123

  • Guest
Re: StrayBullet and the Holy Soapstone
« Reply #9 on: July 21, 2010, 10:34:19 PM »
I'm curious, how well do macarons ship?  8)


Offline StrayBullet

  • Registered User
  • Posts: 426
Re: StrayBullet and the Holy Soapstone
« Reply #10 on: July 21, 2010, 10:42:55 PM »
The issue is the packaging.  I've seen pro setups that have one sitting in their own molded cup, 12 per tray.  They're best done fresh, that is after a day's rest, it's the fragility that's the issue.  With all the help I've had, I need to figure out a way to get you a batch :)

scott123

  • Guest
Re: StrayBullet and the Holy Soapstone
« Reply #11 on: July 21, 2010, 10:59:05 PM »
Normally, when I pander, it's not quite so blatant, but these are macarons we're talking about here :) I've only had them once, but the experience left quite a lasting impression.

Offline StrayBullet

  • Registered User
  • Posts: 426
Re: StrayBullet and the Holy Soapstone
« Reply #12 on: July 25, 2010, 11:42:54 AM »
I very well may have to see what I can cook up for ya :)

As for the stone, I went to 3 different places on Friday asking each to identify the stone.  The first ruled out marble and granite but could not say what it was.  The second stated it was soapstone, as did the third; so I tried it out.  I did a long pre-heat soak and cool down before baking for the first time just to check things out.

It took well over an hour just to get the stone to 500o and if you're looking for 60-90 minutes of pre-heat time after arriving at temp, this this process will use up some juice.  The pie baked up in 6 minutes and looked great.  The stone retains a TON of heat!  If you're hosting a party, I can see the benefit...for 2 people (1 pie, etc) I think this may be overkill.  I'm not sure if I can detect a cooking difference between the smaller/thinner stone from WS or the 1.25 soapstone, I just may not be sophisticated enough.

On the grill, I can use the smaller stone, heated for 20 minutes, the fire off a pie in 4 minutes or so with great grill flavor and char, but it's all about the particular outcome someone is looking for.  For $75, it's a "cheap test" and since I bake bread too, this may come in handy there :)

Offline sconosciuto

  • Registered User
  • Posts: 89
  • A man of extremes
Re: StrayBullet and the Holy Soapstone
« Reply #13 on: July 25, 2010, 02:57:31 PM »
I very well may have to see what I can cook up for ya :)

As for the stone, I went to 3 different places on Friday asking each to identify the stone.  The first ruled out marble and granite but could not say what it was.  The second stated it was soapstone, as did the third; so I tried it out.  I did a long pre-heat soak and cool down before baking for the first time just to check things out.

It took well over an hour just to get the stone to 500o and if you're looking for 60-90 minutes of pre-heat time after arriving at temp, this this process will use up some juice.  The pie baked up in 6 minutes and looked great.  The stone retains a TON of heat!  If you're hosting a party, I can see the benefit...for 2 people (1 pie, etc) I think this may be overkill.  I'm not sure if I can detect a cooking difference between the smaller/thinner stone from WS or the 1.25 soapstone, I just may not be sophisticated enough.

On the grill, I can use the smaller stone, heated for 20 minutes, the fire off a pie in 4 minutes or so with great grill flavor and char, but it's all about the particular outcome someone is looking for.  For $75, it's a "cheap test" and since I bake bread too, this may come in handy there :)

...and if you're unhappy with it you can just send it to me, I'll put it to good use! ;D

Offline StrayBullet

  • Registered User
  • Posts: 426
Re: StrayBullet and the Holy Soapstone
« Reply #14 on: July 26, 2010, 12:05:39 PM »
I don't think I'm ready to give up the ghost quite yet, just pointing out that based on desired outcomes, different cooking applications can achieve similar results :)

scott123

  • Guest
Re: StrayBullet and the Holy Soapstone
« Reply #15 on: July 27, 2010, 10:25:16 AM »
That's a nice looking pie, Mark. Baking time?

I did a little research on your stone.  Basically, stone identification can get pretty imprecise.

To begin with, the term 'soapstone,' in itself, is not designated scientifically. Someone, years ago, rubbed a stone containing a high quantity of talc, and, based upon the soapy feeling it gave off, coined the term 'soapstone.'  Over the years, 'soapstone' has taken on a very wide meaning.  The kind we use/need, the variety with the necessary thermal characteristics, is pretty narrowly defined (dark gray/powdery), but other stones have wedged their way under the umbrella.  One of these stones is serpentine:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serpentine_group

If you go to the bottom of the page, you'll see a photo of polished serpentine that's almost identical to yours.  I initially referred to your stone as 'green marble.' Many people classify serpentine as marble.  The owner of one of the larger soapstone distributors (Teixeira) talks about some of the confusion over the use of the word here:

http://ths.gardenweb.com/forums/load/kitchbath/msg072015087866.html (towards the bottom of the page).

That same forum has a discussion where the differences between serpentine and soapstone are gone over:

http://ths.gardenweb.com/forums/load/kitchbath/msg0422251010723.html

Confused yet? I know I am.  I think there's three factors that are clouding this issue.

1.  Mother nature doesn't use recipes.  She makes stones out of whatever is around.  A particular vein of serpentine might actually have some talc in it, and, when  you start adding talc to stone, you enter in the soapstone realm.

2. Soapstone is very rare and very expensive. Serpentine, not so much. Serpentine is also very pretty and, although slightly green, is closest in appearance to soapstone of all of the marbles.

3. Soapstone's rarity translates into very few stone suppliers being aware of what it looks like.  From what I can tell, there's only one outfit in your area that could truly identify soapstone and that would  be Creative Soapstone (Punta Gorda)- and they're no guarantee as they may include serpentine under the soapstone umbrella.

I'm going to give your stone suppliers the benefit of the doubt and lean towards ignorance rather than fraud.

Regardless of whether or not serpentine can be classified as soapstone, the stone that you purchased does NOT possess the necessary thermal properties for baking.  You've already begun to see this by the amount of time it takes to preheat.  If your oven goes to 550, soapstone should have absolutely no problem reaching that temperature in an hour.  Marble/serpentine are in the 2-3 W/mK realm of thermal conductivity, while soapstone is 6.4. A less thermal conductive stone will take longer to preheat and will transfer less heat to the pizza resulting in a longer baking time. 

One of the most important aspects of conductivity is that it allows heat to travel through the stone in a more even manner. Uneven heating usually translates into uneven thermal expansion.  Uneven thermal expansion, in turn, results in structural failure.  This is why you never ever (ever!) want to bake with marble (or granite, or slate, or any other rock that isn't soapstone).  It's not a question of if it will crack, but when.  In the high temps of baking pizza, it will be quick.  And then your gorgeous $75 stone, that could have been used to temper chocolate (or other applications that utilize marble's properties/beauty), will be toast.

Take the stone out of the oven and never heat it again.  Track down the real deal (See photo below).  The left side is treated with mineral oil (you almost never find it like this).  You want a gray, powdery, talc-y, soapy feeling stone with absolutely no shine.

P.S. Although I did say I was 99% certain before, and now, with the heating characteristics, I'm 99.9% certain that you're working with the wrong stone. Just to be 100% sure, could you take a few more photos of the stone? Front and back, in daylight, would be helpful.

Offline sear

  • Registered User
  • Posts: 366
  • Age: 31
  • Location: ny
Re: StrayBullet and the Holy Soapstone
« Reply #16 on: July 27, 2010, 11:30:48 AM »
Damn, hell of a time your having there.
The pie looks like it came out very good tho !

interesting to note : i recently tried my soapstone in the gas grill (indirect grill)
and it heated up to 650 in around 45 minutes.
i tried the same thing with my heavy 15" cast iron pan and it maxed out at 600 at 1hour
where as the soapstone seemed to still be getting hotter.

scott123

  • Guest
Re: StrayBullet and the Holy Soapstone
« Reply #17 on: July 27, 2010, 11:45:52 AM »
Sear, it's just a theory, but it might relate in some way to emissivity.  At 600, the seasoning on your cast iron had baked away, right?  Maybe the reflectivity of the iron might have messed with the reading.

Either that or the iron was so conductive that by the time you could take the reading, it had lost a little heat.  Iron is going to give off it's heat to the ambient air very quickly.

Offline StrayBullet

  • Registered User
  • Posts: 426
Re: StrayBullet and the Holy Soapstone
« Reply #18 on: July 27, 2010, 07:49:44 PM »
Scott, that's some real detective work; I'm just about obligated on those Macarons now :D

I should be able to drop by the place here in Tampa and scope out what I know they have and what they showed me the first time.  I just hope they do the right thing.  As for the Punta Gorda location, I'm calling them tomorrow to inquire about the color of the stone I was quoted.  Thanks again!

Oh, and do you have any favorite flavors?  What was the macaron you'd tried before and just curious, where did you come across them?

Damn, hell of a time your having there.
The pie looks like it came out very good tho !

Thanks....and you can say that again!

scott123

  • Guest
Re: StrayBullet and the Holy Soapstone
« Reply #19 on: July 28, 2010, 12:55:09 AM »
Mark, I was kind of kidding about the macarons.  Don't sweat it. My macaron experience was probably one of the culinary highlights of my life, but I think, without a trip to France, it's probably impossible to recreate.  I've actually looked at recipes over the years, and am pretty good at reverse engineering, but the macarons I tasted have me totally stumped.  Someone brought them into the office or they were a gift from a client.  I have no idea where they came from.  Most likely a NY bakery.  I was expecting something crunchy and light, but instead got something incredibly creamy and rich. Visually, it was probably 25% filling, but it tasted like it was 90% filling.  I don't think the icing was butter based, as I generally don't enjoy butter based icings.  I don't think it was shortening either.  It definitely wasn't whipped cream.  I remember at least 4 flavors/colors- pistachio (green), chocolate, coffee and raspberry, although there might have been a pale blue.

Do you have ring dings down in Florida?  It was kind of like biting into a ring ding and expecting a certain cake to filling ratio, but the machine messed up and it was almost all filling- but this was about a thousand times better.

Anyway, back to soapstone :) Here are a few of the stones Punta Gorda carries:

http://www.creativesoapstone.com/gallery.html

When you inquire, make sure to ask for a 'classic' high talc stone that has a soft silky texture. Talc is our thermodynamic friend. As the talc content increases, the thermal conductivity/resistance to thermal shock increases.  A pure talc slab would be too soft to bake with, but none of the countertop folks carry that. I believe the 'classic' soapstone is somewhere in the 60 to 80% talc realm.
« Last Edit: July 28, 2010, 06:53:52 AM by scott123 »