A recent post on the wonderful Wild Yeast blog is singing the praises of baking stones, specifically Fibrament brand stones. The argument is
If you’re after crusty artisan (or artisanal, if you’re so inclined) hearth-style breads, that thing that holds your bread in the oven should be a baking stone.Everyone from Alton Brown to James Brown seems to agree that you can't be a serious home baker without the stone. This is great news for people selling oven stones, but is it true? No! Exaggeration! Good bread is 90% about getting the dough right. That means starter activity, hydration and shaping are everything. The other 10% is knowing how to make your oven a welcoming place for bread. The secret is... wait for it... HUMIDITY! So beginners, don't waste time looking for a silver bullet at Willams Sonoma. First, watch videos like this. Then figure out how to get steam. Then repeat.
How can I be so sure? My oven stone broke 6 months ago. I did a few bakes without it and realized that it didn't make any difference. Yay, one less thing to buy! And don't get me wrong, I don't hate oven stones! They are a nice stable platform to slide loaves or pizzas off and on, but a dark sheet pan can do just as well. Here are some pics of a recent loaf I made without a stone.
Crusty enough for my dinner table!