I'm not alone in my passion for the crusty, hearth-baked qualities that stone, brick, or adobe ovens impart to breads and pizzas. But building one of these ovens outdoors ― which I have done several times for Sunset (most recently with senior home writer Peter Whiteley, for our August 1998 centennial issue) ― is no small task, and installing a professional unit in your kitchen is costly and demands a lot of space.
Now, however, you can get stone-oven results at home using an oven insert called the HearthKit. The kit consists of three thick ceramic pieces ― one the width and depth of your oven (you order by size) and two that fit vertically alongside the oven walls. Once the ceramic insert is heated as directed, you slide the loaves, pizza, rolls, or containers of foods (casseroles or meats) onto the ceramic floor (misting the oven with water, if you choose, to enhance crust development). The insert effectively re-creates the balanced heat of a hearth oven. The HearthKit oven insert costs about $230 in cookware stores; for more information, call (800) 383-7818 or go to www.hearthkitchen.com.