A few months ago a friend was kind enough to let my mother and I do a lot of baking at her home for my wedding, and she brought out one of the most amazing tools: stoneware.
This stoneware is different than ceramic or finely finished stoneware. Instead, it looks plain and unfinished, which it is. Over time it starts to get the coolest coloration from the heat and the oils used on it while cooking.
The benefit of stoneware is that it evenly distributes heat and draws away moisture from the surface. It also retains heat evenly, allowing food out of the oven to remain hot for longer. It's virtually nonporous, so it doesn't retain any oils or flavors from food cooked on it. It's safe for the freezer, microwave, and ovens as well.
Stoneware does need to be cared for carefully. It should only be rinsed off with water and wiped down with a soft cloth. It cannot be put in the dishwasher either. At first, the stoneware feels rough and scratchy, but use in the oven eventually smooths it out so that it feels smooth.
The even heat distribution make this piece ideal for pastries and breads, but you can cook anything you want on it. I know I plan to! Thank you so much to the friend who got it for me!