In the cool of the evening, the patio is inviting–a respite from the midday heat. It’s nice to crank up the barbecue and enjoy an evening with family or friends in the quiet shade. But we still like our bread. Fortunately, you can bake bread on your grill. With a little practice, it’s easy.
Actually, we can think of all kinds of reasons to use the grill. In the summertime, you don’t have to heat up the kitchen to bake. Sometimes, it’s just nice to get out of the kitchen, enjoy the fresh air, and bake outside. You can enjoy fresh-baked bread while camping, or at the cabin, or at the next family reunion. (Watch the neighbors turn their noses upwind when the smell of fresh baked bread wafts over the fence.) Finally, if a hurricane hits your town and the power goes off, you may have the only fresh bread in town.
You can bake nearly anything with a covered grill. (If your grill doesn’t have a cover, improvise with a large inverted pot.) The heat rises and circulates in the covered area just as it does in your oven. The heat source can be charcoal, gas, or even wood. We prefer gas because it is easier to control and does not impart a smoked taste to the bread. Since it is hottest near the flames, elevate the bread even if you have to improvise. In our grill, there is a secondary shelf for baking potatoes and such. (See picture.)
To bake bread, use your favorite recipe or to save time, a mix. Mix the dough according to package or recipe directions. After it had risen, you can form oval country loaves, hamburger buns, or dinner rolls.
The trick to grilling bread perfectly is controlling temperature and time. If your grill comes equipped with a thermometer, you’ve got it made (though ambient temperatures and winds may impact how well your grill retains heat). If you have a thermometer, just heat to the temperature designated on the package or in the recipe. If not, you can guess. After a few loaves you’ll have it perfect and we bet that the first batch off the grill will be just fine.
Rolls and buns will probably bake in 15 to 20 minutes and loaves will take 20 to 30 minutes depending on size and temperature. The tendency is to over-bake so an occasional peek to see how your bread is doing as it nears completion is okay.
Because the heat is so concentrated at the bottom and there is no fan to circulate the heat, the bottom of your bread will bake faster than it should. We solved that problem by putting one baking sheet on top of another. The space between the sheets helped insulate the bread from the bottom heat.
For this article, we made hamburger buns, loaves, and dinner rolls.
We made twelve giant-sized hamburger buns, just the ticket for a quarter-pounder. When you make your own buns, form them as you would dinner rolls then press them flat several times until they look like those in the picture to the left. We used a white bread mix and weighed the dough pieces on the kitchen scale 4 ounces each. (The dusting that you can see on the pan is cornmeal.) Cover the buns and let them rise.
Just before baking, we washed the buns with an egg white wash (one egg white plus one tablespoon of water). We then sprinkled them with sesame seeds. On our grill, we baked them with the heat turned about two-thirds open for about 18 minutes.
For the dinner rolls, we used a 8 1/2 x 15-inch pan and made 20 rolls scaled at 2.5 ounces each.
We made two country style loaves from one mix. If you look closely you’ll see that we forgot to slash the tops to release the steam and consequently ended up with a split on the side of the loaf. Don’t do as we did—score two or three quarter-inch deep slashes on the top of the loaf just as you begin baking.
While we baked free-standing loaves, you can use your bread pans if you like. Set the pans on the baking sheet to help protect them from the bottom heat.
Here are a few hints to help you along the way:
• Bake the bread before the burgers. The bread can cool while you cook the rest of the food. Burning grease in the bottom of the grill makes the temperature harder to control and the soot from burning grease can stain the bread.
• If you are letting your bread rise outside where the temperature may be less than indoors or where breezes may swirl around the bread, consider using a large food-grade plastic bag as a greenhouse. Simply slip the bread dough–pan and all–inside the bag, inflate it slightly, and close it. If the
sNis cool, set the bag and the bread in a sunny warm place to capture a little solar energy.
• Don’t forget that second pan to insulate the bottom of the bread and keep it from burning. If you would like more insulation, place a wire rack between the pans to create more air space.
• If your bread is baking faster on one side than the other, turn the pan 180 degrees part way through the baking cycle.
• The tendency is to burn the bottom of the bread. Place the bread as far away from the flames as you can even if it means elevating the bread.
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