It’s been ridiculously hot in Chicago the past week or so. Like… so hot that it’s actually too hot to even go to the pool kind of hot. And I know we haven’t been alone in this heat wave. I don’t know how you handle it, but I refuse to turn on my oven when it’s this hot. To be honest, I don’t use my oven much in the summer at all because I hate heating up the house.
What do I do instead? I use my grill. While I haven’t quite solved baking a cake on my grill (trust me, it’s coming – I have four birthdays in July and August in my house), I do make pretty much everything else there. And I had a hankering for fresh bread, but I was not about to have the house heated by a 450 degree oven that was preheated before baking for 35 minutes. But hey, that grill is awfully useful….
Bread Baked On The Grill
Use your standard bread dough for this one… I did something that will handle being shaped into a boule, but a loaf would probably also work. You may have to watch the timing a little carefully because they’ll bake slightly differently, but the concept is the same, so go for it. Below is the dough I use most often:
1 c water
1 t yeast
1 t salt
2 c 1 1/2 t flour
Pizza stone (you sort of really need this to diffuse the heat even if you’re cooking in a loaf pan)
Small heat safe dish
Mix all ingredients together with a spatula in a container. Yes, you heard that right. This won’t feel quite like your traditional dough, but trust me. Once it’s mixed together, cover it loosely – enough so that air can still get in – and let it sit on the counter for a couple hours until it’s doubled in size.
Once it’s risen on the counter, you can either use it immediately or – my favorite – put it in the fridge for up to a week and pull it out whenever you’re ready to use it. This makes it the perfect make ahead dough. It’s easier to work with once it’s been refrigerated, but you can absolutely use it immediately after rising.
Cover a pizza peel fairly heavily in cornmeal so that it won’t stick. (If you’re doing yours in a loaf pan, prepare the loaf pan as you normally would.) Coat the dough in your container with flour by just sprinkling it over the dough. Carefully lift it out and gently form it into a ball using as little movement as possible so that you don’t disturb all the work the yeast just did rising. Place it on the cornmeal covered pizza peel (or in your loaf pan) to rise for forty minutes.
After the dough has risen for twenty of the forty minutes, place your pizza stone and the heat safe dish onto your grill. Turn on your grill to whatever you need to do to get it to 450 degrees, leaving the center burners off or on lower heat if at all possible. Once the forty minutes has passed, use a sharp knife dipped in flour to cut a tic tac toe or shell pattern in your bread (personally, I usually do the tic tac toe… just because).
Once your dough is prepared like this, head outside, and place it on the pizza stone. Bring along a couple cups of water with you, and add this to your heat safe dish. This creates steam inside your grill, which will make the crust of your bread crunchy rather than soft. It’s a neat trick, no?
Let the bread bake on the grill. Mine takes less time than in the oven. This one was ready in about 28 minutes. Depending on the shape of your dough (loaf in a pan v boule), the size of your dough (bigger = longer cook time), and consistency of the dough (a drier dough cooks faster), and your grill’s temperature, it will take slightly different times to cook. You can peek at it after twenty or so minutes to see how it’s doing and judge from there.
Once it’s baked, remove it from the grill and let it sit for at least ten minutes so that it can stop steaming inside. If you cut it while it’s still steaming hot, it dries out the bread that you don’t eat immediately (the steam escapes instead of staying in the bread).
Enjoy your bread in a sandwich or with soup or … my personal favorite when it’s fresh bread and still warm: slathered in butter and a little honey. Yum!