Too Hot to Bake? Try the Grill!
Here in Minnesota, we are known for our cold weather, bland food, and funny accents (Yah-you betcha!)
But we also get a very concentrated couple of months of hot, humid summer, when temps can sail into the 100’s. Oh, and we have wildly diverse, International food and plenty of accents, too.
So, even though it is hot out, I’d really like a nice loaf of crusty, whole grain bread, to slice and pile with experimental tapas toppings. Or make those simple summer tomato sandwiches that really say “July.”
So, I thought it was time to start playing around with baking crusty loaves on the grill. I’ve done pizza and flatbreads, but a loaf, that is another thing.
It turns out that the same no-knead techniques that were popularized in the NY Times by Mark Bittman work on the grill. You just need a cast iron pot and a grill with a lid, a grill thermometer and an instant read thermometer, and you can have fresh bread without heating up the house, or even breaking a sweat.
If you have never made bread, believe me, this is the simplest possible way. You just stir the ingredients up, then let them sit out to bubble up for a couple of hours, then chill the dough overnight. Then you just let the dough warm up to room temperature and you are ready to go, no kneading, no sweat.
The lovely actions of the yeasts ferment the wheat, breaking it down a bit, releasing antioxidants, making it more digestible, even lowering the glycemic index just a bit. But mostly, they make it tasty.
Play it right, and you can sprint from your cool house to the grill a few times, and enter brandishing a gorgeous, crusty loaf on your return.
Because the simplest things are just right for summer.
Now you have time to frolic in the pool, sit by a burbling brook, or just chill in an air-conditioned theatre watching a summer blockbuster.
No-Knead Bread on the Grill
I used a gas grill, and a grill thermometer that tells me what temp it is on the surface of the grate. The first time I tried this, I preheated the pan for too long and let the grill get to maximum heat, and the cornmeal started burning as soon as it hit the pan. My loaf was black on the bottom. Don’t make the same mistake, grills can get over 600 F!
3 cups white whole wheat or regular whole wheat bread flour
2 cups unbleached flour
2 tablespoons gluten flour
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons quick-rise yeast
3 cups water
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
In a storage tub that holds at least 3 quarts, stir the dry ingredients, then stir in the water and oil. Stir just until all the flour is moistened and a lumpy dough is formed. It will be loose. Let stand at room temp for 3 hours, until bubbly and puffed up. Cover and chill overnight, or for up to 5 days.
To bake, take out the dough and let warm up for 2 hours. It should start bubbling again.
While the dough warms up, you preheat the grill. When the thermometer on the lid of the grill is at 450, turn down the heat to medium-low, turn off the heat on one side, then you put the pot on the grate on the side you turned off for a couple of minutes to pre-heat. Then throw a handful of coarse cornmeal in the pot, and scrape the dough in on top of it. Then, close the grill and wait about 35-40 minutes. Yes, check it every 15 or so to make sure your heat is hovering in the low 400’s.
This is important. Stick a quick read thermometer, like the ones they use when cooking meat, into the center of the loaf. It needs to reach 210 F. Don’t rush it, your grill may be different than mine. It is better to have the heat low and go for an hour than to torch your loaf.