Last August I wrote an article concerning excessive summer heat and cooking outside. Well it looks like we are experiencing the same kind of weather, and this time maybe even worse. Where ever you live in America (maybe except for Alaska) everyone has been experiencing temperatures in at least the 90′s, and more likely up past 100 degrees. This kind of heat, along with the humidity, can be oppressive and deadly for many people. Window fans and air conditioners are working over time, swimming pools and beaches are packed with people, beer sales are up, and it is definitely not the time of year to be baking bread, unless….
This evening we tried another new experiment with cooking outside. My wife is a wonderful baker; breads, cookies, muffins, etc, but with this kind of summer weather, we are not real fond of the idea of turning on our oven. So we thought we would try baking bread on our grill. Karyn got the dough started in the afternoon, giving the yeast time to work it’s magic – to make the dough rise. About an hour and a half before we wanted to eat, I started to prepare the grill. I got out my bag of Royal Oak lump charcoal, an arm load of bricks and set to work. For this project I used more charcoal than I normally use because I knew I had to reach a temperature of between 300-350 for at least forty five minutes. My big grill is a Chargrill, and is basically a barrel set on it’s side, with an additional fire box for indirect heat grilling. I started coals for both the main grill and the fire box and was able to maintain a temperature of about 305 degrees. Not bad in my opinion!
Once the coals were going nice and hot, I built a perimeter of bricks to help hold in the heat and make it more oven like. Once that was completed, I also placed two, well greased, deep cast iron pans (Dutch ovens) onto the grill and let them heat up for about ten minutes. Once the pans were hot, we slid the doughy loaves into them, and covered them with lids. One piece of cast iron that we are missing in our arsenal of cast iron pots and pans is lids, so we used enamel canning pot lids, and they worked just fine. We did not open up the grill for about the first thirty minutes, and the first time we did check on the bread we were a little worried, it appeared to not be baking properly. We gave it another fifteen minutes before checking it again, and magically it was starting to look like a finished loaf of bread. After ten more minutes, we removed the Dutch ovens and flipped out the bread onto the cutting board. Wow!! The two loaves looked terrific, the bottoms were not burned, the tops were nicely browned, and when we cut through the first one, it was perfectly baked all the way through! Needless to say, the bread was delicious and we did not have to warm up our kitchen to bake it.
I think this way of baking will lend itself well to most bread recipes, but only a little trial and error can prove that. As far as the fuel is concerned, the lump charcoal I buy is about five dollars per bag. Unless I am smoking big pieces of meat for long periods of time, a bag usually lasts quite a while. For the bread, I used maybe a quarter to a third of a bag of charcoal. In terms of cost for fuel and for ingredients, my guess is that it cost us about five dollars, not bad for two big loaves of bread! So for any bakers out there, baking bread in 100 degree weather is not impossible, you just have to get a little creative, and experiment. Find your favorite bread recipe, some bricks if you got them, fire up your grill, crack open a cold one, and bake some bread! Cheers!