Sunday, May 30, 2010

Burger Buns: Baked on the gas grill

Yeah, I'm on a burger bun kick. I made a pork roast and we've been eating it as sandwiches. Tonight it was mixed with barbecue sauce. We used up the last of the previous buns last night, so I whipped up a quick batch of no-frills buns, and used the food processor to speed up the knead.

Because these didn't have the potato flakes that I used for the previous batch, they weren't as fluffy. But that's fine. Sometimes you want a more substantial bun.

It may seem odd to bake bread in a gas grill, but really it's just an outdoor oven that opens up a different way. It's nice to be able to bake outside if it's too hot to fire up the oven indoors, and it's nice to use the grill when the oven's full of other things.

We installed a thermometer in the grill so I can keep better track of the temperature, but I was baking bread in there - and on a charcoal grill - well before I had that thermometer.

It's easier if you know what temperature your grill is at, that's for sure. But if you know your grill and you watch the bread carefully to make sure it's not cooking too fast, you can still make it work.

Into a measuring cup went:
1/4 cup lukewarm water
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar.

I mixed that up and waited for it to get foamy.

Into the food processor went:
2 1/2 cups bread flour (not weighed, but assume 4 1/2 ounces per cup)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

When the yeast mixture was foamy, I topped it off with cool water to reach 1 cup and made sure it was mixed well. I turned on the food processor and added the yeast mixture through the feed tube as fast as the flour would take it in, and then continued processing until it was a smooth, silky, stretchy ball of dough. I stopped the food processor a couple times to check progress and make sure the dough wasn't overheating.

When the dough was ready, I dribbled a little olive oil into a bowl, kneaded the dough briefly and formed it into a ball, and put the ball of dough into the bowl and turned it around so it was coated with the oil. I covered the bowl with plastic wrap and set it aside until it doubled. It didn't take long - under an hour, but I wasn't watching the clock.

Meanwhile, I cleaned off the gas grill, lit the burners, and put a baking stone in the center portion. For my grill, I know that for a good bread baking environment I should have the left and right burners between medium and low, and the center burner should be off. But, oops, I forgot to turn the center burner off after I got everything checked out and fired up. Oh well.

Meanwhile, I sprinkled cornmeal on the bottom of a baking sheet.

When the dough had doubled, I took it out of the bowl and gave it a little knead, then divided it into eight pieces. I rolled them all into balls, then flattened them into burger bun shapes. I covered the buns with plastic wrap and left them to rise. About a half hour.

When I brought the buns out to the grill, it was a little (okay a lot) hotter than I wanted. But opening a grill lets out a lot of heat, so it wasn't that much of a disaster. I turned off the center burner and turned the outer ones down to medium-low and put the baking sheet on top of the stone.

Buns were done in about twenty minutes. They were a tad, um, overcaramelized, on the bottom, but otherwise they were perfect. Needless to say, the stone was well heated.

Oh well, it's my first outdoor bread baking project of the summer, so we'll call it a success. Next time I'll remember to turn off that center burner.

Meanwhile, here's a gratuitous photo of a bun filled with the barbecue-simmered pork. Mmmmm...lunch!