Never baked bread before? Check. Never operated a gas grill alone before? Check, check. But this bread that Erin posted on Twitter was just too tempting NOT to try.
Her story was that the bread was prepped and ready when she realized her oven was not up to the job, so she improvised and put it on the grill. And it worked! And then she was nice enough to send it to me. Score!
Grill-Baked Herb Bread
Makes: Two 9-by-5-inch loaves
Prep time: Approximately 2 hours*
Cooking time: 30 – 40 minutes
For the bread dough —
2 tsp yeast
2 1/4 cups warm water
1 tbsp sugar or natural sweetener
1 tbsp olive oil 1 tbsp salt
5 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
For the herb mixture —
2 cups parsley, chopped
1/2 cup chives, chopped
1/4 cup thyme, oregano, basil and rosemary, chopped
1/3 cup sesame seeds
1/8 cup poppy seeds or flax seeds
1 tsp black pepper, optional
1 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten OR 1 tbsp olive oil, as a vegan alternative
For the bread — Combine warm water, sugar, and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Set aside. In another bowl combine flours and salt. Mix well. Let the yeast mixture sit for 10 minutes, then add the olive oil. Slowly add the dry mixture to the yeast mixture until you have a nice dough, making sure it’s not too dry. Knead with a dough hook or by hand. Place dough in an oiled bowl and let it rise until double in size.
While the dough is rising, prepare the herb mixture. Finely chop all herbs and combine them in a bowl with seeds and seasonings. Adding the beaten egg, or olive oil, will help the herb mixture adhere to the bread but it’s not necessary. Stir everything together to evenly distribute flavors.
When the dough is ready to work with, turn it out onto a floured surface. Spread the herb mixture on top of the dough. With a bench scraper, or dough scraper, chop the herb mixture into the dough. Scrape the dough up, fold it over, and chop through it over and over again. Chop until the herb mixture is fully incorporated. This technique might sound bizarre but it creates great swirls and layers in the bread. But be careful not to chop so much that the dough starts to break apart into “marbles”. And make sure to have fun with the mess you are making.
Split the dough evenly in half and form each half into a loaf shape. Place loaves in well oiled 9-inch loaf pans and set aside to rise.
For the grill — Preheat the grill to 400 degrees. (Side note – Erin’s gas grill has four burners so after she preheated it she simply turned off the two in the center. This prevented the flames from being directly underneath the pans which would cause the bottom of the bread to burn and allowed her to keep the heat between 350 and 400 degrees by adjusting the two outside burners, while leaving them mostly on low.)
Bake the loaves for 30-40 minutes. (A note from Erin – she suggests using a thermometer to check the internal temp of the bread before taking it off the grill.)
* Regarding the prep time, this is a really rough estimate because a) it was my first bread-making experience and b) I “cheated” and used the quick-rise yeast.
Because I have a habit of forgetting at least one item on my shopping list, I have developed some serious small improvisational skills. For this specific task, I forgot the sesame seeds and flax seeds. But I did have chia seeds handy at home, 2 tbsp to be exact (when combined with moisture they turn a bit gel-like).
I also added 2 tsp of freshly crushed garlic and a sprinkling of a locatelli romano cheese I found last weekend in the North End. I always have to add a little bit of an Italian flair, and those fresh herbs were just begging for it.
And I also can’t stress enough the importance of watching the heat on the grill. I think I was so excited my bread rose at all, I was not paying as close attention to the grill as I should have been. As a result, my loaves were a little “extra crispy” on the bottoms.
Luckily, that was easy to cut off.
And once again, I can’t thank Erin enough for her help – never imagined my first bread-making experience would be this easy!