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It's always more fun to DIY. Every week, we'll spare you a trip to the grocery store and show you how to make small batches of great foods at home.
For most folks, the thought of cranking up the oven in the heat of the summer to bake bread is nightmare-inducing -- and rightly so. Grill masters learned long ago that one could avoid a steamy kitchen by taking dinner prep outside, but not many cooks have experimented with baking in barbecues. In some ways, however, a propane barbecue can replicate the conditions of a fancy brick oven and produce some of the best home-baked loaves of bread.
This challah, adapted from The Book of Bread by Judith and Evan Jones, is a show stopper, but it comes together quite easily and quickly. The bronzed exterior turns out crisp, but the crumb inside is rich and spongy. I prefer to use Deb Perelman's braiding technique, but you can also do a traditional long, layered braid.
To bake challah or another bread in the barbecue, you will need to have a good cast iron skillet and a couple of fire bricks on hand. Fire bricks are flatter and more heat resistant than regular bricks because they're used to line the interior of wood stoves. They're available online and at larger home improvement stores.
Makes 1 large loaf
For the challah dough
1 1/4 tablespoons active dry yeast
3/4 cups warm water
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
For the egg wash and topping
1 egg yolk stirred with a bit of water
2 to 3 tablespoons poppy seeds
Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in a large bowl and allow it to dissolve. Mix in the honey, salt, eggs, and olive oil. Gradually stir in as much flour as the dough will hold, and then turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Knead the dough, adding more flour as necessary to keep it from getting too sticky. When the dough is smooth and elastic, place it in an oiled bowl, cover it with a towel, and set it aside to rise in a warm place.
After the dough doubles in size (this should take about 40 minutes), punch it down and divide it into four equal sections. Roll the sections into ropes about 12″ long and weave them according to Deb’s braiding instructions.
Dust a heavy cast iron pan with cornmeal, place the dough in the pan, and allow it to rise again until doubled (about 25 minutes). Preheat the barbecue on high with two side-by-side fire bricks on the grill.
After the final rise, brush the top of the loaf generously with egg wash and sprinkle it with poppy seeds.
Place your pan (or pans, if you doubled the recipe like I did) on top of the preheated fire bricks in the barbecue, and close the lid. Set the heat to “medium” and bake for 20 minutes.
Remove the pan from the barbecue and let cool completely before slicing.
Photos by Camille Storch