Without an oven on site, we have had to get creative here and figure out how to enjoy fresh baked goodies using a gas grill. I normally despise gas ovens because they create their own hint of odd flavor, and when I had use of one I hated the way it stank up the kitchen. Please don’t smirk and tell me cooking gas is odorless and flavorless because I know for a fact that a scented additive helps people realize when there’s a gas leak. I have been cursed (some claim blessed) with an ultra-sensitive nose, and this seems to allow me more depth of flavor recognition, too. Thus, baking with gas is not my favorite means of creating fresh breads and desserts, though our grill is well-ventilated and the propane doesn’t seem to bother me.
We are fortunate enough to possess a four burner grill, a replacement for our very old and well-worn six burner grill that survived a chicken cremation and a trip through the car wash before finally succumbing to rust. If you want to bake outdoors over a grill, I recommend you get yourself a minimum four burner gas grill. I have not yet attempted baking over wood flame or charcoal (which I suspect would impart overly strong flavors anyway), though I’m aware it can be done in a cast iron Dutch oven or a brick or clay oven. The recipes I’m including here are for a standard kitchen oven or a gas grill. These are all Detetcheverrie standards, well-loved dishes we enjoy again and again. Autumn and its seasonal opposite spring are the best times to enjoy outdoor baking since it’s easier to control cooking temperatures when outdoor temperatures are not at an extreme. Keep in mind that to bake on a grill, you'll want the outermost burners lit only, and to rotate your food item halfway midway through the recommended cooking time. This keeps the edges from cooking too fast.
So make sure you’ve plenty of gas, fire up the grill, and let's get some backyard baking done!
I was given a batch of starter with the label Amish Friendship Bread and a warning that once it was gone, I could only get more starter from a friend. A little research on the Internet told me it’s not Amish, it’s actually a basic sourdough starter, and it’s easy to re-create if you want more. You can also freeze the starter. Just let it thaw for three hours before use.
Starter is made by combining a cup of water and a cup of flour. Cover it with a clean towel and let sit somewhere warm for at least two or three days. To make Friendship Bread add cup of sugar and a cup of milk to the starter, keep in a sealed container like an oversized plastic container or even a gallon-sized plastic bag. Do not store in a metal container! Keep an eye on your sourdough because if it gets too big, it can escape containers or burst bags and go wherever it pleases. You will need at least two cups of starter to make this recipe, and more if you want to keep extra going for future recipes. Feed your starter a cup of flour, a cup of sugar and a cup of milk once a week or so to keep an active culture going in your refrigerator or on your countertop.
Preheat grill to 325 degrees. To two cups of starter add 2 eggs, 1 cup of oil, ½ cup of milk, 1 cup of sugar, 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract, 1 ½ teaspoon of baking powder, ½ teaspoon of salt, 1 ½ to 2 cups of flour, and 1 large box of instant pudding mix in a non-metal bowl. Line two loaf pans with waxed paper, or grease a bundt pan. Pour batter and top loaves with ¼ cup of sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. If making a bundt cake, do not use cinnamon topping. Bake 55 to 60 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pan.
You can add up to a cup of nuts, chocolate chips, fruit, or what have you to the mix. Use whatever pudding and extract flavors you think will best compliment your additive. Our personal favorite variations have included half a cup of shredded pumpkin to half a cup of whole cranberries with pumpkin pudding, a cup of shredded squash, half a cup of nuts and half a cup of mashed banana with banana pudding, and half a cup of shredded carrot and half a cup of currants. If vanilla extract is too expensive, I find almond extract is an acceptable and less costly substitution. Friendship Bread made in a bundt pan is great with buttercream frosting.
2 sticks of butter, 8 oz. of cream cheese, 5 cups of powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, 1/3 cup of fruit preserves (optional). Whip softened butter and cream cheese. Add sugar 1 cup at a time. Add preserves and extract and mix well. Can be chilled overnight and rewhipped before spreading.
To frost one Friendship Bread Cake, I halved the recipe. As a variation, I added a few tablespoons of butterscotch syrup and some pumpkin pie spice to frosting I used on a pumpkin cranberry bread.
I use my Friendship Bread starter to make this recipe, and keep the less sweet version in a separate container in the ‘fridge. Feed it flour and warm water only.
The day before you want bread put 2 cups of starter in a non-metal bowl with 1 cup of warm water and 1 cup of flour. Stir and set somewhere warm, loosely covered. When it looks bubbly, it’s ready. This is called sponge. To 2 cups of sponge add 3 cups of flour, 2 tablespoons of olive oil or melted butter, 4 teaspoons of sugar and 2 teaspoons of salt. Mix well. Add a little water if too dry. Knead to consistency. Set aside loosely covered and warm until doubled in size. Punch down dough and knead. Make a loaf and set in a lightly greased or cornmeal dusted pan, or leave as a round atop a pizza baking stone dusted with cornmeal. Cover and set aside someplace warm until doubled. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes. To make rolls, form into balls on baking stone or in a round or square cake pan. To make pretzels, form ropes, shape, and boil for five minutes in salty water before baking.
If I want pretzels, I usually braid the ropes of dough, brush them with melted butter, sprinkle lightly with kosher salt, then bake as a loaf you can tear apart. I add dried onion flakes and oregano to the basic recipe for onion bread, and have lately begun using a cup of buckwheat in place of a cup of flour and brown sugar in place of white to make sweeter, brown breads. Favorite variations include shredded squash, onion and oregano to the brown bread recipe, and seed bread made with flax, poppy, sesame and sunflower kernels.
Sourdough Pizza Crust
1 ½ cups of sourdough starter, 4 to 5 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 ½ cups of flour.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Mix using just 1 tablespoon of the oil. Roll into a ball. Let sit 30 minutes. Roll to desired thickness. Bake 7 minutes. Brush with remaining oil. Top as desired. Bake to desired doneness.
Apple Crunch Crust
1 graham pie crust, 1 can of apple pie filling, whole cranberries, currants, salt-free butter, 1 cup of flour, black pepper, ground cloves, cinnamon, 3 tablespoons of brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of maple sugar.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Dump apples in crust. Top with 2 handfuls of cranberries and 1 handful of currants, then spread or mix lightly. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter and mix with flour, 1/8 teaspoon of pepper, 1/8 teaspoon cloves, 1 tablespoon of cinnamon and sugars. Dump evenly over fruit. Bake until top looks wet and fruit bubbles up through it, 45 minutes or so.
Chocolate Cherry Cake
1 box of chocolate cake mix, ¼ cup of oil, 3 eggs, 1 can of cherry pie filling, 1 cup of chocolate chips, ¼ cup of water.
Mix all and bake in a bundt pan for an hour.
Flourless Fudge Brownies
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, 1 stick of salt-free butter, ¾ cup of sugar, 3 eggs, 1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line bottom of a springform pan with waxed paper, then butter it and up the sides. Melt chocolate with butter. Whisk in sugar. Whisk in eggs. Whisk in cocoa. Bake for 25 minutes in the springform pan wrapped in foil and set in a larger pan filled halfway up the height of the springform with hot water. Cool. Serve.
1 package of chocolate cake mix, 3.9 oz. of chocolate pudding mix, 4 eggs, 1 cup of sour cream, ½ cup of oil, ½ cup of water, 2 cups of chocolate chips.
Grease and flour a bundt pan. Make sure all ingredients are room temperature. Combine cake and pudding mixes in a large bowl. Dump liquid ingredients into a well in the middle, then blend well. Add the chocolate chips and mix. Bake 50 to 60 minutes at 350 degrees.
Tastes like chocolate glazed donuts! When baking outdoors, a lower temperature and longer cooking time is better than a hotter temperature because the cake will cook unevenly, crack, and have a crunchy outer layer. Maybe you prefer this? Anyway, use a metal or wooden skewer to determine if the inside is dry or still wet and in need of more cook time.
2 cups of confectioner’s sugar, 1 ½ teaspoon of soft butter, ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract, ¼ teaspoon of salt, 3 to 4 tablespoons of milk. Mix well. Use on a cooled cake.
I was going to include a couple of cheesecake recipes until I realized they were no-bake. Guess I’ll have to put them in their own dessert article. Looks like my next installment will feature entrees! Can’t beat good meat!