All we need for a great summer meal is a plate full of locally grown vegetables and a slice of homemade bread.
But if the idea of baking bread in the heat of summer doesn't sound like fun, don't worry. You can bake it outdoors on the grill. There's an art to baking bread, and it's not something inexperienced cooks will even tackle, but if you're looking for a challenge, go for it.
An Internet search for summertime bread recipes found articles from Camille Storch, owner and designer of Red Onion Woodworks in western Oregon; Derrick Riches, who writes about barbecues and grilling for About.com; and Dennis Weaver at The Prepared Pantry, a family business in Rigby, Idaho, that sells baking mixes.
They have learned all kinds of tricks for using the grill to bake bread.
Never miss a local story.
Via email, Storch said baking bread on a gas grill "really works, and actually in a lot of ways, I think it works better than in a standard oven."
Storch bakes bread on the grill because the cabin where she and her family live in rural Oregon does not have a regular oven.
"For a couple of years, I researched RV ovens and various other contraptions before giving up on the idea of being able to bake at home. One day, I decided to try baking in the barbecue, and lo and behold, the bread came out all golden and crusty, and I've never lamented our lack of an oven since," she said.
All you need to bake bread is an enclosed space that is heated, Riches said. For this, a grill works perfectly. One thing to remember, though, is that grills can get much hotter than your oven, and temperature control is not as precise.
"Delicate breads that can be a challenge in the oven should be avoided on the grill until you really get the hang of it," Riches said.
You can bake nearly anything with a covered grill because the heat rises and circulates in the covered area just as it does in your oven, Weaver said. The heat source can be charcoal, gas or even wood. He prefers gas because it is easier to control and does not impart a smoked taste to the bread. Because it is hottest near the flames, elevate the bread even if you have to improvise. Weaver uses the grill's secondary shelf for baking. The trick to grilling bread perfectly is controlling temperature and time. If your grill comes equipped with a thermometer, you have it made, although outside temperatures and wind might affect how well your grill retains heat.
If you have a thermometer, heat the grill to the temperature designated on the package or in the recipe. If not, guess. After a few loaves, you'll have it perfect, and we bet that the first batch off the grill will be just fine.
Practice baking bread on your deck or patio, then the next time you go camping or at a family reunion, bake some bread and let the aroma waft through the outdoor air.