A few years ago, I spent some time working as an interpreter in a couple of historic house museums. Food is one of the perks of having the kind of job where you spend your days in the costume of an Upper Canadian settler of the 1830s. (It’s also handy for developing your post-apocalyptic skill set, if that’s something you think about.) In a historic house it seems that something’s always cooking on the hearth or in the cast iron stove. Lately I’ve been thinking about the brick bake oven we’d use on bake day. We would build a fire in the bake house oven and keep it stoked until the bricks were white hot. The residual heat of the bricks stays hot for hours – long enough to bake all the bread, pies and cookies for the week. Cookies were always the last thing baked in the oven, and as I was staring at the temperature gauge on the barbeque the other day I started to think about how cookies could just as easily be baked on the grill using a pizza stone. So I googled it, and sure enough there are other intrepid folks out there who have tried it. And succeeded.
The best recipe and directions for baking on the barbeque that I came across were by SomethingEdible (a blog which has plenty of excellent non-barbeque related recipes and info as well). So today, after a week of thinking about it, I finally went ahead and made Applewood Smoked 100% Whole Wheat Sugar Cookies. We have a propane grill, so I preheated it (with the pizza stone and a smoker box of applewood chips) to about 375F and set it up for indirect heat. The full recipe, including photos, is in the link so I won’t include it here except to say that I used 1tsp of vanilla extract, and sour cream instead of the buttermilk. The measurement on the flour was about 1½ cups, maybe a little more.
But you know what’s better than one batch of cookies? TWO batches of cookies! So for purely scientific reasons, I obviously had to try another kind of cookie in order to compare and contrast. One that would taste equally good baked in a smoky barbeque. Gingersnaps!
I looove gingersnaps. Specifically, I love the gingersnaps from the 1953 version of the ‘red plaid’ Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, which conveniently also asks for a 375F oven. That recipe makes about 4 dozen cookies, though, so I halved it and made a couple adjustments for the grill:
Gingersnaps and sugar cookies, waiting to happen.
Gingersnaps on the Barbeque:
- 1/3 cup shortening (or butter)
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 2 tbsp light molasses (generous)
- 1 egg white
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup unbleached white flour
- Dash salt
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp cloves
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
I made them the exact same size and thickness of the sugar cookies and placed them on parchment paper cut to the size of the pizza stone. My plan was to make one sheet of each kind of cookie on the grill AND in the oven (again, to compare them and see whether the barbeque made a big difference in the flavour). I put the first batch of sugar cookies in, waited 9 minutes while the temperature of the grill hovered around 350F, opened the lid and…. This happened:
Burnt. So very burnt.
Burnt. Very burnt. The temperature of the stone and the grill was obviously a bit too high and charred the bottoms of the cookies. Not to be deterred, I tried one more sheet of sugar cookies and saved just enough dough to do a few cookies in the oven. I also lowered the heat (just over 300F) and reduced the cooking time of the second batch to about 6 minutes. This time, they were perfect. I then cooked the gingersnaps exactly the same way, and the results were pretty good! I even managed to salvage a couple of the less burnt ones by eating them with some maple walnut ice cream.
For anyone planning to attempt this, I found that the parchment paper was pretty easy to slide from the pizza stone to a large cutting board, allowing for the transfer of cookies without moving the stone. The comparison cookies (about 6 cookies of each kind) were done in the oven at 375F for about 8 minutes.
Sugar cookies, fresh off the grill. Perfectly golden.
Hubby approved of the sugar cookies. He’s never been much of a gingersnap fan, but both turned out well.
I’m really glad that I did the comparison with the oven cookies because if I’d just made the barbeque sugar cookies and tried them, I’d have thought they were yummy but maybe not all that different than any other good cookie recipe. But the cookies that were baked on the barbeque had a depth of flavour that the ones baked in the oven couldn’t match. The lemon zest made the sugar cookies stand out, and the smokiness reminded me of cookies baked in the woodstove. Old timey and delicious.
Then I started thinking about the recipes in some of the historic cookbooks I still have. You know, the kind of recipes that ask for a “quick oven” or a piece of butter “the size of a walnut”… I bet there are some great recipes in there, just waiting to be adapted to the grill.