Barbeque Baking: Cookies on the Grill

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:

Two cookies are better than one.

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. 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.

The verdict:

Perfection!

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.

Keeping it Simple

Nothing complicated here!

Simple food, full bellies.

Welcome to the weekend, friends!  Nothing complicated or adventurous here, just good food.

We’re on vacation this week, and that probably means that we’ll spend a little extra time with the barbeque trying something new.  It also means that we’ll spend a little extra time at other people’s barbeques enjoying the fruits of their labour (and blogging about it if they’ll let us!).

But today, we’re easing into the weekend and keeping it simple.

I was craving a ballpark hotdog, so I fired up the grill and hubby added a couple of burger patties from the freezer for himself.  As unglamorous as that sounds, they look pretty good, don’t they?

Since corn is in season now and the grilled corn was such a hit last time, I also added a cob to the grill.  In the spirit of keeping it simple, I didn’t use any oil or melted butter while it was grilling this time and only added a bit of butter and salt just before eating.  The result was an equally delicious if slightly smokier flavour, and it totally worked.

Kudos to these hotdogs, too.  We’d never tried them until a couple of weeks ago, and they’re my new favourites.  You know how infuriating it is when the tiny regular hotdogs only take up about two thirds of the standard sized bun?  And then you get to the last bite and it’s just bread and ketchup?  Well that’s not a problem here.  The bun in the photo is a bakery panini roll and it’s a perfect fit.

"Taaake me out to the ballllll gaaaame..."

Ah, Lester, you make a delicious hot dog.

Apparently they’re also the ‘official hot dog’ of the Toronto Blue Jays.  Go Jays! (Thank goodness for professional sports teams that make you feel good about eating food that’s bad for you by assuring you that by doing so you’re being a supportive fan.)

Burgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob, watermelon, baseball.

It must be summer!  Enjoy.

 

 

Summertime and the Burgers are Meaty

Another hot summer day, another reason to grill.  Today hubby decided to make burgers from scratch without a recipe, and this is the result.

Mine, all mine!

A beautiful homemade beef burger, fresh off the grill.

Here’s how he did it:

  • 2 lbs fresh lean ground beef
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped and seeded
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 white onion, finely chopped
  • salt & pepper to taste

All ingredients were combined in a big ol’ mixing bowl and chilled in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.  Just before shaping into patties he added a few tablespoons of water and mixed it one more time.

He grilled them on medium-high for a few minutes until the outside was cooked, then lowered the heat to medium and cooked a few more minutes until the juices ran clear. We put the cheese on for the last minute or so.  The cooking time will vary based on the size of the patties used, and hubby’s not one to scrimp on a serving of meat so he made four big 1/2 lb patties but you could try eight 1/4 lb burgers and they’d cook up a little more quickly.

He topped his with tomato slices, cheddar cheese and mayo.  I topped mine with arugula, fresh orange tomato slices, light mayo, a few slices of black truffle mozzarella, and a side of fresh watermelon.  Does it get any better than that?

—–

Here’s a couple extra photos of the process:

1.  These simple ingredients want to become something awesome.

Beef, jalapenos, garlic, onion

2.  All mixed up.

All mixed up

3.  Put me on the grill.
1/2 lb patties

Late Night Snacks: Chocolatey Treats on the BBQ

Now kids, I’m not advocating that you fire up the grill after 10pm when you’ve had a couple glasses of wine.  But if you DO choose to do that, you should try these delicious barbequed banana boats because that’s exactly what I did and they were AWESOME.  I’m a sweet tooth and hubby is not, so this one is all me.

Delicious!

All the fixings: bananas, strawberries, peanut butter, chocolate chips and Nutella. Does it get any better than this?

The recipe says that you can fill them with “any combination of toppings you desire”, so I tried two classics:

1. Strawberries & Nutella

2. Chocolate Chips & Peanut Butter

And you know what? They were totally worth using all of the commercial breaks during ‘Masterchef’ to try this recipe. They were wrapped in heavy duty foil and took about 4 minutes per side over medium low heat.  I used a spoon to eat them, but the recipe says that it would taste great with ice cream and that’s probably true, too. Best 8 minute snack ever.

Then… please triple-check that the barbeque is off because wine might make you peckish but it doesn’t make you smart.

Enjoy!

BBQ Vacation: “I need to speak to The Greek”

Don’t get me wrong, we love Ontario, but who wouldn’t love a vacation in the Mediterranean right about now?  Since that’s not an option, here’s our attempt at a BBQ vacation by making pork souvlaki on the grill.  Both the pork and tzaztiki recipes came from the current issue of Fine Cooking magazine.

Getting ready to grill

Ready to grill!

Ingredients:

  • 1½ lb pork tenderloin, cut into 1” think rounds
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 8-10 skewers (we used soaked wooden ones)

Toss the pork in the other ingredients, marinate for 10 minutes, then thread the pork onto the skewers and grill on medium-high until done. (About 8 minutes.)

All fired up

All fired up

Homemade Tzatziki:

  • ½ an English cucumber, peeled & grated with excess juice squeezed out
  • ½ cup of plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp salt

We served it up with Greek-style pitas and a salad made from tomatoes, cucumber and red onion tossed with feta and a quick balsamic vinaigrette.  The souvlaki and tzatziki were both delicious, and the smaller pieces of meat cook up quickly on the grill. 

The final product

The final product

The only improvement needed is to use better-quality Greek-style pitas.  We used Dempster’s Pocketless Pitas, since that’s what was available at our local grocery store, but they didn’t fold well and fell apart pretty readily.  This recipe serves 3-4 people, which means that I will be using the rest of the souvlaki in a salad tomorrow for lunch (like the original recipe recommends).

P.S. The title of this post is a nod to the second season of The Wire – a brilliant show.  Not much to do with cooking of course, but delicious in its own way.

Barbeque makes everything taste better

This is turning out to be a pretty relaxing Saturday.  The kind of Saturday that means we had time to stock up on fresh groceries, peruse new recipes, and try out a couple of new dinner foods on the barbeque: marinated boneless skinless chicken breasts and grilled corn on the cob.  (After yesterday’s ribs, we’re keeping it a little healthier today.  But still tasty.)  Rather than ruminate on it, I’ll just get to the good stuff:

Grilled to perfection

Grilled to perfection.

Marinated Lime & Mustard Chicken (recipe from The Barbecue Bible)

Mix the juice of one lime (about 1/4 cup), about 2 tsp olive oil, 2 tbsp honey Dijon mustard (we used French’s), plus a pinch each of cayenne, garlic, and cumin.  Rinse 2 chicken breasts and pat dry, then pour the marinade over and refrigerate for 2 hours.  Preheat the grill to medium, and cook for about 10-12 minutes.  (We might have left them on a tad long but they were still juicy.)

Grilled Corn

This one’s pretty standard.  The grill was already on medium, which worked out perfectly.  Every couple of minutes we turned the corn about 1/4 turn and brushed them with melted butter with a bit of cumin in it.  Done after about 10 minutes.

The Verdict

It might be sacrilegious to prefer vegetables to meat when the barbeque is involved, but even though the chicken had a lovely hint of lime and we’d certainly use the marinade again, the corn was the highlight of the meal for both of us.  Which is saying something, because even though in my opinion corn on the cob is the ultimate summer food, it’s never been one of hubby’s favourites.

So there we have it: further proof that the barbeque makes everything taste better!

Ribs are delicious

Today was the first attempt at barbequed ribs.  Admittedly, ribs are a bit of a daunting thing to make since it seems that everyone claims to have the ‘best’ method.  (Heck, I’ve got two current foodie magazines in the house right now that are chock full of tips for the juiciest, smokiest rack of ribs.)  Thankfully, we only have to feed two people and we’re not trying to win a competition so the only opinion that really mattered was our own.

First attempt at pork ribs

My plate. Note the vegetables.

And they were gooooood!

I should point out that this was not only hubby’s first attempt at ribs, it was also his first attempt at sauce.  For a guy raised by vegetarians, I’ve got to give him an ‘A’ on this one.  I’ve never been one to enjoy ribs all that much, but he’s out to convert me and it’s certainly working.

He baked them slowly in the oven for a couple of hours, and made the sauce from scratch.  He mostly followed Scott Hibb’s Amazing Whiskey Grilled Baby Back Ribs recipe, with a few modifications to the sauce.  (We didn’t use any liquid smoke, and substituted a little red wine for the whiskey.)  It turned out tangy and a little sweet with some definite heat to it, and the meat fell off the bone after grilling over high heat.

Was he as pleased with the result as I was?  Well, I think this photo speaks for itself:

RIBS!

His plate. Yup.