Some food, some drink.
Baking for the Barbeque: Apple Wood Smoked 100% Whole Wheat Sugar Cookies.
The heat of summer just isn't a good excuse to hang up your oven mitts. On the contrary; if you take it outside, baking on the grill opens the door to new opportunities that might otherwise be problematic in the confines of the kitchen. Case in point: A recipe I chanced upon for 100% whole wheat sugar cookies already yields a treat that's impossibly chewy with the right amount of sweet; but add the subtle richness and aroma of apple wood smoke, and you've got a baked good that is made for the grill.
Yeah you heard me right; we're smoking cookies!
Every year come spring, I get bit by the grilling bug, and so I start to look for excuses to cook outdoors. Even foods that are just ok on the stove top or oven are somehow magically elevated to new heights when prepared over flame and/or coals. My Big Steel Keg is a convection grill; meaning that much of the cooking happens because of the flow of heated air over the surface of the eats. If you abstract the heat source with a big hunk of ceramic or metal, you have what barbeque folk call "indirect cooking", which is nothing new; as this is the driving principle behind how your oven works in every setting except broil (which I bet you probably don't use anyway). That being said, your oven is an absolutely terrible vehicle to move smoke into food; that is, unless you wish have your whole abode smelling like bacon for the next couple of months (and maybe you do).
If you're in the majority that don't want your house smelling like "pork-pourri", then this is where your barbeque grill comes in. We know that a grill set up for indirect heat = oven; so assuming you can regulate your temperature, why not treat it like one? One thing I was always reluctant to try on my gas grill (because of the fluctuations in heat) were cookies. Cookies need so little time in the oven that a temperature swing can be the difference between the best cookie, and something that may not even be all that passable. With kamado-style cookers like my keg, insulation and plenty of regulated air flow means that 10 minutes of assured temperature ain't no thang. And as long as I'm baking cookies, why settle for run-of-the-mill?
The bag of whole wheat flour I brought back with me from the Stafford County Flour Mills this last spring featured a recipe courtesy of the Kansas Wheat Commission for 100% Whole Wheat Sugar Cookies, and I'd been looking for an excuse to give them a go (what can I say, I have a thing for recipes on the backs of packages). The heartiness of a whole wheat cookie seemed like the perfect excuse to infuse baked goods with the flavor complexity of a fruit wood smoke; so all that was left was to adjust the recipe a bit to accommodate.
Recipe: Jump to the detailed recipe. (or, keep reading for the gist of it) -
Set up your grill for indirect heat at 375F adding apple wood chips/chunks/pellets or whatever your grill manufacturer recommends as directed. Be sure to preheat with the baking stone in-place.
While the grill comes to temperature - In a stand mixer, cream the sugar and butter on medium speed for about 3-4 minutes. Scrape the bowl, add the egg, salt, buttermilk and vanilla bean pulp, and continue to beat at medium speed another 3-4 minutes until the mixture is smooth and the sugar granules are barely recognizable. Take the mixer down to stir and add lemon zest, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and whole wheat flour. Mix until completely integrated. Portion 1 oz (about 1.5 Tbsp) scoops onto a sheet of parchment that will fit your baking stone. Allow for about 2 inches of space around each cookie (probably about a dozen per go). Press the tops of each cookie with a lightly greased glass so as to make the resultant disc about 5/8 inch thick, and garnish the tops with the demerara sugar. Transfer the cookie-laden parchment to the baking stone and bake with the lid closed (duh) for 10 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies just turn golden brown. Remove cookies via the parchment to a cookie sheet to rest for five minutes before moving to a rack to cool.
- This cookie recipe is probably pretty decent without the smoke as well. Likewise, there's nothing wrong with baking in the oven if you're sans-smoke anyway.
- On the topic of substitutions, if you're without a vanilla bean, a teaspoon of vanilla extract (as wrote in the original recipe) will do.
- If you aren't wussing out and are indeed baking on the grill, then you'll probably want to run your grill for at least 15-20 minutes after the initial preheat to ensure your baking stone is thoroughly heated and that fluctuations in temperature have been mitigated. Note that because you're using a baking stone, It'll probably take twice as long to preheat anyway.
- Although I use a pizza stone, I wager one of those cast iron pizza pans would work just dandy as well, as it's all about using a cooking surface with plenty of thermal mass.
- If you're doing a lot of barbeque proper I'd get the cookies out of the way first. The grill innards don't have to be immaculate, but all the same, a fresh batch of charcoal may be in order. Otherwise, the aromas of your ribs and/or brisket may make their way into your baked goods, which I can't imagine would taste all that great.
- I'm going to name-drop again here: If you can find the Hudson Cream whole wheat flour, that should be the flour you're using for this recipe. There is a noticeably lighter texture and color to this whole wheat flour, and I reckon that it's because Stafford County Mills makes this flour using Hard White Wheat (most whole wheat flour is made from Hard Red Wheat). Look for it, or at the very least a flour made specifically from said grain.
- If you can procure a #50 disher (or equivalent), one level scoop will give you a perfect 1 ounce portion (this is my favorite size for [not-so] monster cookies as well).
- Assuming you know your cooker's temperature is spot-on, resist temptation to cook past the ten minute mark. When you pull these cookies from the stone, their edges will just have started to brown. After 5 minutes of carry-over cooking during the rest, they'll be perfect.
- One of the most difficult parts of executing this recipe is moving the cookies from pan to grill. Start with an appropriately-sized sheet of parchment laid out on a either an edgeless cookie sheet or the the back side of a half sheet pan. With this setup, it's simply a matter of sliding the sheet of parchment from pan to stone and back again.
I imagine the vast majority of people that read this recipe are gonna pass on the notion of smoked cookies. Hell, I bet you're probably the same people who refuse to partake in a good tongue taco as well. Verbal jabs aside, I bet you still wanna know how these sugar cookies taste:
Well, the apple wood adds a depth of flavor and richness to the cookie that I don't think you could get from anything else. About the only way I can describe it is a collision of sweet and savory somewhere between bacon and butterscotch. If that sounds a bit overwhelming to your palate, worry not, as the heartiness of the whole wheat and the brightness of the lemon zest provide the harmony for a successful execution of tastes. Where texture is concerned, the whole wheat flour makes this cookie hearty (as a grill cookie should be) with a nuttiness and just the right amount of chew for a texture that stays consistent even a after a few days in the cookie jar. If you're gears are spinning like mine, and you're looking for other uses for this recipe, I wager that this would make a supreme ice cream sandwich, especially if that ice cream happened to be salted caramel. Likewise, I'd love to see what this dough could do at the bottom of a springform pan as the base for a cheesecake.
In a straw poll of the people I've fobbed these cookies off on, the folks that went back for seconds were overwhelmingly guys; whereas most ladies found the taste interesting, but not something they'd want more of. Maybe there's some yet-to-be-proved correlation between the smell of smoke and the Y chromosome, or it could be that the guys I know are all as crazy for things BBQ as I am. Regardless, I reckon if you lay out a pile of these cookies out at your next backyard social, they're sure to get people talking!