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Smoked Bread

My posts about cooking with my Cobb cooker seem to have struck a chord with Google searchers.  I’ve used it to grill burgers, smoke ham and two types of bacon.  Next up for the miniature barbeque was an application I have read about (in the instruction manual and on the internet) for cooking bread on the Cobb BBQ.

Proofed dough just on the Cobb

I had used up the match-light charcoal from last summer, so I grabbed a bag of Jack Daniels Barrel charcoal on a recent visit to Bass Pro Shops.  The bag and my less-than-intensive reading thereof made this product seem like lump charcoal made from used bourbon whiskey barrels.  Too good to be true.  It’s actually just briquette charcoal mixed in with about a quarter as many pieces of said barrels only lightly blackened, possibly just from being mixed around in a bag full of briquettes.

It looks from this post like some people are big fans of this product and that it may have been discontinued.  Well, the Bass Pro Shops north of Toronto had a lot of the stuff a couple weeks ago when I was there.

Nicely smoke-browned top crust

I prepared a straightforward batch of dough using the French Bread recipe from the Bread Baker’s Apprentice. Like any good former Cub scout would I got the briquettes started without the aid of any chemical starter (just newspaper) and let the Cobb preheat with the top on for about twenty.  The bread went on for about and hour and ten minutes, all with the lid on.

After the smoke the next obvious characteristic from this process is that it has serious temperature management issues.  The lid is too thin to absorb enough heat to cook the top crust before the bottom becomes a thick layer of burnt carbon.

But pulling the cooked bread away from the bottom this bread-like product is quite good.  The strong (not quite overpowering) smoke flavour delivers some of bourbon’s corn sweetness.  I can’t tell if it actually needs more salt of if that is just my brain associating smoke with cured and salty meat or fish.

Excellent crumb especially for my first bread in a few months

The crumb is exceptional but I suspect that is more because I used a recipe from the always excellent Bread Baker’s Apprentice than for any reason associated with the cooking method.  With very rare exceptions Peter Reinhart’s bread formulae blow other recipes out of the water.  Inside, this bread was flavourful and struck the right textural balance between air and a chewy backbone.

It’s tough to count this as more than just a learning experience with limited utility.  The Cobb cooker is very portable so I guess if you’re on a canoe trip or camping out of your vehicle (a.k.a. cheating) and you really like bread this would be the way to go–but even then a slightly heavier cast iron camp stove would do a better job.   For me it will be on meat-cooking duty only.

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