To be clear, this wasn’t an experiment to see if I could bake bread on my Traeger. I knew I could bake with my Traeger based on making some great pizza and flatbread with it. This was more of a let’s see how it’ll taste exercise. TLDR; If you don’t want to read any further, not only can you bake a damn nice loaf on your Traeger, it doesn’t taste smoky at all – almost as if the bread came out of a wood-fired oven!
To be completely honest, the primary reason I decided to use my Traeger to bake my latest batch of bread was simply that during the pandemic lockdown I totally over-worked my ovens and they developed a couple of small cracks on the bottom and don’t hold their temperature. I actually found a way to patch the holes and not have to buy ovens, but until the sealant has fully cured, the ovens are unusable. So… I set up my Traeger to be a wood-fired oven! See the picture below.
The results have been pretty incredible thus far! I baked four 1-kilo loaves in the Traeger over the weekend and as you can see from the pictures at the top, the results have been amazing! The oven spring was incredible; much more than what I was expecting.
As for the loaves, those were made with 40% whole grain flour (15% whole wheat (from the starter), 25% whole grain rye), and 60% high-extraction flour. Hydration was about 80% which was probably pushing it as rye doesn’t form gluten. But I was still able to develop good structure and dough strength.
Speaking of rye, wow! Those were my first-ever loaves that used rye flour. Not sure why I never baked with rye previously. The interesting thing about using rye flour was that it was similar to using Kamut flour. While Kamut does form gluten, it is not like the gluten formed with regular wheat flour. It’s a little gelatinous. I noticed a similar texture with the rye flour so I naturally worked the dough as gently as I work a dough that has Kamut.
All that said, if you’d like to try baking with your own smoker/grill, here are a few tips:
You really need to use a baking stone! The heat comes up from the bottom, so using a baking sheet will only serve to burn the bottom of your loaf.
Set the temperature of your smoker to its highest temp to warm up the stone, then bake at around 450°F.
To generate steam, you can use a small cast iron skillet (I use that when making pizza as my pizza stone is a lot smaller than my big baking stone), or do what I did and make a boat out of foil.
Do not open the smoker once you put the bread in there! I know, typically you remove the steaming container, but this is like cooking in a hearth oven. Just let the oven do its thing.
Note that even with setting the controls to 450°F, your smoker will probably not come to full temp. That’s okay. Most smokers work via convection to maintain even heat throughout the chamber, so baking at a lower temp is okay – I imagine it’s almost like baking in a hearth oven that is starting to cool.
With the cooler temperature, the bread will take at least an hour to finish baking. But check the internal temperature after 30 minutes with an instant-read thermometer. Your crumb should be at least 195°-200°F.
While the actual origin of the Old Fashioned is unclear, it was designated as an “Old Fashioned” in 1880 by the International Bartenders Association, and is one of the drinks that the IBA calls an “official cocktail.” Exact historical details aside. This is a drink that has been around a long time.
Now the thing about an Old Fashioned is that if you line ten people up who like Old Fashioneds and ask them their preferred recipe, you will get ten different answers. People will vary in the bourbon, whiskey or rye (perfectly okay, btw), what kind of fruit they prefer (some like the pulp, some like me, just like the zest of either a lemon or a lime – or both). However, there are a few things that seem to be common among Old Fashioned-lovers that almost all share – at least that has been my experience in speaking with people. So if you tend bar, or are making an Old Fashioned for other, you might think of the things I mention below:
I want to taste my spirit. The reason I prefer an Old Fashioned over any other drink is for the whiskey I’m drinking; be it bourbon, rye or straight whiskey. Also, I don’t need a lot of sugar. A single lump, half a pack, or a teaspoon of simple syrup will do. But more importantly, I don’t need a full glass, so go easy on the water. In fact, don’t even bother with the water if you’re using simple syrup. But if you’re using a sugar cube or granulated suger, only use enough water to help melt the sugar during muddling. That means just a splash of water.
Be generous with the bitters, please. I prefer a mix of Jerry Thomas bitters with orange bitters, but whatever bitters you use, please don’t skimp on the bitters. Remember, the Old Fashioned started out as a medicinal, and as such, much of its flavor comes from the botanicals in the bitters.
Go easy on the ice! See the picture above? It’s a single large cube. That’s all you need, or a globe, if you don’t have a big cube. The point is that a large cube melts much slower and will thus not dilute the alcohol quickly. If you have neither a big cube or globe, please only fill the cocktail glass 1/4 full of ice; that is, just enough so the liquid covers the ice. That’s it. Remember item 1.? I want to taste my spirit!
Please use a proper glass. An Old Fashioned should be served in a single Old Fashioned glass; that is, a glass that holds about 6-8oz. If you don’t have one on hand, it’s not a problem. Don’t think you have to have full glass, or think it’s weird that the glass is only 1/4 full. That said, back in May, when I went to move my daughter out of her dorm in Honolulu, at Champs in the Kaimuki district, the bartender only had double glasses, and it REALLY bugged him to see the glass only 1/4 full. So he gave me an extra shot to stop being weirded out. Not that I complained… 🙂
Cherries are optional, and more importantly should only be garnish. Like item 3. above, I want to taste my spirit! I don’t need the extra sweetness imparted from the cherries (there should always be two, by the way), and I especially don’t want a bunch of cherry bits floating in my drink. For the record, I don’t mind citrus pulp, as some bartenders prefer muddling the pulp and leaving the rind alone. Personally, while I lean towards an Old Fashioned made with citrus zest, I absolutely don’t mind one made with muddled pulp, just so long as you don’t muddle the pith as well. As for the cherries, I like whole cherries to marinate in the liquid, and the dark Luxardo cherries are the best. But as I said, let them be garnish. Please do NOT muddle them.
I know… I’m sounding rather elitist, but to me the Old Fashioned is the pinnacle of cocktails. It’s so simple, but the slightest adjustment will make a world of difference in its flavor profile. Change the whiskey, change the citrus component, change the sugar, and it can have a dramatic effect on the outcome. That’s why I’ll never get tired of that drink!
On another note, I thought I’d try a “budget” bourbon, so I got a bottle of Rebel Yell for $9.99 at Trader Joe’s this evening. Wow! I’m amazed at just how delicious this bourbon is. While my go-to tends to be Bulleit Bourbon or Rye, Rebel Yell is a great budge alternative that will not disappoint. However, being a cheap bourbon, how I feel tomorrow after drinking a couple of rounds tonight will be the telling factor. Usually with cheap alcohol, cheaper can mean a bad hangover. We’ll just have to wait and see… 🙂