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In May 2001, Dave Stamper sent me a bunch of photos and information about how he had perfected the art of baking pizza, foccacia, and other savory items using the Weber Bullet. "This will open up a whole new world for the owners of this cooker," wrote Dave. "The WSM will bake bread just as well as cookers costing much more. I sure hope folks will try it...you haven't lived until you try bread baked over lump or wood."
It's great information, and I want to thank Dave for taking the time to share his photos and baking expertise with The Virtual Weber Bullet and with all of you. Great job, Dave!
As always, click on any of the pictures to view a larger image.
"The reason I decided to make this one of my winter projects is that I wanted a portable cooker that I could bake with", says Dave. "It's nice that a fellow can always find room in the camper for this fine little cooker, and in my opinion, there's nothing better than bread baked over a lump or wood fire.
"The pictures make this task look pretty easy, but I tried many combinations to get it to work right and to bake pizza, bread, and calzone as well as my expensive wood-fired bread oven does. I'm proud to report that I have reached this goal even better than expected."Things You'll Need To Get Started
Before you can start baking with your WSM, you'll need a few items:
Of course, you'll also need some recipes! Dave has provided a detailed pizza recipe that you'll find later in this article. I have also included links at the end of this article to help you find additional baking recipes on the Internet.
Dave starts by placing the charcoal grate and charcoal ring on top of the bottom cooking grate in the middle cooking section. He turns the charcoal grate 90 degrees to the cooking grate so it's running in the opposite direction. This keeps small pieces of lump charcoal from falling through the grates.
If you're concerned about the hot coals damaging your bottom cooking grate, use a charcoal grate from a Weber 22-1/2" kettle grill instead. These grates can be purchased at hardware stores and home centers.
With the charcoal grate and ring in place, Dave fills the ring with hardwood lump charcoal and lights it using two Weber Lighter Cubes, as shown in Photo 1. You can also start the lump using a charcoal chimney.
Next, Dave places the foil-lined pie pan on the top cooking grate and mounts the grid extender over the pan, then places the pizza stone on top of the grid extender, as shown in Photo 2.
The pizza stone is the surface on which the pizza or bread will bake. The grid extender adds some distance between the lump charcoal and the pizza stone, and moves the stone up into the domed lid where the temperature is higher.
The pie pan shields the pizza stone from the hot flames coming off the lump charcoal, preventing the stone from overheating and burning the bottom of the food. It also deflects heat around the stone and up into the lid for even baking.
Using this setup, Dave is able to bake a variety of pizzas, calzones, and breads ranging from 350-525°F.
"This was the real test of baking on the WSM," says Dave. "In our home, I have to make pizza two different ways. I like a thick, chewy crust, so I bake mine around 425°F for 18-22 minutes. My wife likes a thin, crispy crust and I usually do hers around 525°F for 13-14 minutes."
Dave baked two pizzas for himself at the lower temp, then one for his wife at the higher temp. "After I got my two pizzas off the cooker, I opened all the bottom vents fully and took off the access door to get the temp up quickly for my wife's pizza. I went into the house and made the last pizza, which probably took 5-6 minutes. Went back outside and found the cooker at about 550°F. I put on the door and cut the bottom vents back to 50 percent each. I loaded the pizza at 530°F and made no more adjustments. It baked around 500°F for 13-14 minutes." The resulting thin-crust pizza is shown in Photo 5.
"All three pizzas came out great, and just as good as if I had done them in my bread smoker."
Here are Dave's detailed instructions for baking two pizzas in the Weber Bullet.
These instructions assume that you're using a bread machine to make the dough. If you don't have a bread machine, there are other ways to make or buy dough. If you're not using a bread machine, adjust Dave's process accordingly.
To make one "thick and chewy" pizza and one "thin and crispy" pizza, divide the dough into two slightly uneven pieces.
Caution: This cooker running at 450-500°F is extremely hot. Use gloves and potholders to remove the lid or make any adjustments to the vents. Always have a large spatula at the cooker and your fire extinguisher close at hand. Don't set the cooker close to anything that will burn.
Calzone is sort of a pizza folded over on itself, then baked. Dave writes, "Calzones are another great treat that can be baked on the WSM. They can be made small for an appetizer or large for a complete meal. I baked these calzones to serve me and my wife along with two guests.
"These two calzones use two different recipes. One was made in the more traditional method, stuffed with chopped spinach that was sautéed in olive oil and garlic. To this, I added grated Mozzarella and Provolone cheese. The second calzone was stuffed with Italian sausage (pre-cooked and drained), pepperoni, mushrooms, bell pepper, onion, and some herbs and spices. To this, I added a little spaghetti sauce and some grated Mozzarella and Romano cheese.
"Most folks make these with basic pizza ingredients, but I like the more traditional recipe using sautéed spinach. They can be stuffed with just about anything. I often use chili or a Mexican dish when I want a change of pace."
To make calzone, "roll the dough out to about 1" less than the diameter of your stone. Load the stuffing on one-half of the dough, keeping it 1" away from the edge of the dough. Brush that 1" wide area with water, then fold the dough over the toppings and line up the edges. Use a fork to press down the edges, sealing the calzone so it won't leak while cooking.
"I bake calzone at 425-475°F for 13-18 minutes. I like to brown them up so the crust has a little crunch to it."
For the calzones shown in these photos, Dave brought the WSM up to 500°F, then loaded the calzones. They baked at 470°F for about 15 minutes.
At first blush, foccacia looks a little bit like pizza, but it's really an Italian bread. "This herb bread is a great treat that can be made many different ways, and all recipes are great. I probably don't make it the same way twice, but all my loaves do contain some basic ingredients that we like and always put into the bread.
"We like dried chives and dried onions and put about 1 teaspoon of each into the dough. Always use 2-3 of your favorite dried herbs in the dough when you make it. This bread can be topped with just about anything, but it must have dried rosemary on top as one of the herbs.
"I might make the bread using the following recipe. For a thick loaf measuring about 2" high after baking, roll the dough out to 8-9" in diameter. For a thin loaf measuring about 1" high after baking, roll the dough to 10-11" in diameter. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, poke some pockets spaced about 1" apart all over the surface of the dough. Brush on a generous amount of olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt or other coarse salt. Add 1/3 cup of cheese and about 2 teaspoons of dried rosemary. Now add anything else you like. I might use sun-dried tomatoes with black olives or mushrooms or hot peppers (when the wife is out of town).
"This bread bakes at 400-425°F for 16-22 minutes. I pull it when I see just a little browning through the top vent."
In Photo 9, Dave mixed chives, onions, and a bit of oregano into the foccacia dough, then topped it with rosemary, cheese, olive oil, sea salt, black olives, and grape tomatoes. He baked the foccacia at 400-425°F. "The WSM had no problems maintaining this baking temperature. After I got it to temp, I had the three bottom vents open at 25 percent each." Photo 10 shows the tasty result.
Kolach is a braided bread popular in Ukraine and Eastern European countries. According to Ukrainian tradition, three large kolach are stacked on top of each other as the centerpiece of the Christmas Eve dinner table. The round shape symbolizes good luck, bountiful life, general welfare and eternity. Kolach are also an important part of other religious and family events.
Kolach is a rich bread consisting of flour, water, yeast, sugar, butter, milk, eggs, and salt. After the dough rises, it is divided, braided, and shaped into a round. An egg glaze is applied and poppy seeds are often sprinkled on top. Dave's kolach is topped with whole walnuts.
Dave writes, "This bread bakes at 350-360°F for about one hour. This low baking temperature is really a piece of cake. After I got it up to temp, I had the three bottom vents open 20 percent each to maintain the temperature. Note the even browning on the top of the bread as it came off the cooker."
Dave baked two kolach over a 2-1/2 hour period. Photo 13 shows that less than half of the fuel was consumed in the process. All the lump that remains can be extinguished and used in the next cook.
When it comes to baking, Dave says that most of the effort goes into the dough. There are several ways to approach this:
A bread machine with a "dough only" cycle does a fantastic job on pizza dough. Just follow the instructions included with your bread machine for a basic pizza dough. A recipe using 2-1/2 to 3 cups of flour should make enough dough for two pizzas, two calzone, or two foccacia in about 90 minutes.Making Pizza Dough With A Mixer Or By Hand
Here are two methods recommended by Dave for making pizza dough.
Heavy-duty mixer method:
Here are some final tips from Dave for successful baking with the Weber Bullet:
Here are links to help you find more baking recipes:
Again, I want to thank Dave for this "tour de force" on baking. All his efforts are greatly appreciated!
Baking photographs: 2001 by Dave Stamper.
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