The Basics of Grilled Desserts

Even though it lives outside, your grill is just as much of an oven as the one in your kitchen. You can make most baked goods on a gas grill or barbecue and accentuate the flavors of dessert ingredients with the taste, texture and aroma an open flame imparts. Before starting, brush the grill clean and oil the grates.

Baked Goods

Baking in an outdoor grill requires little adjustment to the normal grill setup. You usually don't need to adjust a recipe to adapt it to the grill, either.

Start by setting up the grill with two-zone indirect heat. If you have a gas grill, leave one side of the burners off and set the other side to medium-high. If you have a barbecue, pile the coals on the left and right sides of the charcoal tray, leaving the center free.

Next, heat the grill for 15 minutes. When the temperature reaches 350° F, adjust the vent and damper so the temperature stays in the 325°-350° F range.

Set one or two disposable roasting tins or pie tins upside down on the grill. On top of the tins, set the item to be baked. Bake the dessert according to the recipe and check the doneness in the center; you might have to add 5-10 minutes to the baking time to compensate for temperature fluctuation.

Char-Finishing and Smoke-Finishing

Char- and smoke-finishing come into play when you want to incorporate smoke or char into a prepared baked good.

For example, if you have pound cake, you can cut it into 1" cubes and skewer it with strawberries for strawberry pound cake kebabs. You can also set an unfrosted baked cake on an inverted pie tin, throw some woodchips on the coals and smoke the cake for 5 minutes.

It takes just a couple minutes to char a baked item. For the pound cake example above, grill the kebabs 1-1½ minutes on each side, just enough to burn the grill marks into them.

Smoke-finishing should take 5 minutes or less. Have your baked item ready to go in an oven safe dish or on a sheet pan. Add about ½ cup of applewood chips to the coals (or the smoker box, if you're using a gas grill) and lay the cake on the grill. Smoke a cake or loaf of bread for 5 minutes; smoke cookies for 2-3 minutes.

Fruit Desserts

You can go two ways with grilled fruit desserts. Either adapt a dessert recipe that has fruit, such as apple pie, by grilling or smoking the fruit before using it, or prepare fruit-based desserts on the grill.

Fresh fruit can stand on its own as a dessert, but when you add grilling into the mix, it becomes so much more. For example, rinse and slice a basket of summer fruits, like peaches, pears and plums, and grill them until caramelized. Skewer small pieces of fruit to make them easier to manage. Use a fine mesh strainer for grilling very small or delicate fruits, such as berries and cherries. Place the fruit in the strainer and, wearing a heavy-duty oven mitt, hold it on the grill until it caramelizes. Add a little sugar to fruit before grilling to facilitate the caramelization process. Perforated grill pans perform the same function as the strainer in this method.

Add grilled fruit to existing recipes by parcooking it first. For example, to use grilled apples in apple pie, grill the baking apples called for in the recipe for 5 minutes with the lid closed before making the pie. Let the apples cool before using them in the recipe.

Easy Grilled Desserts

Set up the grill for medium heat to make grilled s’mores. Set the graham crackers on the grill close to the edges where it's cooler. Add chocolate to half of the graham crackers and marshmallows to the remaining graham crackers. Close the grill and cook for 3-5 minutes.

Set up the grill for medium heat to make smoked pound cake with peaches and fresh cream. Slice the peaches into wedges and grill them on both sides until caramelized, about 5 minutes. Slice the pound cake into 1" thick slices and scatter about ½ cup of wood chips on the charcoal. Next, lay the pound cake on the grill and close the cover. Smoke the pound cake for 3-5 minutes. Top the slices with the grilled peaches and add whipped cream.

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