We’re health-conscious cruisers whose motto is, “waste not, want not.” It’s always bothered us to throw away the water in the pot after we boil pasta for dinner. That water is full of vitamins and minerals, but if you’re not going to make soup with it, what do you do?
One night, we decided to use the water to make bread, and made a discovery: Yeast and pasta water react very well together. Ever since that first loaf, bread we’ve made with this water has turned out magnificently. It makes hearty, crusty loaves that’re really tender inside. Maybe that’s the reason the formula works so well with our most recent invention, bread on the barbecue.
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 c. tepid pasta water
1-2 packets dry yeast
3 c.-plus white flour
1-2 tsp. salt (optional, see below)
Dissolve the sugar into the water and sprinkle in yeast. Stir well. Cover and let sit for about 15 minutes. Check. If it isn’t bubbling, keep the lid on and let it sit in a warm place for a while longer. (If it doesn’t begin to bubble, the yeast is bad.)
When the mixture bubbles, add flour. Omit salt if you salted the water before boiling the pasta. Stir, adding more flour until you get a gooey consistency. Cover and let sit for at least a half hour, or up to an hour. Stir down and continue to add flour to the dough, working it to the point where you can knead it, gathering in all the dry flour as you go. I knead the dough in the same pasta pot that held the water. It’s easier this way — you dirty only one pot and avoid having flour fly all over the boat.
Once the dough has formed an elastic ball, coat it with vegetable oil. Set aside, clean the pot, and let the dough rise in the pot. When it doubles in bulk, it’s ready for the grill (or the oven). Punch the dough down one last time and form into small, round loaves or free-form shapes such as breadsticks or twists. If baking, shape into larger loaves and place in oiled and floured pans.
In the oven: Bake at 400 degrees F for the first 10 minutes, then at 350 degrees F for an hour, or until the bread separates from the sides of the pan and turns golden brown.
On the grill: Make a bed of hot coals on one side of the barbecue. Be sure to thoroughly clean the grill, then wipe it with a paper towel soaked in cooking oil to coat it. Place loaves on the side of the grill that has no hot coals directly underneath it. Cover grill. Check the bread after about 10 minutes, or when you start to smell the dough cooking,