We really like fresh bread while we’re camping. There is something about bread products that just seems especially good in the woods. Maybe it’s the fresh air; maybe it’s the appetites that we work up in the woods. To paraphrase from the Swiss translation, "bread is not hard, but no bread is hard"... How true
When we talk about bread in the woods, two thoughts seem to flash through folk’s minds: “Hey, I can barely handle yeast in the kitchen,” and “Yeah, but I’m a tent camper. I can’t bake in the woods.” Never fear. This article will help.
If you can barely handle yeast in the kitchen, maybe yeast in the campground isn’t a great idea. But then, yeast is not temperamental to anything but temperature. If you solve the temperature problems, yeast in the campground is no more difficult than yeast in the kitchen. You need warm enough water to get the yeasty critters growing. Most recipes are going to ask for water in the 105 to 110 degree range. Unless you have a practiced finger, bring a thermometer.
Now you’ve got to keep the yeasty critters growing. That involves temperature too. Instead of covering your dough with plastic wrap, place the dough, bowl and all, in a large food-safe plastic bag. It’ll keep the surface of the dough from drying out, the drafts away from the dough, and you’ll have a little mini greenhouse. If you have some sun, you can probably get the dough warm enough for the yeast to work. Once at 11,000 feet in Montana with a youth group, we moved a tent into the brunt of the sun to absorb the afternoon rays and create enough heat to make the dough rise.
Steamed breads are so versatile. We love the outdoors and are always looking for interesting and different foods that we can cook while camping and steamed breads can be cooked as you lounge around the campfire. They make wonderful treats at home. And they make great emergency fare since you don't need an oven or even a range to cook these breads.
We put the following recipe together for a group of visiting hunters enroute to the Anaconda Pintlers. We started it cooking next to the morning fire and by the time breakfast was over and the dishes were done, the bread was ready. It was a little rich for morning food--more like a cake than a bread--but these backpackers didn't seem to mind and it certainly turned out good enough to be a treat at home.
Apricot-Date Nut Bread with Caramel Sauce
11/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup apricot nectar
2 cups chopped dates
1/2 cup chopped Brazil nuts
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup dry milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients. (If you are taking this camping, combine these ingredients in a plastic bag before leaving.)
Stir in the juice until just combined. (An individual serving-sized can of apricot nectar is just about the right size.) Stir in the dates and nuts. (If you prefer, you can substitute raisins, dried apricots, or cranberries for the dates. Of course, you can use your favorite nuts.)
Pack the dough into a well-greased large can or other cooking container. Cover the top with heavy foil and tie it securely with string.
Place the can on a rack in a large pan or kettle. (At camp, a few clean pebbles work as well as a rack.) Fill the pan with water and set it to simmer. Let the pan simmer for two hours, adding water as necessary. When done, invert the bread onto a plate and slice to serve.
For the caramel sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the sugar and cornstarch and stir. Then stir the water and dry milk together and add to the pan. Cook and stir until thick and bubbly, about five minutes at low heat. Add the vanilla. Serve hot or cold over the nut bread. (For camping, put the dry ingredients in a plastic bag adding the vanilla to the brown sugar. Melt the butter, add the dry ingredients and then the water.)
You can also make some wonderful steamed breads around a campfire or on a cook stove. Many of these are sweetbreads, maybe even dessert breads, but they can be very good—good enough to make at home.
And of course, you can always rely on pancakes. In fact, pancakes may be one of the most versatile of camping foods. It works on the trail on a backpacking trip, in an RV, and everything in between. You can make them sweet or savory. You can top them with syrups or sauces. You can even stuff them, roll them, and eat them as a burrito.