The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


sphealey's picture

Partly due to a desire to answer some long-held questions, partly in reponse to a recent topic, I undertook an investigation of breadmaking while camping this weekend past.

The occasion was my son's Scout Troop's annual caving outing, this year a 3-day trip to Meramec State Park in Missouri. My wife leads the caving tours (actually my son handled two of the four tours himself this year which was neat). I have had enough caves to last the rest of my life, so I volunteered to stay behind, mind the camp, and cook for the adults on the trip.

I wanted to investigate several questions. First of all, could I make bread dough under camp conditions? Second, could I bake the dough in a dutch oven over charcoal or fire? Third, could I use a small wood fire instead of charcoal to heat a dutch oven? And finally, just how hot does a dutch oven get in camping conditions?

The answer to the first question is a definite yes. I decided to try a no-knead recipe using one bowl, spoon, and plastic wrap. I had no problem making or fermenting the dough. Temperatures were ideal at about 60 deg.F overnight and 75 deg.F in the shade on Saturday. I used the NYT recipe scaled up 1.3x, with the addition of 50 g rye flour to help with fermentation. One of the camping tables made an excellent turning surface once dusted with flour; I used the same large mixing bowl as the rising container for the shaped loaf. The bread rose nicely even in the solid bowl, and by cutting flour in on the sides I was able to get it out of the bowl with little problem (though see more on this in a bit).

Jumping ahead to questions 3 and 4, about 3 PM I started a small log-cabin style fire with 4 small logs about 4 inches (10 cm) square[1]. By 4 PM it had burned down quite a bit and was nice and hot. I put the dutch oven on the logs and tossed a handful of charcoal into the well formed by the cross-hatch of the logs for good measure.

Around 20 minutes later I tried to measure the temperature of the inside of the dutch oven. How you might ask? With the handy Thermapen in my waist pack, right next to the compass and Swiss Army knife. Doesn't everyone carry one of those on camping trips? I received much ridicule from my wife when she saw it later on.

Unfortunately, I could not hold the Thermapen on the dutch oven long enough to get a reading before my hand started to roast. This should have been a clue, but I was not quick enough to catch it. It was also lucky as later events will show. When I pulled my hand back the highest temperature was about 450 deg.F.

I then tried to transfer the dough into the dutch oven. Extraction from the bowl and flipping went well, but I hadn't tucked the hoop handle down far enough and the dough hit it. The result was a very off-center blob rather than a nice loaf. I was very annoyed but this turned out to be another fortunate accident.

My usual cooking time for NYT in the oven at home is 30 minutes covered, 15 minutes uncovered at 475 deg.F. So I figured I might as well take a peak after 20 minutes in the fire.

Wowsa. The loaf was fully risen and the top was turning from golden brown to black. I pulled the dutch oven off the fire, let it cool for a while, and took out the bread. The bottom of the loaf was not just black but carbonized: it looked like a flake pastry, except the layers were layers of carbon! The solid carbon crust was 4-5 mm thick. Internal temperature was 220 deg.F per the Thermapen.

I had to get back to cooking the rest of dinner (another dutch oven recipe). Once the loaf had cooled my wife sliced off the carbonized bottom and the fully burned areas of the top, then cut the remaining loaf into sections the way you do with a boule. The crumb was very moist, which I attribute to the short total cooking time and the solidified crust preventing moisture escape, but the texture was just on the edible side of gummy and the flavour was excellent. The entire loaf was eaten with several people taking seconds!

I estimate the temperature of the dutch oven had to be around 800 deg.F. If I had been able to hold my Thermapen in it any longer I would have destroyed it, as it is only good to 575 deg.F. Similarly, had I manged to get the dough into the oven in a nice even ball it probably would have carbonized all the way through; since it was a giant lump the shape of a US football the center was still edible bread.

My conclusions?

  • Can a dutch oven be operated with a wood fire? Of course, since this is how they were used historically, but I found that I can achieve the same results
  • How hot does a dutch oven get? Pretty darn hot! - in fact you have to watch that it isn't getting too hot in a hot fire
  • Can bread be made on a camping trip? Yes. Contrary to what I initially thought the problem will be regulating the baking temperature at the high end, not the low end.

Unfortunately my son had the digital camera at the cave during this process so I have no pictures ;-(. Three black-and-white film shots were taken of the loaf, and once those are developed if they scan well I will add them to this entry.


[1] Note: the State of Missouri in the US is rapidly re-foresting as marginal farmland goes back to forest; there is plenty of firewood and no restrictions on campfires as long as there is no forest fire warrning. Burning locally-grown firewood is essentially carbon-net-neutral.

Thegreenbaker's picture

I dont have any photos as the camera's battery went flat :S But the pumpkin bread was soooo great and tasted wonderful. it even had pumpkin flavour and was quite yellow.



2/3 of a butternut pumpkin/squash chopped. seeded, peeled, boiled, drained and mashed.

500 grams of bread flour. (I used 1/3 cup of gluten glour which was approx 50g and made up the excess of weight with 100g spelt flour, 200g wheat wholemeal flour, 100g of white flour and made the rest up with rye approx 50g maybe a bit more.)

1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast.

1/2 to 2/3 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup of buttermilk-extra incase dough is dry.

1 pinch nutmeg

1 pinch cinnamon (like 1/8 teaspoon each) 

peppittas or pumpkin seeds to decorate.

Extra flour for kneading

1 egg beaten for egg wash.



Put the flours, salt and yeast in a large bowl. mix to distribute.

Make a well in the centre of the flour and add the mashed potato...still warm, the spices and the buttermilk. Mix to combine into a sticky ball. add extra buttermilk if too dry and add extra flour if too wet. it should come together into a sticky ball. it will be moist and sticky, but not difficult to handle.

Knead this for about 10-12 mins, keep flouring the bench as I found it was very sticky. After 8 mins or so it does become pliable and soft, but still sticks easily to your hands.

oil a bowl and leave it to rise for about 90 mins or until it doubles in size.

Fold a few times to give it some extra strength and leave it to rise again for maybe an hour.

Shape, cover in pumpkin seeds and let proof. It actually proofs quite fast, I think it is because of the sugars in the pumpkin and preheat the oven to 200deg celcius.

Slash the loaf and coat with egg wash. place in the oven and steam. keep spraying walls (or what ever your steaming habbits are) for the first 5 mins at 30 sec-1 min intervals.

Bake for about 45 mins.

Let cool.

We cut it when it was still warm and the crumb was still a tiny but sticky or moist but today it is fine. It really is a lovely bread. great with stuffed squash (thanks for the recipe jmonkey)


I will be making this again, and next time I will take a picture!

I hoipe who ever tries this they enjoy it. Myself and my dinner guests did!





T4tigger's picture

After 7 long days, Thing 1 and Thing 2 are looking and acting like living, breathing starters. Thing 1, the indoor starter almost tripled itself today, and Thing 2, the outdoor starter doubled.

As I expected, they are behaving differently, but I actually expected Thing 2 to be more energetic than Thing 1. I guess I expected the outdoor microflora to be more lively than the ones in the house.

I'm going to keep them at 100% hydration for a few more days and then switch them to 50%. I want to see if I can expand them both enough to bake with them this weekend.

Ruth Redburn's picture
Ruth Redburn


Hokey , When you want to branch out to other recipes, you might like to try Sourdough Pancakes, a recipe from my daughter, Nancy, when she was in college at Santa Cruz.  These are very nice. I also have a sourdough waffle recipe. Enjoy!

Basic Batter

 1 cup starter, 1 cup warm water, 1 1/4 -1 1/2 cups flour.  Put in large glass or pottery bowl and cover.  Put in warm spot. 

Night before prepare basic batter.   Next morning, add 1 egg, 2 Tbl. oil, 1/4 cup instant dry or evaporated milk.  Beat thoroughly. 

Combine 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. soda, 2 Tbls.sugar.  Blend together, sprinkle over batter, fold in gently.  Allow to sit for a few minutes.  Fry on hot, lightly greased griddle, making dollar-sized pancakes. 

browndog's picture

white mountain, whole wheat, shortbreadsLoaves and puppies have this in common, that more is invariably better, so long as you find good homes for them all. An attribute that doesn't hold for everything- mice and snakes are best in sedate groupings of no more than two or three, for example, and I suspect that even bunnies have their tipping point. (Nah, prob'ly not...) I had the remarkable good fortune to find myself handing out bread to nearly a dozen people this weekend. Since any home-baked bread is generally enough to inspire gratitude, I kept it straightforward with a basic all-white loaf and a 100% whole wheat. The wheat worked a treat (God I love that phrase.) The person it was earmarked for is of that rare breed who prefers his bread only a very little removed from the wheat field. I hybridized from recipes in Beth Hensperger's Bread Bible and King Arthur's 200th Anniversary Cookbook, and the dictates of what was in the cupboard. I added a quantity of cooked cracked wheat so as not to be accused of being wimpy, yet the crumb was so, well, edible, that I might've fallen short...oh, the cookies are a couple varieties of shortbread, and now watch carefully as I insult an entire people, I needed cookies of a British heritage, and when I searched for recipes what did I find but shortbread, ginger-nut biscuits, and something alluringly referred to as digestive biscuits... 100% whole wheat w/ cracked wheatwhite mountain white, 100% whole wheat

weavershouse's picture

PAIN RUSTIQUEPAIN RUSTIQUE: PAIN RUSTIQUE: Today I made Hamelman's Pain Rustique and I'm very happy with it. It is creamy and delicious. Thanks TTonka and Susan. I made 3 loaves, one for my neighbor, one in a bread tin for my grandaughter (brushed with butter) and one for us. I will make this again for sure. I'm also going to finally buy Hamelman's book so I don't have to struggle to read the recipe from a pdf. By the way Susan my icons to enlarge the page go off when I go into the file. Who knows why. 

Ruth Redburn's picture
Ruth Redburn

I have made this bread at least 5 times.  I usually make two loaves each time.  I have one in the oven now and it smells delicious, as usual.  Have had no problems with it.  I would like to know if any one has made it with all whole-wheat flour. 

smartdog's picture

I've been learning how to bake breads the past month or so (without much luck with the artisan bread types). BUT, today I decided to try my hand at a Challah. Here is the pictures of the results. Needless to say I am extremely happy with this recipe! Great "crust and crumb" on this one! I LOVE Challah, and this one tops any I've had from the bakeries.

and cut: (excuse the darkness)

Luv4Country Soaps


mse1152's picture

I just finished baking the Cinnamon Raisin bread from BBA. It had no oven spring at all. The only changes I made to the recipe...oops, formula, were to omit the walnuts and use whole wheat flour for 25% of the flour.
















It tastes great, but looks sorta brickish.
















I read recently on this site that cinnamon is supposed to suppress yeast activity. Maybe that's so. The photo of this bread in the BBA is not especially lofty either. Has anyone made a cinnamon bread with really good rise? This bread has 2 tablespoons of cinnamon in the dough, plus about 1.5 tablespoons in the swirl. The yeast is 2 tsp. (instant).



tattooedtonka's picture

Well after reading some posts on here comparing different books recipes on a given bread, I gave one a test.

I have been using BBA's recipe for Poolish Ciabatta, with wonderful results in outward appearance.  The crumb was not as open as I hoped though.

So today I made two Ciabatta w/ Olive Oil from Hamelmans "Bread" book.  The dough was much wetter than I had expected.  And all the recipes in the book print times for mixing with a stand mixer, but not if you are doing it by hand.  So I tried to make an educated guess.  The crumb is o.k. and I have much larger holes in the crumb than I did with BBA's, but I believe I underbaked a little.  I didnt use an internal temp probe to monitor temp, I thought it wouldnt be very accurate with all the large holes I knew this would make.  So I tried to go as long as I could without completely blackening the crust.  Here is what I got.

The flavor of these is much different than BBA's as well.  And I realize there would be some difference due to the Olive Oil being added, but there is a big difference to me.   It tastes good, so I wont complain to much, I just have to work on the times better in the future.

While I was at it I made two loaves of Hamelmans Pain Rustique.  These came out great.  The guesswork I did on mixing times on this worked out well.  I am very pleased with the feel of the crust, and the holes in the crumb.  Here they are.



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