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Baking while backpacking - novice needs help

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bbk's picture
bbk

Baking while backpacking - novice needs help

Hi Everyone,


Our scout troop goes on a monthly campout and it is my turn to be in charge of the adult dinner.


As responsible grown-ups our primary goal, of course, is to always make the scouts envious of what we are eating so I am thinking of trying calzones.


My plan is use a cardboard box to make an oven by lining it with tin foil and then cook over wood coals from our fire.  I will bake the calzones on a big pizza pan that is raised 8 or so inches off the coals and then cover with the box.


I will make the calzones on Friday night with whatever pizza dough recipe I find and then stuff them and leave them in the fridge until we leave Sat morning.  The the calzones will be sitting in my backpack all day without any refrigeraion, but I do not think that should be an issue since I am guessing that the temp will be in the mid to low 30s during the day.


In theory, all of this should work out fine.  I am wondering if anyone can think of any special considerations that I might have with outdoor baking on a wood fire at around 30 degrees F or so.


Any feedback, thoughts, hints would be appreciated!


Thanks, bbk

ehanner's picture
ehanner

As long as the coals aren't to hot it should work.You could wrap the outside and inside in heavy foil to protect the oven better.


Another idea is to make a very slack dough the day before with a small amount of yeast (like 1/4 tsp), mix it up well and leave it so it has been fermenting 18-24 hours total. Get out a dutch oven and warm up the top and bottom over low coals. Dust the inside with with some wheat bran and drop your dough in in a ball and replace the cover. Toss a fair amount of coals on the cover so there is top heat. Check for done after 20 minutes. Whala--No Knead dough/bread.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

If you want a recipe for the famous "No Knead Bread", here is the link to the original.  The only adjustment I can think of is the time and temp. You could put the dough into a 2 gallon Zip Lock and squeeze all the air out so it has room for expansion and check every now and then. If you rub a little oil inside the bag the dough will come out easily onto a floured work surface. Shape into a loose ball and drop it into your hot Dutch Oven. This is really good bread on a camp fire.


Eric

LeahM's picture
LeahM

I think that sounds like it should work--the only trouble i have had with backcountry baking is that the heat can be very uneven, especially when it's cold out, so by the time you get the thing close enough to the hot fire for the top to cook, the bottom gets charred. Hopefully the box will help.


But, for a different tactic, I also recommend getting/borrowing a bake pan(they sell them at REI, but they're basically just big cake pans with a metal lid that snaps on tightly). You can use a less-hot fire--coals are ideal, and then just shove the whole pan in. (Foil-wrapped potato concept, but much more delicious.) I've found this gets you a more even baking.


And, if you have any leftover dough (or even some bisquik with water), you can throw the scraps in like biscuits, with some dried fruit if you are feeling fancy, and leave overnight in the cooling coals (shovel plenty of dirt over the whole thing) and make the scouts even MORE jealous in the morning at breakfast.


Have fun!


 

jeb's picture
jeb

If you're not backpacking very far, take a cast iron dutch oven. With the right number of coals (I always use Kingsford charcoal, because you get consistant heating), you can adjust the oven temperature to what you want. I don't have any experience with the aluminum dutch ovens out there, but I have found at home that it is easier to burn things at the hot spots with aluminum than it is with cast iron. You can also have one of the boys pack the dutch oven.  ;)


I got into bread baking after the last campout I attended, so I haven't made bread, but I've baked "real" cakes (not the typical dump cakes that are frequently made), cookies, and biscuits, as well as roasts, chili, and stews. I think that I can bake anything in a dutch oven that I can bake in a regular oven.

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

I'd suggest that if you have it available you use non-corrugated board instead of corrugated.  I experimented with this a few times back when my son was active in Boy Scouts (Eagle Scout now!  Good man!) and found that the corrugated air-gap insulated the oven and made it difficult to get it evenly hot.  Poster board would work.  Cut up the pieces, and then re-assemble with heavy-duty foil on both sides.  Leave the corners loose enough to allow everything to fold up flat.  Bring along a large, extra piece of HD foil folded down to the size of the bottom of your oven, to use as a removable pan.  When ready to cook, prop it up on three or four rocks over a nice bed of coals raked to the edge of the fire ring, so it is an inch or a bit more above the coals.  If you can, arrange it so you can rake or push more coals in or out to adjust your heat.


I never cooked bread or something as heavy as calzone this way, and you will probably need to pay a lot of attention to heat to keep things moving along.  I bet you have scouts hanging around all looking for handouts!


When finished, cool it all down, fold the "shelf" piece inside and it should fit right into your backpack, flat against your back.  Makes a nice, light, portable camp oven.


Good Luck, and congratulations on being a Scout Dad!
OldWoodenSpoon

bbk's picture
bbk

OldWoodenSpoon - great ideas.  Interesting concept about corrugated vs non-corrugated.  I like the idea of cutting up and reassembling.  I think I now have my plans in my head.


Quote:
I bet you have scouts hanging around all looking for handouts!

THAT is the true measure of success!


Of course I am going to have to have an alternate plan in case our dinner and my oven goes up in smoke.  There is nothing quite as biting as the ridicule of scouts with full bellies.


Congrats on your Eagles scout.  My 15 yo is working on his project now, my 14 yo just got Life and my 11 yo is crossing over in 2 weeks!

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

After more consideration I thought I should point out that this rig is not very strong across the bottom.  I would suggest keeping the calzone small, and experimenting with the bottom of the oven to make sure it will support the weight.  You might even want to try using a small aluminum camp pot lid (handle removed), or maybe a bent up coat hanger, to stiffen the bottom.  The rig cooks, but the design pre-supposes a pretty light load, like a small corn bread or a half dozen biscuits.  Collecting enough heat to cook a large calzone in such a light-duty rig would probably risk (even more than you are already!) burning up your oven.


Wow, good man!  Three scouts in action.  You are one busy man (for several years to come it appears)!  It is a great thing when your boy(s) make Eagle.  You feel like you (and they) have done the best you could do by each other.  Our troop turned out 21 Eagle Scouts during my 5+ years as an ASM and Committee Chair, and just being part of that felt great, indeed.


Best of luck with your boys, Scouts, and the campout!
OldWoodenSpoon

bbk's picture
bbk

For that reason I think I am going to leave the oven open-bottomed and use a big pizza pan.  Will use rocks to prop up about 8 high or so.


As for the calzones, I am going BIG for maximum jealousy effect.  I will just have to really watch the heat.  Think I will be able to manage with an oven thermometer.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

It will take longer to bake the inside unless you pre-cook the stuffing.  Better to make individual servings that take less time to bake than one big one that gets burnt on the outside and is raw in the middle. 

bbk's picture
bbk

Quote:
You can also have one of the boys pack the dutch oven. ;)

I like the way you think!  But we are going too far to pack a dutch oven.


I know that the concept of the box oven will work because I have seen it done with cookies.  I think my best bet is to take an oven thermometer, make sure the pizza pan is high enough off of the coals and just shuffle coals around a little to adjust temp.


Our troop stresses back-to-basic camping so we only ever take what we can carry on out backs.  That is why I am gong to have to stick to the wood fire charcoal.


I will do my best to get some pictures of a (hopefully) sucessful dinner.


 


Thanks everyone for your responses.


 

jeb's picture
jeb

Well, I guess that you can use a BakePacker! I don't think that the calzones will be as aesthetically pleasing, but they'll still be edible. Though I've never tried it, I've been told that brownies are one of the few things that you can't cook with a bakepacker.


My youngest son got his Eagle last fall, though he hasn't had his court of honor, yet. My other 2 sons also received their Eagle Award. I'm going to serve on the staff at the Jamboree, so if any of you are there, hunt me down.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

About the oven box... if you cover all 5 sides with foil leaving one side open, set it on its side on the ground with the opening toward the fire and 3 heated stones to hold the pan off the floor of the oven, you can bake a cake if you want to rotating the pan to avoid over browning on the fire side.  Be ready to raise the oven on some wood underneath if needed.  Soak the box with water to avoid burning it.  You can also do this without the box using doubled heavy duty foil in shell shape open to the fire.  Trick is to get the pan into the air up off the cold ground and have a space around the pan that traps heat and reflects it onto the food.


Mini

bbk's picture
bbk

So Mini,


I was planning on having the open side down.  Do you suggest having the open side toward the fire instead of down because that will manage heat better?

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Instead of dragging cardboard and foil you could think along the lines of using what the land has to provide. I don't know what part of the country you are camping in but if you can build yourself a small cave with rocks on the bottom and burn a fire in it, you will have yourself a wood fired oven.


Here's one way.


This is the one I was looking for. This would make the boys pay attention and it's not hard to build.


Eric

Mise En Place's picture
Mise En Place

Some thoughts based on working with Scouts Cooking merit badge and box ovens:



  1. Line all internal surfaces with heavy duty foil.  Corregated boxes work fine as long as there are NO exposed paper surface on the interior. 

  2. Take a 9"x 13" rectangular pan to put the coals in.  Do not put the hot coals directly on the bottom of the box.  Use small rocks/pebbles to raise the aluminum coal pan about 1/2" - 1" off the bottom.

  3. Cut up a metal clothes hanger or two to pieces about 1" longer than the width of the box.  When time to bake, poke the clothes hanger pieces through the box about 1/2 way up the height to form a shelf.  Space the hangers about 1" - 1 1'/2 " apart.   Fold a double sheet of aluminum foil on the shelf and cook your Calzones.  The shelf should be about 1"-2" above the hot coals. 

  4. If possible freeze the calzones overnight.  They will thaw out in your backpack during the day if you don't pack them in the middle of the pack.  You might want to consider paritally baking them at home (like you do when you freeze dinner rolls) and finish them on the trail.  At a miminum, completely cook all meat going in the calzone if using sausages.  Pepperoni and other hard sausages don't need to be precooked.

  5. Wrap the calzones in a couple of ziplocks to make sure there is no chance that the food odors will contaminate your backpack (we use cadaver bags...the smaller ones that the police use to put small body parts work well).  We have a big bear problem in California parks and if there is any food scent in your backpack they will find it.  

  6. Make a brownie mix that uses water instead of milk to make and take it along.  Take a square lightweight aluminum foil pan. After you calzones are done, add the water to the brownie mix and bake it in the same oven.  That'll definitely give the Scouts a treat!


Enjoy the trip.  Sound like a lot of fun.


 

bbk's picture
bbk

These are great tips, Mise En Place.  thanks.

bbk's picture
bbk

Eric,


THAT is a cool oven.  Will not have time on this campout because we are getting a training hike in, but I will definitely try that at another time.  I think the kids would love to help with that.

diverpro94's picture
diverpro94

 

I agree with ehanner. I heard many stories from old cowboys about the Dutch oven technique. They said they would make a fire in a ditch, and then put it out. Next they would put the bread in the Dutch oven and seal it up and then put it where the fire was. They would then cover it up and let the dough bake.

You could also fry up some Indian fry bread in a skillet over a fire and make Indian tacos! That would be easy and it would impress everyone. Good luck!

 

BTW check this out! http://www.preparedpantry.com/downloads/Emergency_Bread_Guide.pdf

diverpro94's picture
diverpro94

Indian fry (or fried) bread is also great as a dessert! Just eat it with honey and cinnamon like a sopapilla.


 


We always eat it at pow-wows! :o)

TheVillageBaker's picture
TheVillageBaker

I liked the Indian fry bread - I will check it out.


I bake ½ pound and one pound loaves in the DO on the cast iron top of a wood stove which I keep burning high. The small loaves can take 45 minutes to bake and the large loves up to an hour. How many scouts are you going to be feeding and how many DO are they going to be carrying?

Have you considered gozleme? These are smaller Turkish style calzones cooked on a large flat skillet – I use a French crepe pan for mine. The advantage is that you just cook one side at a time, no need for an oven or enclosed space and they are quick to cook and wow, they are delicious.

Check this youtube video for the general idea:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPgef_xxYss

Try other youtube videos, (search gozleme)  for a less professional, earthier openfire option.

We fill our smaller version with spinach, rocket, or small tender leaves in season, together with pine nuts, goats cheese, or preferably feta cheese for the tang and crumbly texture.


 


 

bbk's picture
bbk

Hi There,


I appreciate the suggestion re the Dutch Oven ideas but we are taking zero Dutch Ovens since we only take what we can carry on our backs.


The gozleme looks great - nice vid.


Boy, I am getting a ton of great suggestions here.  thank you one and all!


 

PeteInAz's picture
PeteInAz

Did it work?