This is a topic I’m really excited to talk about as I’ve been holding myself from posting this until I actually get a chance to try it in real life! And it finally happened, so happily I will present my camping bread recipe.
Context and Challenges
You can safely skip all the explanation and go directly to the recipe if you don’t care how I came up wit this recipe.
Making bread, and specially good bread, is not easy. The recipe is simple but getting it right requires some practice, and moreover, thinking of making an item that requires baking in an oven while camping, this is, on a camping stove and pot, seems even out of the question.
So, I’ve been trying to improve my camping cooking skills, and, as part of this, I tried to make bread. Those who know me would know that I’m a passionate bread baker, so attempting this was kind of a natural next step for me.
Fact is, there’s several bread kinds that are cooked on a stovetop, like naan, english muffins, or pita bread. However, english muffins require egg whites, which is difficult to keep fresh while camping; and pita bread requires a solid stream of heat to make it’s typical air bubble, (achieved at home by cooking it on a cast iron skillet). So inspired of these two, I came up with a method to prepare something that would be a hybrid between english muffins and pita. That can be prepared between the time you pitch your tent and when you wake up for breakfast.
Aside from the challenges I already mentioned, nothing really of making bread seems compatible with camping: keeping dough in a bowl, covered with plastic film so it doesn’t dry out, still, and on a warm place to rise, keeping it clean, mixing with clean hands, not to think about measuring ingredients with a kitchen scale!! Finally, the recipe requires rolling the dough balls.
So this is how I overcame it:
- Mixing dough with clean hands, clean place, covered with film so it doesn’t dry out: This seems like a job for a plastic bag, flexible enough to mix ingredients without touching them with dirty hands, easy to keep clean, additionally used as a container for dough while it rises. I tried many, I went with the 1qt ziploc bags.
- Measuring ingredients: This is a tricky one. Having a precise amount of yeast, salt, olive oil, water and four on the small scale without a kitchen scale is impossible in the wilderness! Carrying a kitchen scale just for making bread? No way Jose! As you’ll see there will be some small compromises on the items to carry but camping with a kitchen scale is ridiculous! So here is how I measure each ingredient:
- Flour: This one is easy! Measure it at home and carry it inside the bag for mixing! Check! Markings can be made with a sharpie so we are able to reuse the mixing bag.
- Water and Olive Oil: This is more tricky, liquids are heavy and we cannot afford to carry them on separate containers, so what to do? Simple! Buy a lightweight small plastic container, measure at home with the scale and then draw lines in the container with a sharpie! In my case I found a 3 flOz container (thank you TSA!) which contained almost exactly the amount of water I needed, and I drew lines for the olive oil.
- Salt: How to measure 2 grams of salt? 2 options I could think of. Pre measure with kitchen scale and place on drug-dealer style ziploc bags; or conveniently enough, buy 1 gram cooking salt packets in amazon! I went for the latter.
- Yeast: In the recipe I add a lot of yeast, to compensate for the overnight temperature drop that is typically experienced in the wilderness. So I take a 6g packet and add an eyeballed amount (around half).
- Cooking it: This bread is shaped after pita bread or naan (if you will) so it can be cooked in the stovetop without completely burning the crust or consuming all your gas canister. It has double the olive oil I would put on a typical recipe with exactly this in mind: It helps not to burn the bread while cooking it! I have to admit that I kind of burned the first 6 buns I made.
- Rolling it: So this is where I made a compromise. I carried a very small wooden cutting board to roll the buns and I managed to successfully roll the dough on top of it with the liquid container bottle! To keep everything clean I put all together inside of a ziploc bag.
This recipe makes 2 buns of camping bread.
- 100g of all purpose flour.
- 74 grams of water (74%) (the small 3 flOz container almost full)
- 6 grams of olive oil (6%) measured in the small container.
- 2.4 grams of salt (2.4%) this is to taste, adapted really to the salt packets I bought, but typically bread takes 1-4% of salt.
- 3 grams of dried yeast (3%) typically more than triple of what I would add if baked at home.
- A bag of “spare” flour, that you can use to flour your hands and the cutting board.
- In a ziploc bag mix the flour, olive oil and water. Just add the liquids in, close it making sure it has a lot of air and squeeze the bags until the ingredients are incorporated (don’t worry, when mixed the dough will not stick to the bag). Let it rest for 20 minutes, this step is called “autolyse” and it will help the development of the gluten.
- Add the salt and “work the dough” inside of the ziploc bag until incorporated.
- Repeat same step but with the yeast.
- “Knead” the dough inside of the bag vigorously until it doesn’t stick any longer to it and it looks uniform and soft.
- Let the dough rise. Best is overnight, but it also works if you put it inside, at the top of your backpack while you hike and the sun hits it, it helps the fermentation process.
- When you’re ready, this means early morning, or after the hike. Clean your hands as best as you can and flour them, also flour the small cutting board.
- Turn the bag with the dough outside out and help it drop to the board. Divide in 2 and shape into 2 balls.
- Roll the 2 balls to fit the bottom of your camping cooking pot.
- Leave to rise for 20 to 30 min (optional step)
- Heat some olive oil in your camping stove and, with low heat, cook 1 side of the bread for 3 minutes.
- Turn the bread and cook it another 3 minutes.
- Remove from the stove, let it cool and cook repeat from step 10 with the other bun.
It is very important that you leave the bread to cool down so it finishes cooking on the inside. After that, you can cut it open and enjoy it with your favorite camping stuffing, like peanut butter!