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 explanations and go directly to the recipe if you don’t care how I came up with this recipe.
Making bread, and especially good a one is not easy. The recipe is simple but getting it right requires some practice, and moreover, thinking of cooking 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 are several bread kinds that are cooked on a stovetop. Naan, English muffins, or pita bread are some. However, English muffins require egg whites, which is challenging to keep fresh while camping; and pita bread requires a solid stream of heat to make its typical air bubble, (achieved at home by cooking it on a cast-iron skillet). So inspired by 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 the 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! Get a makeshift measuring vessel. I found a travel 3 flOz container (thank you TSA!) that fit almost exactly the amount of water I needed, so I drew lines for water and olive oil in it.
- 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 on 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 on 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 bamboo cutting board to roll the buns and I managed to successfully roll them on it. I used the same liquid container bottle! To keep everything clean I put everything together inside of a Ziploc bag.
- 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. Close the bag making sure it has a lot of air and squeeze it until the ingredients are incorporated (don’t worry, when mixed the dough will not stick to the bag). Let the mixture rest for 20 minutes, this step is called “autolyse” and it will help the development of the gluten.
- Add the salt and “work it into the dough” by massaging the Ziploc bag.
- Repeat the same step but with the yeast.
- “Knead” the dough by massaging the bag vigorously until it looks uniform and soft, and it doesn’t get stuck to the bag.
- 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 on your camping stove and, with low heat, cook 1 side of the bread for 3 minutes.
- Turn the bread and cook it for another 3 minutes.
- Remove from the stove, let it cool and cook repeat from step 10 with the other bun.
You must leave the bread to cool down to finish cooking on the inside. After that, you can cut it open and enjoy it with your favorite camping stuffing, like peanut butter!