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How to Bake Bread on a Wood Fire
Have you ever wanted to make biscuits or bread while camping, but you weren't sure how? Many directions can be confusing, which leads people to say “To heck with it!”
Don't do that. Baking bread over a wood fire can be fun and it's a lot easier than it sounds. You can put a lot of work into it and build an earthen oven, put together a small rock-lined oven, or cook your bread right in the fire.
Not long ago I took my kids into the forest for an impromptu campfire cookout. It wasn't a huge success, mainly because I took the then 18 month old. I was a bit worried she may fall into my fire, so I didn't do too well on the bread baking. We ended up eating bread-less hot dogs and homemade granola. No too bad, but not great in terms of a successful meal.
Hopefully you'll have someone to keep the kids away from the fire when you try this or you'll go without very small children in tow. Older kids, from about age 5 or 6, will love cooking biscuits on sticks. This is the simplest way to cook bread over a wood fire.
Biscuit on a Stick
First, find and cut a length of green wood, about four to five foot. The wood must be green to reduce the chance that the end will catch fire and then everyone gets upset. No torches – we're cooking biscuits. The wood should also be from a tree that does not have toxic sap. Wood from apple, maple, or oak is fine.
Take your biscuit dough, store bought or homemade, and roll it into a 'snake'. Twist this snake around the stick in a coil. It can be as thick or thin a roll as you like. Thin will cook fast, so keep an eye on it!
Now, hold the coiled biscuit dough over the fire. Turn every few minutes so that the bread bakes evenly. Once the entire outer portion is lightly browned, you can peel from the stick and eat. Kids get a huge kick out of this.
Variation: Skewer hot dogs or sausage on the stick. Coil the dough around the hot dog, cook over the fire as you would the plain biscuit. (Sausages should be pre-cooked for this). Yum!
Fry bread has been made for centuries by many different cultures. The most famous in the United States is 'Indian Fry Bread'. My own family has some Native American roots, so fry bread was something I enjoyed growing up.
The basic recipe is easy: 4 cups of flour, a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon baking powder, and milk to make a stiff dough. Mix in a bowl until the dough forms a ball. The milk isn't exact, as variations in humidity and other factors can make the flour absorb more or less milk.
Knead lightly, the inside of the dough should be a little sticky and the outside should be dusty with flour. Pull into ping-pong ball sized pieces, flatten in your hand, then place in hot oil that is about 1 inch deep in a frying pan that is over a hot fire. You can also use an old fashioned 'spider' frying pan. Fry about two to three minutes on each side.
Remove from oil, drain, and top with anything you'd like. These make great edible plates for taco salad, beans, or any number of ethnic foods. Try making a breakfast sandwich with this bread.
Variation:Add chopped onion to the dough. Add bacon or cheese to the dough.
No, not that kind, hush.
Pot Bread is any bread that is baked in a pot that has a tight fitting lid, like a dutch oven. A cast iron dutch oven is the best option when cooking bread in this manner. If you can, invest in one.
Place your prepared bread dough into a greased dutch oven. Place the dutch oven on the edge of your fire, then pile coals and ashes around the bottom of the pot. Turn the pot halfway through the recommended baking time. You may need to replace the coals.
Any yeast bread can be cooked this way. Use your favorite recipe or a thawed frozen loaf purchased in your grocer's freezer section.
Variation: If you don't have a dutch oven, use a metal coffee can that has aluminum foil over the top.