Bread making for the outdoorsman.
A common phrase among bushcrafters is the term, “smoothing it”, which aptly sums up why we go into the woods, we don’t go into the woods to have sleepless nights and eat poorly, we go to enjoy nature and to eat and sleep well. As such having a varied diet is key and oddly enough you don’t see people baking bread much when they are out in the woods, despite consuming bread every day when they are at home.
This may be because of the stigma associated with baking, that its time consuming and difficult and can only be done in perfect conditions. I disagree. I think a decent bread roll or small loaf can easily be whipped up in the woods, provided you have some basic ingredients. This 2-part series should get you started on the basics of how to make dough and a couple ways you can cook it up.
A quick note, I don’t claim to be an expert baker, so my method may not match what you see on cooking TV shows or from professional chefs, but it has certainly served me well and makes me feel like I’m smoothing it when outdoors.
Part 1: The dough
The critical part to making bread…. Obviously.
I rarely use specific measurements, simply because in the woods you might not have a scale or measuring cups, so I do it all by eye. One packet of yeast generally makes enough bread for 2 people and you would use probably just under half a bag of flour.
- 1kg Bag of Plain Flour
- 5 Gram Packet of Yeast
The first step is to warm your water, place about 200-300 mls of water into your pot, and set it close to your fire. You don’t want to warm it past 50 degrees, only to just above body temperature, so keep an eye on it as it doesn’t take long. If you do overheat the water don’t worry about adding some cold water to cool it down.
When the water is just above body temperature place your packet of yeast into the pot, along with two pinches of sugar. Set this just off from your fire, an area where you can hold your hand comfortably while still feeling some slight warmth of the fire. Let the yeast rest for 5 minutes, check your pot regularly to stir and ensure that it isn’t getting too warm.
Next add a pinch of salt and some flour, as I don’t really measure out the flour it will be added it bit by bit. At first you will just be able to stir the flour in with a stick or spoon, as you develop more of a dough you will have to start working it with your hands. I found an easy way to knead in a small pot was to use my knuckles. Folding the dough and then pressing down with my fist.
As the dough forms add flour in small increments to avoid making your dough too dry, but if you do just add water and keep kneading. Once you’ve got a good lump of dough that’s holding together focus more on kneading than adding flour. Knead for a few minutes and assess the dough.
You are looking for dough that’s smooth, slightly sticky, and elastic feeling, achieve this by kneading for at least 5 minutes and if necessary adding small bits of flour. Once you’ve got your dough made, flour the inside of your pot and then set the dough inside. If you want to portion your dough up, now is the time, and then let each section rise individually.
Your pot should go next to the fire where its comfortably warm to allow your dough to rise, which it really will, almost doubling in size! Monitor the pot closely to ensure it doesn’t get too warm which could kill the yeast and ruin your bread, the rising will take about half an hour, so now is a good time to stock up on a bit more fire wood or prep other parts of the meal.
Once the dough has risen it’s time to cook!