Methods and recipes for making bread without an oven in an emergency or while camping
Bread is an important part of living. Yet, we may not always have an oven available. Terrorists may strike or Mother Nature may wreak havoc. It’s nice to know, you can still have bread.
And for those of you who like to visit the woods, it’s nice to be able to make bread at a campsite. In fact, many of these recipes and techniques have been developed camping through the years-often with scouts or other youth groups. Deep in the woods, bread is a welcome, filling commodity.
Whether it’s an extended power outage or leading a group of Boy Scouts through the woods, it’s nice to know how to make bread without an oven.
Fry it. Those indulgent raised, glazed donuts are fried. You can do the same with any dough. Serve them hot with a little butter and syrup or honey and you will have a treat that the kids will clamor for?even without an emergency. Simply mix the bread as instructed and let the dough rise. Instead of forming loaves, roll or pat the dough on a counter until it is about 1/2-inch thick. Slice the dough into wedges, separate the pieces, and let them rise again until twice as thick. Heat a pan of oil until hot and slip the dough pieces two or three at a time into the hot oil. When one side is browned, turn the dough over. If the oil is hot enough, the dough should absorb little oil. When done, drain the fried bread on paper towels.
Boil it. Bagels are boiled. Actually, they are boiled and then baked. You can form your dough into a bagel shape, let it rise, and then gently slip it into a large pan of rapidly boiling water. Once the bread is firm, remove it with a slotted spoon, let dry, and then fry each side in a lightly greased skillet to create a crust and finish the cooking. The advantage in this technique is that you can use much less oil (and oil may be limited in an emergency) than deep frying.
Bake it. That’s right?even without an oven you can bake bread. It’s easy to do on most outdoor grills. (Be prepared. Always have extra propane or charcoal on hand but never use an outdoor grill indoors.) Baking requires heat from both above and below. If your grill doesn’t have a cover, use a bucket or tub to capture the heat and direct it down onto the bread. (You want as much heat coming from above as below.) If the bread is too close to the heat?as it likely is?stick something under the bread pan to raise it?a couple empty tuna cans, an old brick?almost anything will work as long as it doesn’t insulate the bread from the heat.
You can use a Dutch oven to bake bread. Line the Dutch oven with aluminum foil and place the dough on the foil or lay the bread pan in the Dutch oven. Stack hot coals on the lid.
You can bake bread over an open fire with two pans. Two pie tins will work for biscuits. To form a makeshift oven, put a large heavy pan on warm coals, a lid or baking sheet over the top, and stack on hot coals. Remember, you are trying to get as much heat from above as below. (The tendency is to have too much heat at the bottom.)
A good place to practice these techniques is on your next camping trip. You can become a real pro at making unconventional bread while enjoying the treat of fresh bread while camping. We guarantee that fresh bread over an open fire will make you the envy of the campground.
With a little imagination, you can bake almost any bread without an oven. If you want to try frying bread, most white or wheat bread recipes are nearly foolproof. Even without the emergency, it won’t go to waste.
We can hope that disaster never strikes but it’s nice to know that those bread fixin’s in the pantry can be used in an emergency.
MAKING BREAD OUTDOORS
Fry Bread: Fry Bread can be the hit of any camping trip meal, especially if there are kids along. Serve fried yeast bread with syrup or jam for breakfast or rolled in cinnamon and sugar as a doughnut-like pastry. They can be cooked in an RV, over a camp stove, or an open fire. We’ve cooked these at almost 11,000 feet–though we had to stick the dough in a sunny tent so that it would rise.
Steamed Bread: Steamed breads are great at home or in the woods. All they take is a tin can or a deep pot and can be cooked on the grill, over a fire, or on a burner. No oven is required.
Indian Flatbread: This is a quick and hearty camping bread that lends itself to a homemade mix. Mix it up at home and throw it in the RV or the backpack. When you get there, you can cook it with only a frying pan and because it is not a yeast bread, it’s quick.
Baking Bread in a Dutch Oven
Dutch ovens were made for baking. In the hands of a practiced baker, a Dutch oven will create beautiful breads and desserts. (Though some of us tend to burn breads in a Dutch oven.)
You can always bake bread in a well-oiled Dutch oven but instead of baking directly in the oven, consider this method: Put the dough in a baking pan and the pan in the Dutch oven.
Buttermilk biscuits can be baked wonderfully well in a Dutch oven. The heat of the Dutch oven causes an ?oven burst? of steam that helps make the biscuits light and fluffy, they don’t take long, and they brown up beautifully.
In some parts of the country, buttermilk biscuits are a staple and a comfort food whether in an emergency or out camping. When time is scarce and you may not have the time to roll and cut the dough, here’s the answer?drop-style biscuits. You can bake them directly in a well-oiled Dutch oven or in an elevated pan.
EASIEST BUTTERMILK BISCUITS
2 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
2 t. sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 c. milk
1/2 T. sugar
1/2 t. salt
1/4 lb. (one stick) cold butter
1 c. plus 1 T. buttermilk (if buttermilk is not available, use fresh milk or reconstituted dry milk with 1 T. of lemon juice added)
Measure flour. Add baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt; add to flour. Slice cold butter into flour mixture. Cut in , making a coarse grainy mixture. Make a well and pour buttermilk into flour mixture. Stir until just moistened. The dough should be of a consistency like drop cookie dough or just a bit stiffer. If it is not moist enough, add another T. of buttermilk. Spoon dough into rounded mounds in bottom of the Dutch oven or a pan to go into a Dutch oven. Bake in hot Dutch oven for 12 to 14 minutes or until the biscuits begin to brown. Remove the biscuits and let them cool. If they are left in the Dutch oven with the lid on, they will sweat and become soggy.
Baking Bread on the Grill
One of the slickest tricks we know is baking bread on the grill. Once you get to know your grill, it’s easy?like baking your favorite recipe in the oven.
We can think of all kinds of reasons to use the grill. You can enjoy fresh baked bread while camping, or at the cabin, or at the next family reunion. Sometimes, it’s just nice to get out of the kitchen, enjoy the spring air, and bake outside. (Watch the neighbors turn their noses upwind when the smell of fresh baked bread wafts over the fence.) And in the summertime, you don’t have to heat up the kitchen to bake. Finally, if there is ever an extended emergency when the power is off, you may have the only fresh bread in town.
You can bake nearly anything with a covered grill. (If your grill doesn’t have a cover, improvise with a large inverted pot.) The heat rises and circulates in the covered area just as it does in your oven. The heat source can be charcoal, gas, or even wood. We prefer gas because it is easier to control and does not impart a smoked taste to the bread?but in an emergency, don’t be picky. Since it is hottest near the flames, elevate the bread to get it away from the heat. Some grills have a secondary shelf that you can use or create a shelf with a baking sheet and four bricks, stones, or cans.
Just like with your oven, the trick to grilling bread perfectly is controlling temperature and time. If your grill comes equipped with a thermometer, you’ve got it made (though ambient temperatures and winds may impact how well your grill retains heat). If you have a thermometer, just heat to the temperature designated on the package or in the recipe. If not, guess. After a few loaves you’ll have it perfect but we bet that the first batch off the grill will be just fine.
Your grill can be as versatile as your oven. In preparing for this article, we used white bread mixes but any mix or recipe will do. We mixed according to package directions. After it had risen, we formed one batch into oval country loaves, another into hamburger buns, and another into dinner rolls.
Rolls and buns will probably bake in 15 to 20 minutes and loaves will take 20 to 30 minutes depending on size and temperature. An occasional peek as it nears completion to see how your bread is doing is okay.
Bake the buns before the burgers. The bread can cool while you cook the rest of the food. Burning grease dripping from the burgers makes the temperature harder to control and the soot can stain the bread.
If you are letting your bread rise outside where the temperature may be less than indoors or where breezes may swirl around the bread, consider using a large food-grade plastic bag as a greenhouse. Simply slip the bread dough–pan and all–inside the bag, inflate it slightly, and close it. If the day is cool, set the bag and the bread in a sunny warm place to capture solar energy.
Grills tend to not circulate the hot air as well as ovens. To keep the bottom of the bread from burning, place one pan beneath the other. The second pan will tend to insulate the bottom of the bread and keep it from burning. Sometimes place a wire rack between the pans for even more insulation.
If your bread is baking faster on one side than the other, turn the pan 180 degrees part way through the baking cycle.
The tendency is to burn the bottom of the bread. Place the bread as far away from the flames as you can, even if it means elevating the bread.