Monday, December 20, 2010

Cheap, Lightweight Backpacking Food, Part 3-Baking

In Part 1 and Part 2 of my look at cheap, lightweight backpacking foods, I mentioned several foods which can be easily prepared in the woods. All of them involved either boiling the food, or adding hot water to the food.

In this part I want to take a look at a type of cooking that is a bit more complex, i.e. baking. In recent years, mostly because of a certain TV personality, it has become popular to make bannock in the woods. Bannock is a form of very simple bread, which was widely used by travelers in the past, and it requires some form of baking. These days, there are many mixes that you can get cheaply on the market, which, through the same cooking process, will produce much better tasting breads. Here I will be using a honey corn bread mix.

Baking can be achieved in the woods in very simple ways. The easiest is to leave the prepared mix next to the fire for it to cook. You can also put small amounts of the mix on a stick and roast it over the fire. Here I want to take a look at a more sophisticated baking process, which would greatly reduce the likelihood of burning the food.

Many of the mixes that you can get will say in the instructions that you can just fry the mix in a pan over the flames. Those instructions however assume a controlled flame and a thick frying pan. When the same procedure is tried in a backpacking pot, which is less than 1/32 of an inch thick, the result will be almost immediate burning of the food.

For this method of baking you will need two nesting pots (I am using a 2L and 1L titanium pots), and a way to separate the two (three small rocks, or as I’m using a metal cap). For this demonstration I’m using an MSR Whisperlite stove.

Take the small pot and add 1 cup of bread mix and 1/4 cup of water. The instructions state that you should add, eggs, butter, etc, but I find that the product tastes fine without any of that. Mix the water and powder until you get a thick mix. If you want your bread to have a specific shape, form it with your hands. If you want the mix to be stiffer, use less water.

Start up the stove and place the larger pot on the stove. Add about 3/4 of an inch of water. You do not need much water, but you may have to add more while cooking if it runs out. This method can be used without water if you have a pot that is thick enough, or you don’t mind damaging. Thin backpacking pots can warp from the heat if there is no water.

Place the small stones or metal divider on the bottom of the pot, and put the small pot in the big one. Cover the large pot and let it cook. You can test to see if it is done by poking the mix with a stick. If it is done, there will be no mix sticking to it.

When done, remove from the flames and enjoy. It took me about 25 minutes to cook the mix in this example. The bread has been slightly eaten in this picture. :)

There shouldn’t be much sticking to the pot, and there will be no burned food using this method. Unfortunately, because the water prevents the temperature from getting too high, it will be hard to get a good crust on the bread. If you were using the method without water the result would more closely resemble baking in an oven, but this way it is safer for the pots.