Hi, all! I’m excited to introduce a new campsite baking expert to Bake A Trip’s team, Juan Alberto López Cavallotti. I first met Juan as a coworker in my San Francisco startup life and was lucky to witness (and taste-test!) the early days of his bread-baking obsession. Along with baking, Juan is an avid camper, hiker, and cycler, so you can trust him to steer you the right way!
I’m excited to join Shelby on her baking adventure! I’ve been an avid baker for several years as one of my hobbies, other hobbies of mine include Bike-Touring and Backpacking. I came up with this recipe on a self-organized bike-touring trip that started in Daly City, California, and ended in El Segundo, California. Five hundred miles of cycling and eight days of camping are long enough to get completely bored of all the commercial freeze-dried food, so I decided to spice it up a little bit and came up with some recipes. I tried to challenge myself to something that seemed impossible while camping–this is the result of it.
Context and Challenges
You can safely skip all the explanation and go directly to the recipe if you don’t care how I came up with it.
Baking good bread is not easy. The recipe is simple, but getting it right requires some practice, and, moreover, the thought of preparing baked item while camping—on a camping stove and pot–seems impossible.
The fact is, several kinds of bread are cooked on a stovetop, like naan, English muffins, or pita bread. However, English muffins require egg whites, which is tough to keep fresh while camping; and pita bread requires a steady 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 ready between the time you pitch your tent and when you wake up for breakfast.
Aside from the challenges I already mentioned, nothing of making bread seems compatible with camping: keeping dough in a bowl and covered with plastic film so it doesn’t dry out, having a still, warm place to rise, keeping that place clean, mixing with clean hands–not to mention measuring ingredients with a kitchen scale!! Finally, the recipe requires rolling the dough balls.
- Mixing dough with clean hands, a 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 and went with the 1-quart Ziploc bags.
- Measuring ingredients: This is a tricky one. Having a precise amount of yeast, salt, olive oil, water, and flour at a small scale without a kitchen scale is impossible in the wilderness! Carrying a kitchen scale just for making bread? No way, José! 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! Buy a lightweight small plastic container, measure at home with the scale and then draw lines on it with a sharpie! In my case, I found a 3-fluid-ounce container (thank you, TSA!) which contained almost exactly the amount of water I needed, and I drew lines for the olive oil.
- Salt: How to measure two grams of salt? Two options I could think of. Pre-measure with kitchen scale and place on drug dealer-style Ziploc bags; or, conveniently enough, buy one gram cooking salt packets from 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 6-gram packet and add an eyeballed amount (around half).
- Cooking: This bread is shaped after pita bread or naan (if you will), so it can be cooked in the stovetop without completely burning the crust or consuming all your gas canister. It has double the amount of 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 six buns I made.
- Rolling it: So this is where I made a compromise. I carried a very small wooden cutting board to roll the buns and I managed to successfully roll the dough on top of it with the liquid container bottle! To keep everything clean, I put all together inside of a Ziploc bag.
Link to gram conversions.
- 100g of all purpose flour
- 74g of water (the small 3 flOz container almost full)
- 6g of olive oil, measured in the small container
- 2.4g of salt
- 3g of dried yeast (typically more than triple of what I would add if baked at home)
- A bag of spare flour to prevent sticking to hands and cutting board
- In a Ziploc bag mix the flour, olive oil, and water. Close the bag making sure it has a lot of air in it and squeeze until the ingredients are incorporated. Once the gluten is developed, the dough will not stick to the bag. Let the dough rest for 20 minutes; this step is called autolyzing and it will help the development of the gluten.
- Add the salt to the dough inside of the Ziploc bag and knead until incorporated.
- Add with the yeast and knead the dough inside of the bag vigorously until it doesn’t stick any longer and looks uniform and soft.
- Let the dough rise. Overnight is best, but it also works if you put it inside at the top of your backpack while you hike and the sun hits it; the heat helps the fermentation process.
- When you’re ready to use, in the 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 inside out and help it drop to the board. Divide in two and shape into balls.
- Roll the two balls to fit the bottom of your camping cooking pot.
- Optional: Leave to rise for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Heat some olive oil in your camping stove and, at low heat, cook one side of the bread for three minutes.
- Turn the bread and cook it another three minutes.
- Remove from the stove, let it cool to cook inside, repeat from step 10 with the other bun.
It is very important that you leave the bread to cool down so it finishes cooking on the inside. After that, you can cut it open and enjoy it with your favorite camping stuffing, like peanut butter!