Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sourdough English Muffins

Let me tell you that fresh breads and biscuits on a campout can really be the highlight of the experience for you and your guests. During a recent outing to Chain of Ponds, we woke up to a cold drizzle. Fortunately we had planned ahead, ok I admit it was my wife's idea, to have bacon and egg sandwiches on sourdough english muffins. We could cook them on a griddle or fry pan over the fire- but we cooked them on the propane stove so we didn't need to start the camp fire on a rainy morning.

We prepared the sourdough the night before according to the recipe on page 538 of The King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook. I've paraphrased this recipe below but highly recommend this book because it has a great section on sourdough. I'll be sharing my views on the best sourdough bread recipe at some point in the future.

In any case, here is the recipe:

1 cup sourdough starter,
1 ½ cups milk,
5 ½ to 6 cups King Arthur Unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tbs sugar,
1 Tbs salt,
1 tsp baking soda,
cornmeal to sprinkle on cast iron griddle

Sponge: Mix together the starter, milk and 3 cups of flour. We cover this with a cloth and let it sit overnight.

Dough: When you first wake up, mix together the rest of the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda in another bowl. Combine thoroughly. Set aside for an hour or so until people start waking up to the smell of coffee.

When the dough has risen, knead it on a cutting board for 2-3 minutes, until the dough is smooth. The dough will feel elastic. Roll the dough about ¼ and ½ inch thick (or do it your own way). Cut out 3-4 inches circles, put them on the floured baking tray- we use a pineapple rings can with both ends cut out. Let the raw muffins rest for 15 minutes.

Preheat the cast iron griddle until hot, then cook the muffins with very gently heat until they rise, about 10 minutes. Flip on the other side, then cook again for 10 minutes.

We wrapped them in a towel to cool while we cooked the bacon and eggs. We then split them with a fork, added mayo, egg, cheese, and bacon.

Try it out and let me know what you think- this will surely be a hit with your guests!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Camp Cooking with Kids

I just got back from Natanis Point Campground on Maine Public Reserved Land on Chain of Ponds. OK- let me get a few things out of the way. It was so breezy there were no bugs. The fishing was incredible, and I swear the kids caught fish on bare hooks. The scenery was stunning. The wildlife was abundant. The canoeing was great, etc etc. Great place to camp for a reasonable price. I'd call it remote but I can't call it wilderness since they offer bathroom facilities with hot showers. We stayed for 4 nights and spent less than $100 including lots of worm purchases at the camp store.

In any case, since we were camping with kids, I wanted to involve them with the cooking. Among other things, we had fresh bread every day, english muffins, corn bread, and chocolate cake. Most of the time I used a dutch oven. For bean hole beans, I use a cast iron bean pot with legs very similar to a dutch oven. For the corn bread we used the reflector oven.

I really like the reflector oven with kids since they can actually see the food cooking. I bought mine from Don Merchant at Pole and Paddle. If you have access to sheet aluminum or stainless steel, Gil Gilpatrick's Building Outdoor Gear has a pattern and detailed instructions for making your own reflector oven. I'm sure I'll talk about some other projects in Gil's book, but the book is worth the $13 price just for the reflector oven pattern.

We used a cast iron cornbread mold that made little cornbreads that look like ears of corn. The cast iron pan in the reflector oven made up for the fact that we fed the fire little twigs to keep the flames up. A reflector oven cooks with heat from your fire, but it works best with flames instead of coals. The cast iron pan holds the heat to allow for even cooking. We only had to turn the pan once. I really like the fact that Don's reflector oven design features a flip up top so I didn't have to work over the fire, or move the reflector oven once I placed it in front of the fire.

In any case, we used the same fire to finish up the beans, start coals for a chocolate cake, cook our cornbread, and for the kids to cook hotdogs on. It seems complicated, but it wasn't. The kids and the adults enjoyed the food. I think we all gained weight on this trip.