Tuesday, August 09, 2011


Okay, disappointed by my last attempt at some sort of trail bread, I regrouped. I decided it needed some baking powder to give it at least a *little* loft, and since I wasn't going to haul it for more than a week, I didn't need it to be perfect hard-tack dryness, so baking it hard as a rock wasn't necessary, and I could make it a bit thicker. So I patted out a rough square, gave it a single whack with the roller to even up the top, trimmed the edges and turned them into two round biscuits off to the side, scored the resulting loaf with a pizza cutter, replaced the cookie sheet on top of the glass cutting board where I was doing all this, flipped it all over, remove plastic wrap from the top of the resulting loaf and two biscuit patties, let it rest for a few minutes while I cleaned up all the dishes I'd dirtied (the mixing bowl, the measuring cups, etc.), popped it into the oven at around 380 for 20 minutes on side 1 and 15 minutes on side 2, and... success. The resulting biscuits taste fine, they're crunchy on the outside and dense but soft enough to eat on the inside, and hopefully they'll survive being squished into a backpack better than regular bread or biscuits or crackers despite not being hard as a rock.

Oh yeah, the rough recipe:

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups white flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspons baking powder (Clabber Girl brand)
Roughly 1 cup water

Mix to a stiff dry dough, adding water slowly. Pat out to a rough square roughly 1/2 inch thick, a *single* whack with a rolling pin to even out the top, trim the edges and make a biscuit or two out of them to the side, then use a pizza cutter to score the resulting loaf into roughly 12 squares. Let rest, then poke some holes with a fork like a saltine, but not all the way thru. Flip the resulting loaf and biscuits over onto an ungreased non-stick cookie sheet, and poke more holes with a fork. Bake for 20 minutes on one side, then 20 minutes on the other side at around 375-400F. If you're going to eat within a week this should get them hard enough, if you want something for long term storage, then back off the heat to about 285F and bake until dry all the way through.

Next up: Figure out some way to make trail bread actually *on the trail* from its individual components. The problem is that it requires baking. I'm wondering if my grandmother's hot water fry bread might work better, that's corn meal, flour, and baking powder, with hot water added, patted out and then fried in bacon grease or other oil. That'll work for car camping pretty easily, but oil is heavy and in short supply if you're backpacking. I guess corn tortillas could be done even more easily, since they're just masa flour and water rolled flat then cooked on a griddle for 40 seconds per side with no oil or grease required except what's seasoning the griddle, but corn tortillas don't go all that well with many of my favorite trail foods. Oh well, I guess I'll just pre-make trail bread...

-- Badtux the Cooking Penguin


  1. Try 7 up instead of water.

  2. If I want to add sugar, I'll add cane sugar, not high fructose corn syrup. Feed HFCS to mice and you get obese mice even if you don't increase their overall calorie intake, whereas cane sugar (sucrose) for some reason doesn't cause that.

    You are correct, however, that adding a bit of sugar could make it a bit more palatable for some people. I did not do so because I'm aiming for something that complements black bean soup, not something that's meant to be eaten by itself. But it's worth trying as an experiment when I get back from my camping trip.

    - Badtux the Baking Penguin

  3. As an alternative for packing, how about taking along flour tortillas? You can heat them on an ungreased pan.

  4. Are penguins allowed to take along some marmalade to perk up those crackers a bit?

  5. Here is a basic bannock recipe you could use on the trail:

    Basic Bannock Recipe
    (Fried or Stick-cooked)
    1 cup flour
    1 tsp baking powder
    1/4 tsp salt
    3 tbsp margarine/butter
    2 tbsp skim milk powder (optional)

    Sift together the dry ingredients. Cut in the margarine until the mixture resembles a coarse meal (at this point it can be sealed it in a ziplock bag for field use).

    Grease and heat a frying pan. Working quickly, add enough COLD water to the pre-packaged dry mix to make a firm dough. Once the water is thoroughly mixed into the dough, form the dough into cakes about 1/2 inch thick. Dust the cakes lightly with flour to make them easier to handle. Lay the bannock cakes in the warm frying pan. Hold them over the heat, rotating the pan a little. Once a bottom crust has formed and the dough has hardened enough to hold together, you can turn the bannock cakes. Cooking takes 12-15 minutes.

    If you are in the field and you don’t have a frying pan, make a thicker dough by adding less water and roll the dough into a long ribbon (no wider than 1 inch). Wind this around a preheated green, hardwood stick and cook about 8 inches over a fire, turning occasionally, until the bannock is cooked.

  6. Karen, I do take along flour tortillas, but they are less than satisfying with soup or chili. They do go well with hard cheese and salami though. Corn tortillas go well with chili topped with shredded cheese (just grate some of that hard cheese with the edge of a serrated knife) but not well with hard cheese or salami, and you can't carry them pre-prepared because corn lacks gluten and thus corn tortillas will crumble or fall apart if you carry them pre-prepared, so you need to be prepared to make them on the trail (easy enough). So I'm trying to make a bread to accompany soup or chili. I tried it with soup today, and it worked well. I may stick with corn tortillas for the chili.

    Murnau, interesting that you say "dust the cake lightly with flour to make it easier to handle", I didn't post any photograph here, but if I had, you would have noticed a dusting of flour both on the cake and on the cookie sheet for exactly that reason. Otherwise it can be a bit sticky due to the gluten in wheat flour. I discovered that the hard way and didn't need a recipe book to tell me that sprinkling some dry flour on things would make them less sticky :). But anyhow, butter/margarine (or any animal fat) is hard to haul around on the trail because it goes rancid quickly, but olive oil (or any vegetable oil, actually) is easy to carry. I wonder what your bannock recipe tastes like with olive oil rather than margarine?

    - Badtux the Curious Foodie Penguin

  7. 1st rule of trail packing is don't bring anything that needs to have water added, unless you have a source of water.
    2nd rule is you never have enough water.
    3rd rule is that if it can be cooked and will still be good days later, do it.

    Corn and/or flour tortillas are great trail food, if a little boring.

  8. And the on;y reason corn torts fall apart is that they are too dry:pack the whole package, put a very slightly damp whatever in the package after they're open. GOod for at least a week.

  9. Yogi, I'm not sure what kind of trail packing you're talking about, but it's not backpacking, because if it was, you'd know that a) water is heavy, and b) it's generally fairly easy to make sure you end up at water by the end of the day. Most of the food I carry when backpacking is either dehydrated or fairly low water content. One of my beefs with tortillas, actually, is that their relatively high water content makes them somewhat heavy compared to crackers or other such low-water-content breads. But of course as you point out, it's water content that makes tortillas flexible, so for mid-day meals I shrug and carry the weight to eat with other no-cooking-required items (I *hate* unpacking my cooking gear at lunch time! I always want to get back on the trail *fast*, not after 20 minutes of unpack, cook, clean, and re-pack added to the time required to eat!).

    Regarding water content of corn tortillas, that's why I steam my corn tortillas in a styrofoam cooler before packing them into plastic bags. Yes, it improves their flexibility. No, it won't allow them to be folded like a flour tortilla. Lack of gluten just doesn't let them tolerate that kind of handling. I end up with corn tortilla *chips*, heh!

    - Badtux the Backpacking Penguin

  10. Badtux, I think olive oil or any kind of vegetable oil might be an OK substitute for margarine in the mix. In the past I have made (East) Indian chapati bread with this recipe, which uses veg oil:

    1 cup whole wheat flour
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon salt
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    3/4 cup hot water or as needed

    In a large bowl, stir together the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour and salt. Use a wooden spoon to stir in the olive oil and enough water to make a soft dough that is elastic but not sticky.

    Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until it is smooth. Divide into 10 parts, or less if you want bigger breads. Roll each piece into a ball. Let rest for a few minutes.

    Heat a skillet over medium heat until hot, and grease lightly. On a lightly floured surface, use a floured rolling pin to roll out the balls of dough until very thin like a tortilla.

    When the pan starts smoking, put a chapati on it. Cook until the underside has brown spots, about 30 seconds, then flip and cook on the other side. Continue with remaining dough.

    Anyway, not something you could make for lunch but in the evening it would be fine. You could pack a small bottle of oil and it would not go rancid.

    Thanks for the cracker-biscuit recipe too!


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