Saturday, August 20, 2011

More trail bread

Last time I mentioned trail bread, it was baked bread -- hardtack or a baked soda bread. Today I tried to fry bread -- bannock -- to see how well that'd turn out. So I took 1 cup of whole wheat flour, one tablespoon baking powder, one tablespoon sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and mixed just enough water into it to make a dough, then patted out two patties, let them rest for a couple of minutes while I got the cast iron fry griddle nice and hot, and then fried away until they were nicely brown on both sides. You tell me what you think:

The texture is typical of a whole wheat soda bread. Whole wheat flour has stuff in it that results in whole wheat breads typically being less "fluffy" than white bread, and that is true here too. Still, the texture is quite acceptable, it is not chewy, just a little denser than you might be accustomed to from looking at yeast-based breads that have more time to rise and shine (baking soda is fast acting so it simply doesn't have time to puff things up a lot before it runs out of poop). *And* this particular kind of bread would fry well over a campfire, just pack the dry mix into a plastic zip-lok bag, add water and flatten out your patties, toss onto lightly-oiled frypan, voila. Of course, I don't suggest going backpacking with a cast-iron griddle even though cast iron is *the* right way to fry things ;). But even an aluminum skillet should work okay as long as you get it hot before you toss the patty into it.

So therein ends my experiment in whether it's possible to fry bread over a campfire with nothing but dry ingredients and water. The answer: Yes. It's a bit denser than yeast-based bread, but it's still quite edible, and will complement your rehydrated bean dish just fine.

-- Badtux the Cooking Penguin


  1. Let me know when you figure out lembas.


  2. In the film trilogy, the prop lembas was shortbread, which is easy enough to bake but I think I'm going to go for full biscuits when I start baking with butter.

    As I mentioned previously, I want to re-create my grandmother's biscuit recipe, which was never written down and I could never get anything useful out of her about it because she never measured anything, she just sort of magically put the right amount of each ingredient into the mixing bowl and somehow got great-tasting biscuits out of the affair. Experiments in that regard are likely to start shortly, now that I've satisfied myself that I can bake good-tasting trail breads (breads either stout enough to carry on the trail without turning into crumbles or mush, or that I can fry on the trail).

    - Badtux the Baking Penguin

  3. Okay, you sent me to Wikipedia to look up "Bannock". I've never had any kind of fry bread, except for parathas in Indian restaurants. Your bannock looks tasty enough. Might benefit from a few raisins.

    Good luck with the biscuit recipe! My grandmother measured, but exclusively with a large coffee mug. We could never write down her recipes, because it was always a mug of this, or half a mug of that, or maybe a little more or less...

  4. If I want to turn it into a desert bread, I'll probably toss some semi-sweet chocolate chips into the mix rather than raisins :).

    Yeah, this is just one of the many lost recipes from my grandmother's kitchen. She also made a great biscuit/bread pudding using leftover biscuits and white bread, I know that one had egg and sugar and vanilla and cinnamon in it amongst other things but reverse-engineering it is probably beyond my capabilities even if I start with a good bread pudding recipe.

    - Badtux the Chocoholic Penguin

  5. I'm southern and I bake biscuits so I could probably give you some rough instructions. However, like your grandmother, I don't measure. For starters, self-rising flour makes the traditional Southern biscuit and one needs shortening (not butter) and BUTTERMILK as well as a cast iron frying pan to come anywhere close to your grandmother's biscuits, assuming her biscuits were of the standard variety for 60-100 years ago.

    Just as a matter of curiosity, did your grandmother's biscuits have a nice, very brown crispy bottom crust?

    **BTW, I'm guessing sourdough is a nonstarter for the trail? I am very selectively masochistic so your kind of walking and camping is something I've been careful to avoid for a few decades so I'm out of the loop on carrying everything on your back. :)


  6. Yes, my grandmother made her own self-rising flour by taking general-purpose white flour and mixing it with baking powder and salt(which is all that self-rising flour is, white flour pre-mixed with baking powder and salt). That let her use the same flour for multiple purposes.

    Sourdough is out when backpacking because you can't keep the temperature controlled well enough to keep your starter from spoiling. And of course starting from scratch with a flour paste and letting natural yeasts colonize it simply takes too much time. Besides, despite gizmos like the Outback Oven, it's just hard to bake on the trail because it requires a lot of fuel compared to frying and in many places, there is no fuel other than what you carry in on your back. A few minutes of frying bannock vs. 20+ minutes baking bread is a huge difference in the amount of fuel consumed.

    So baking would work for car camping (with a gizmo like the Outback Oven and a good oven thermometer to keep track of the heat), because you can haul lots of fuel in a four-wheeled vehicle. But forget baking on the trail... I ain't carryin' that much fuel on my back!

    Oh yeah -- I have one of my grandmother's cast iron skillets, as well as one of my own from before she passed. Yes, I know cast-iron skillets are the way to go, cast iron makes all food better except soups (duh!). And yes, she used buttermilk and shortening (with bacon grease) in her biscuits, and it had a nice crust on it, though not to the extent of crusty French bread...

    - Badtux the Food Penguin

  7. ----Just love'n biscuit world!

  8. I guess I'll just go ahead and spin the biscuit theme out...

    I sometimes do baking powder biscuits as a treat for my brother but no matter what you do they are not of the same texture or taste as "regular" biscuits. I've made biscuits with baking SODA but I confess that I don't like soda bread of any description, Irish Soda Bread or Soda biscuits. :(

    sour dough... I made my starter in the 1970's and keep it refreshed by making sourdough pancakes occasionally. I used Fleischman's yeast for my starter. I had done the "wild" yeast thing and it took several tries to get anything going. For my purposes, I just want the starter and am not concerned whether the yeast came from a package or the great outdoors. :)

    If you want general biscuit instructions let me know and I'll send them along. The rough measurements are the least of the process; handlng the dough is the part that requires time and patience and the part that is best learned by watching an old hand. Most of the men I know make drop biscuits because of the trickiness of handling biscuit dough.

    BTW, a well greased (Crisco) COLD pan is necessary. (Hot pan and grease for cornbread but cold for biscuits - in case you didn't already know.)

    Old biscuit-baking Jill

    P.S. I've never used bacon drippings in my biscuits but I've been known to make "heart attack" cornbread which does have some bacon drippings in the batter as well as rashers of fried bacon in the pan with the batter poured on top.

  9. What my grandmother did was technically drop biscuits, but she dropped them against each other in an iron skillet, not on a cookie sheet. She dropped them in a circle, then dropped one in the middle to plug the hole. It resulted in a moister biscuit than typical drop biscuits.

    I knew about the hot skillet for cornbread (I've made cornbread many a time since it's not something you can really buy out here in the land of nuts and flakes and for those of you reading this, if you don't pre-heat your greased iron skillet prior to dropping your cornbread batter into it, your bread will stick to the pan), but didn't recall whether she pre-heated her biscuit skillet. It makes sense now that she didn't, because otherwise she would have had trouble placing the balls of dough into it in her desired pattern and the dough wouldn't have relaxed and risen a bit prior to baking into position.

    - Badtux the Baking Penguin


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