There’s almost nothing better than freshly baked bread hot out of the oven—and baking can be a fun camp cooking project. All you need is a Dutch oven, a few simple ingredients, a little elbow grease, and these tips to help you transform dough into delicious eats. Here’s what you need to know to start baking bread at your campsite.
What You’ll Need
For flatbreads like pita you need next to nothing to have warm bread with your meal. A well-cared-for campfire grate or a hot cast iron skillet over the fire will do the trick.
For shaped bread, you’ll need an oven. If you have an oven in your RV, that might work fine. But bread bakes best at very high temperatures, so it’s worth getting a Dutch oven for the job. You can use it over charcoal, outdoors, without overheating the inside of your rig. Choose a Dutch oven with legs to keep the bottom of the pot out of direct contact with the coals.
Aside from the Dutch oven and charcoal briquettes, there are a few other tools that make baking bread at the campground easier. A 4-quart plastic food canister with a tight-fitting lid marked with measurements is the perfect place to proof your dough. A flexible dough scraper is another helpful, cheap tool of the trade.
A food thermometer makes it easy to determine when your bread is done. And, if you want to be precise, a kitchen scale is helpful for recipes with weight measurements.
Finally, get a clean vinyl tablecloth that you use exclusively for kneading bread. This ensures you always have a clean surface to work with your dough.
To bake a simple bread, you need flour, water, yeast, and salt. For most basic bread recipes, all-purpose flour gives you great results, though some recipes may call for bread flour or whole grain flour. You may find it easiest to plan your baking projects ahead and weigh your flour before you leave for the campground instead of traveling with several pounds of flour in your RV. Remember to bring a little more than the recipe calls for in order to flour your bench as needed.
Instant yeast is easy to use and works efficiently to leaven bread. Keep yeast in a well-sealed container away from high heat; a refrigerator or cooler is the perfect place to store yeast. Most recipes call for a small amount of yeast, so you can bring only what you need from your home stash. High levels of chlorine in tap water can affect the efficiency of your yeast, so you may also want to bring bottled water for baking.
If your recipe doesn’t specify which type of salt to use, it’s generally safe to use kosher salt.
Enriched breads might include milk, eggs, butter, or oil, so check your recipe to make sure you bring along everything that you need for campsite bread baking.
Bread doughs can generally be kneaded by hand, so you don’t have to worry about extra kitchen appliances. Most recipes require about 10 minutes of hand kneading, while some don’t require any kneading at all.
After kneading, your bread will need to proof, or rise, for 1 hour or longer, depending on the recipe. Allow your bread to proof in a sealed container in a warm place—in summer, that’s probably anywhere. Keep an eye on the dough as it might rise faster or slower than the recipe calls for depending on temperature conditions. For most recipes, you want the dough to double in volume before its shaping and final rest.
There are a few tricks to make cooking in the Dutch oven easier. Before baking your bread, heat your Dutch oven over a flame—from a campfire or camp stove—for 5 to 10 minutes. Preheating your pot helps jumpstart the baking process.
Before you preheat your pot, create a make-shift baking pan by molding a piece of foil into your Dutch oven and removing it. This gives you a resting place for your shaped bread while the Dutch oven preheats; foil also makes it easy to lower the bread directly into the hot pot for baking.
Bake according to the time and temperature in your recipe, but rotate the Dutch oven and lid a quarter turn in the opposite direction every few minutes for even baking. Finally, use your thermometer to determine doneness. Bread is done between 190 and 210 degrees Fahrenheit.
Check back in next month for easy bread recipes that you can bake at the campground.
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