WHEN men must bake for themselves they generally make biscuit, biscuit-loaf, flapjacks, or corn bread. Bread leavened with yeast is either beyond their skill or too troublesome to make out of doors; so baking powder is the mainstay of the camp. Generally the batch is a failure. To paraphrase Tom Hood, Who has not met with camp-made bread. Rolled out of putty and weighted with lead?
It need not be so. Just as good biscuit or johnny cake can be baked before a log Are in the woods as in a kitchen range. Bread making is a chemical process. Follow directions; pay close attention to details, as a chemist does, from building the Are to testing the loaf with a sliver. It does require experience or av special knack to guess quantities accurately, but none at all to measure them. „
In general, biscuit or other small cakes should be baked quickly by ardent heat; large loaves require a slow, even heat, so that the outside will not harden until the inside is nearly done.
Grease or flour a frying-pan and put a loaf in it. Rake some embers out in front of the fire and put pan on them just long enough to form a little crust on bottom of loaf. Then remove from embers, and, with a short forked stick, the stub of which will enter hole in end of handle, prop pan up before fire at such angle that top of loaf will be exposed to heat. Turn loaf now and then, both sidewise and upside down. When firm enough to keep its shape, remove it, prop it by itself before the fire to finish baking, and go on with a fresh loaf. A tin plate may be used in place of the frying-pan.
Heat a thick slab of non-resinous green wood until the sap simmers. Then proceed as with a frying-pan.
Work dough into a ribbon two inches wide. Get a club of sweet green wood (birch, sassafras, maple), about two feet long and three inches thick, peel large end, sharpen the other and stick it into ground, leaning toward fire. When sap simmers wind dough spirally around peeled end. Turn occasionally. Several sticks can be baking at once. Bread for one man's meal can be quickly baked on a peeled stick as thick as a broomstick, holding over fire and turning.
Build a good fire on a level bit of ground. When it has burned to coals and the ground has thoroughly heated, rake away the embers, lightly drop the loaf on the hot earth, pat it smooth, rake the embers back over the loaf, and let it bake until no dough will adhere to a sliver thrust to the center of the loaf. This is the Australian damper. Ash cakes are similarly baked (see under Corn Bread). Nasty? No, it isn't; try it.
Every fixed camp should have a bake-hole, if for nothing else than baking beans. The hole can be dug anywhere, but it is best in the side of a bank or knoll, so that an opening can be left in front to rake out of, and for drainage in case of rain. Line it with stones, if there are any. In any case, have the completed hole a little larger than your baking kettle.
Build a hardwood fire in and above the hole and keep it going until the stones or earth are very hot (not less than half an hour). Rake out most of the coals and ashes, put in the bake-pot, which must have a tight-fitting lid, cover with ashes and then with live coals; and, if a long heating is needed, keep a small fire going on top. Close the mouth of the oven with a fiat rock. This is the way for beans or for braising meat.
Bread is not easily baked in a straight-sided pot (rather it is hard to get out when baked). A pan with flaring sides, well covered, is better. Two pudding pans that nest, the larger inverted over the smaller, do very well. Have some ashes between them and the coals, to prevent burning the loaf.
This is a cast-iron pot with flaring sides and short legs, fitted with a thick iron cover, the rim of which is turned up to hold a layer of coals on top. If it were not for its weight it would be the best oven for outdoor use, since it not only bakes but cooks the meat or pone in its own steam. The pots made for fireless cookers can be used in a similar way.
Place the Dutch oven and its lid separately on the fire. Get the bottom moderately hot, and the lid very hot (but not red, lest it warp). Grease the bottom and sprinkle flour over it, put in the bread or biscuits, set cover on, rake a thin layer of coals out in front of the fire, stand oven on them, and cover lid thickly with more live coals. Replenish occasionally. Have a stout pot-hook to lift lid with, so you can inspect progress of baking, once or twice.