This section is from the book "Camping And Woodcraft", by Horace Kephart. Also available from Amazon: Camping and Woodcraft.
When men must bake for themselves they generally make biscuit, biscuit-loaf, flap-jacks, 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 fire 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 fire to testing the loaf with a sliver. It does require experience or a 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.
The way to bake in a reflector or in a 11 baker " has been shown in the chapter on Meats. If you have neither of these utensils, there are other ways.
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 it: 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.
Place the Dutch oven and its lid separately or. 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.
The sheet-steel oven mentioned in Chapter VII can be used in a similar way, or one of the pots made for fireless cookers, or a pudding pan inverted over a slightly smaller one; but with such thin utensils you must use a more moderate heat, of course, and watch the baking carefully lest you burn it.
Every fixed camp that has no stove 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, as they hold heat and keep the sides from crumbling. Have the completed hole a little larger than youi baking kettle.
Build a hardwood fire in and above the hole ano. 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 required, keep a small fire going on top. Close the mouth of the oven with a flav rock. This is the way for beans or for braising meat.
Bread is not to be baked in the kettle alone, be cause the sides are vertical and you would have a sweet time getting the bread out; but if you have a pudding-pan that will go inside the kettle, well and good. Put three or four pebbles in the bottom of the kettle for the pan to rest on, so the dough will not burn.
A shifty camper can make bread in almost any thing. I have even baked beans to perfection in d thin, soldered lard-pail, by first encasing it in clay.
Build a good fire on a level bit of ground. When it has burned to coah 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 (some hot ashes first), 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 page 352). Dirty? No it isn't; try it.
Grease or flour a frying-pan and put a flat cake of biscuit-dough 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. TuTn 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.
If you have in your kit a shallow pudding-pan of the right size, invert it over the dough in the pan and heap embers on top; or a second frying-pan can be used in the same way. Another way, with one pan and no cover, is described by Kathrene Pinker-ton :
" Make a rich, moist baking-powder biscuit dough, using double the amount of lard. The dough should be so thin it can be smoothed with a knife. Heat a little lard in a frying-pan and pour in the dough. A bannock should never be baked in less than twenty-five minutes.
With a good cooking fire, the pan should be held thr e feet above the blaze until the bannock has risen to twice its original height. Then lower the pan and brown. Shake the pan occasionally to see that the bannock is not burning. When one side is done, slide the bannock onto a plate, heat more lard in the pan, gently replace the bannock upside down and brown again. The result is a golden-browo loaf".
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. This is "corkscrew bread".