I’ve been cooking either on a campfire or a little camping stove for the last two weeks, while I’ve been marvelling at the beauty of Oregon, and loving it.
Cooking when camping is not difficult, mainly because whatever you cook will no doubt be gratefully received. The hunger gained from hiking, swimming and sleeping outdoors is not a fussy hunger. It wants for hearty, warm meals that refuel the body for another day in the elements.
My favourite thing to cook when camping is damper: a simple dough twisted onto a stick and baked over coals resulting in hot, smokey bread heightened with a thick spread of butter and jam. Heavenly.
Originally posted on Martha Stewart Living Blog, reposted here now that that blog has been retired.
Giant, gnarly pine trees circle a small clearing where we’ve set up camp for the night. A stream runs by, providing a surprisingly noisy back drop to the task at hand; baking bread.
I’m in the volcanic Cascade Range in Oregon, spending days hiking through truly spectacular forest and volcanic remains, seeking out hot springs and cooking in the great outdoors.
I’m making damper, a simple bread that Australian bushman made when they spent nights out under the stars. It’s a fun and satisfying way to spend an afternoon in front of a fire, listening to the crackle of the flames and anticipating the warmth of fresh bread dripping with melted butter and jam.
The key ingredients to this recipe are not ones you can buy at the grocery store. They are: a hunger you can only get after spending the day outdoors, a campfire that you’ve coaxed into existence from a few bits of wood and a slight chill in the air, inviting you to make something warm.
Stick selection is also important. I’m imagining you are well versed in what makes a good cooking stick from the wonderful American tradition of s’mores, but just in case, a straight, long and sturdy but not-too-thick branch is best. Use a sharp knife and channel your inner woodsman to whittle the last 8 inches of the stick to a clean point.
This dough is vey simple, and works just as well without the butter or sugar, but a little decadence goes a long way when camping. I found some locally ground wholewheat flour in a store in Florence and picked up a jar of wild huckleberry jam from Kruse Farms in Roseburg that made this damper taste even sweeter.
1 coffee mug of flour (who carries measuring cups when camping?)
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 tbs chilled butter, cut into squares, plus extra for spreading on the bread when cooked
Handful of raisins
Combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a large bowl. Rub butter into the flour mixture to form a crumb like texture. Add raisins and stir through. Add enough water (and more flour if necessary) to make a smooth dough.
Divide dough into quarters. Take a piece and roll it in your hands to make a sausage shape. Twist the dough around the whittled end of a long stick. Hover the dough over hot coals, away from flame, until a golden brown crust forms. It is ready when you tap the bread and it sounds hollow.
Remove the bread by holding it while you twist the stick out from the middle. Slide some butter and jam into the hole where the stick was and enjoy.