Sunday, September 29, 2013

Ready, bake, flop

Or should I say, ready, bake fizzle? That's precisely what happened two weeks ago on our annual camping trip to Upper Blue Lake with my sister and family. I mixed a double batch of my no-knead bread at home early in the week before heading to the lake, located in the southeastern reaches of Eldorado National Forest. We readied for the trip as the dough slowly fermented in the home refrigerator.

I set the dough aside Thursday and Friday while we enjoyed relief from the heat of the Sacramento Valley and Sierra Nevada foothills. After exploring nearby lakes and four-wheel drive trails with my sister, I settled in to prepare dinner. I quickly got ready to bake two breads from the dough. Eighteen biscuits went into a 12-inch camp oven. My thought was to bake the biscuits, then set them aside for breakfast. The remaining dough was formed into five balls and placed inside a 12-inch deep camp oven.

Since the biscuits were rising at this point, I already had half of what I needed to fix for the replacement meal. Encouraged on by more than one B&G enthusiast in camp (notably, my brother-in-law's nephew), I lit a roaring campfire. Hot coals were soon being shoveled onto the waiting Dutch oven. The photos tells the story.

I usually burn pine and cedar wood when I camp in the National Forest. It's a matter of supply. Since I don't see the need to buy firewood when it's available for free, I burn the wood that I find on the forest floor. It's different when we camp with my sister and brother-in-law. Jim brings a mixture of hard and soft woods with then to the campground.
Sunday afternoon before the camping trip, I mixed a 4-pound dough (flour weight) and fermented in in the refrigerator. The dough went into the cooler Wednesday afternoon in preparation for departure. I filled a 12-inch Dutch oven with biscuit-sized pieces of dough late Friday afternoon.

The Cambro container is a bit messy because the batch of dough was too large for its 8-quart capacity. I had to punch the dough down as it fermented Sunday. The dough settled down once I placed it in the fridge for a cold slow ferment.
The 12-inch camp oven held 18 golf ball-sized biscuits. To form each biscuit, I pinched off a piece of dough and molded it into a smooth ball.
While the biscuits appear done in the photograph, they're doughy on the bottom. Within 15 to 20 minutes, the coals gave out. When I dug the half done biscuits out of the Dutch oven, I learned they were nearly raw underneath. To rescue them, I placed the dough on the grill. While I generally have success when cooking with campfire coals, sometimes the coals burn out.

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