[Pictured: Baking BANNOCK in a fire pit in one of my Titanium plates. (Yum!)]
When you’re on the trail, few things become as anticipated as a good hot meal at the end of a hard day, but the key to a good trail menu is taste and variety. Even if it's just 'variations on a theme'; elbow macaroni one night, spaghetti the next, etc.
You can buy pre-made/measured, freeze-dried food in plastic/aluminumized bags, but they tend to be bulky and expensive, not to mention produce a lot of trash (Remember to trek-out your trash!). For me, the best of the options is to assemble your own provisions from instant food or dry ingredients from the supermarket shelf that can be put into plastic freezer bags and maybe even cooked in those bags).
But the one item that ALWAYS gets attention, comments, and questions, and not just from my campmates but from OTHER camps, is when I make BAKE!
Traditional bannock is an unleavened bread, sometimes called, “Bush bread”, “Trail cake”, etc., it’s packable, versatile, cheap and having a luxury like baked goods on the trail is a GREAT meal maker!
Bannock is a Scottish word and has a long tradition going back to the year 1,000, originally being a heavy bread made from barley or oatmeal dough. Since then, it has been adopted and adapted by cultures from Northern England, to the Indian tribes of North America and even the Inuit tribes of Alaska. It became a trail tradition in the Old West when wagon train and cowboy cooks began to use it.
Now, most experienced outdoor enthusiasts pack the ingredients and look forward to this trail treat! Keep in mind, you can create your own measured recipes and pre-measure them into the freezer bags for a “Just add water” approach, but I like to keep my ingredients separate until I decide what I want to do with them at camp.
Needed (to start)
Cookware: The average mess kit will do for a start, for pancakes and such, a small metal spatula.
Ingredients: a small container of cooking oil, flower, milk powder, egg powder, baking powder, other ingredients to taste or as needed/wanted. NOTE: I prefer WHOLE milk powder and WHOLE egg powder, they just taste better and you can use the extra calories. You can get them through prepping sellers on Amazon, grocery stores don't typically carry those items.
Crepes may be a little ambitious, but tortillas are VERY simple! For 4 tortillas, it's about 1 part (cup) flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 tablespoon oil, mix and add 1/4 cup hot water and knead to a dough ball. Tear into quarters, dust lightly as needed with flour (to keep from getting too sticky) if necessary, roll-out very THIN with a strait stick (strip the bark!) and heat your metal plate/pan (no oil). When the plate is hot, place the dough on the plate and heat until speckled, but watch closely, don't burn it! (Takes just a minute or two!). When done, use like flat bread, as a wrap, etc.
NOTE: If you have enough oil/lard/animal fat, you can deep-fry them for "fried bread".
BREAD ON A STICK
Continuing with the above ingredients, add 1 part flour and 1 part milk powder and a little more water. Kneaded into a long rope, shave the bark off the end of a stick and wrap around that end. Then prop the stick near the coals so the dough is near the heat. Watch carefully that it doesn’t burn. This method has the distinct advantage of having very little cleanup and allows you to use your plate for other things.
Mixed with a little more water to make it somewhat runny (like pancake batter, duh!) and another teaspoon of baking powder, you can make pancakes, When done, just add the sap from a tapped maple tree or a birch tree for syrup, maybe a few wild berries made into a jam, maybe with an egg or two from a cooperative bird, and you have one AWESOME bush breakfast!!
Well, not so much a “Cake”, per se, as a large pan-shaped bread that tastes like a scone (BTW, “Scone” was the name given to a slice of bannock). To the mix so far, add 1 part egg powder and another teaspoon baking powder. Knead until you can hold the dough like a big ball. Oil the pan/plate and press the ball into a thick, round wheel. It will cook with embers to give you time to do other things or with a small fire, just keep watching so you don’t burn it. I place one flat stone under the edge of the plate to keep the edge out of the ashes, one stone in front to keep it from sliding into the fire and one stone behind the plate to keep it propped up. Spin the plate as it cooks so it has a nice, even, golden-brown finish on the top. Once done on the top, check underneath to be sure it’s finished. If not, place directly on the embers to finish cooking, but check frequently.
Traditionally, it's bad luck to cut bannock, it should be 'broken' (and shared), but there’s MORE you can do, too! To that recipe, you can add just about anything. Try adding a packet of course brown sugar, or M&Ms, maybe some berries, raisins, or other dry fruit or your favorite trail mix stuck into the top of the dough. And if you can manage it, once it’s baked to perfection, try splashing the top of your bannock cake with a drizzle of rum or any other liqueur!! Trust me, you'll be GLAD you did!!! 😏
Instead of a plate, I have used my Titanium cup (came as part of the mess kit) to make A MUFFIN! Freeing my plate to make a few slices of bacon, some hash browns and scrambled eggs. Pop out the muffin and you're ready for coffee, too!!
I had decent success baking biscuits (in the USA sense) in a pot on a fire with aluminium foil over. You can carry them frozen so that by the time you reach camp they are thawing out. They don't rise quite as nicely or flakily as in an oven, but if you get a good hot fire it works pretty well.
Tip: scrunch up some al-foil in the bottom of the pot so that the biscuits aren't sitting directly on the bottom where they will burn more quickly 🙂
My favorite is the bread on a stick version, which I've always thought of as bannock. Baking it on a hot rock is also fun.