Bread Making the NZFS Way.
Camp-oven bread is often spoiled through poor preparation, and the following tips will assist in making a good loaf:
• Ingredients must be kept warm but not too hot or too cold, otherwise the yeast will be destroyed. Blood heat (98"F) is ideal. Yeast is a living organism and must be treated as such; hence the importance of warm temperatures which allow it to multiply (work).
• Too much kneading will cause split crusts.
• Too little kneading causes holes in the loaf.
• Too much salt will result in slow rising of the dough.
• Too little salt will result in the loaf rising too quickly and forming holes in the loaf.
• Too much yeast and the loaf will have a strong taste. Too little yeast results in a slow rising loaf and a tough one.
A good bed of coals is essential in bread making. While waiting for the dough to rise (about 1/2 to 1 hour), heap the fire up with good firewood (preferably round pieces because these leave a better ember than split firewood). By the time the bread is ready to go on the fire the ashes should be ideal. Place the camp oven about 18 inches above the red hot embers and also cover the lid of the camp oven with red hot embers (using a shovel or other implement such as a large piece of tin). Do not put any more firing on while the bread cooks.
When the bread is cooked (usually after 1 hour), carefully remove the camp-oven lid by slipping a billy hook under the handle of the lid and lifting. If the loaf is stuck in the camp oven, take a firm hold of the wire handle of the oven (use a cloth) and give it a .sharp, circular twist. If two or three attempts still fail to shift the loaf, stand the camp oven on a well soaked cloth for a minute. The loaf should, however, come out quite easily if the camp oven was well greased before placing the dough in.
A loaf may be inspected during cooking by slipping the edge of a knife under the lid and raising it gently for an inch. As a rule the loaf cooks quite thoroughly in 1 hour. When ready, the loaf should have a hollow sound when knocked on the bottom and should he well risen and nicely browned with a crisp crust. To make sure it is cooked in the middle, a thin, clean stick may be pushed through the centre of the loaf. When withdrawn, it should be clean if the loaf is cooked. If the stick has wet batter sticking to it the loaf is not cooked.
Basic Bread Mixture - Full Camp Oven Loaf
• Half a Camp oven (standard size) of dry flour
• 2 heaped dessertspoons sugar
• stir in 1 level teaspoon salt
• 2 tablespoons (heaped) milk powder
Mix together thoroughly in a warm basin or camp oven.
• 1½ pint mugs warm water (blood beat)
• 1 heaped dessertspoon sugar
• 2 level dessertspoons yeast (dry) To check yeast for freshness place a little in a mug half full of warm water with a little sugar; the yeast should begin to “erupt" in a short time; if not, discard the whole bottle of yeast and use a fresh one. Check the date stamped on the yeast bottle (it usually states a date after which it may no longer be expected to work).
Make the yeast mixture first and while it is working prepare the dry ingredients. Add the yeast mixture to the dry ingredients after it has "erupted" (about 20 minutes). mix to a firm dough, adding more flour or warm water if necessary, and knead by turning the dough and pressing the knuckles firmly into it. Do this for a good 5 minutes. Place the dough into a greased camp oven (lid greased, too) and allow to rise in a warm place until mixture is about 1 inch from the top of the camp oven. (It is important that the dough is not bumped while rising, otherwise it will have to be kneaded again and allowed to rise once more.) Place oven carefully about 18 inches above a good layer of red hot embers, cover lid well with red hot embers, and allow to cook for 1 hour.
Turn loaf out onto a clean cloth when cooked and cover with cloth to absorb moisture for ½ hour before eating. There are numerous other bread making methods, but the above one is best for camp cooking.
This recipe is from the NZFS book "Camp Cookery" by DM Cowlin.
A PDF of the book is available on the excellent nzdeercullers.org.nz website (one of our favourites).