Campfire Bread

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

I had fun baking bread while camping at the base of the Tetons in Wyoming this summer. Combining two great loves had me in bread/nature nirvana for awhile. This was our 6th time to the Tetons and from there it’s a quick spin up to Yellowstone. It’s such a magnificent resource that we all own. I’ve included a couple of brief wildlife and scenery snippets in the videos.

Those snippets may be the only thing brief about the videos. I could have (probably should have) edited out more than I did, but I’d like to think there’s something instructional in most of what you’ll watch. My first bread baking attempt had a surprisingly happy ending given how things were looking along the way. The second try a few days later wasn’t perfection either, but whether it was the “everything tastes better when you’re camping” effect or not, I thought it was one of the best tasting and most satisfying breads I’d ever made.

If nothing else, I hope these videos encourage those new to bread baking. Near winging it is all you need sometimes.

Viewers often ask about some of the tools and resources used or referenced in my videos, so I’ve added a resource box below.

Update: This page wasn’t up for more than a few hours before experienced camp cooker, Alfonso, added these great campfire bread baking tips.

Tools Used in Videos:

Dutch Oven (Amazon link)
Sourdough Starter
Dough Whisk
Dough Scraper (similar to one used in video)
Grill Gloves
Flour Canister
Mixing Bowl
Mixing Bowl Covers
Books: There are many. Do an Amazon book search on “dutch oven campfire cooking” or check your local library.

 

 

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

iona July 31, 2014 at 4:42 pm

Wow! That was great! Thank you so much for making that video, I feel inspired! I’m going to try this with a bunch of teenagers in the Welsh hills next month…

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David October 20, 2013 at 3:44 pm

That first loaf was my idea of a perfect loaf. It doesn’t have to have a dark brown crust on top. It just has to be cooked in the middle, which yours was. And it wasn’t burnt on the bottom at all, which is what usually happens with first time loaves. You should be really proud of it.

When cooking bread in a campfire, slow is the way to go. It gives it that extra bit of time it needs for the final rise.

This is also a fun way to cook bread over a campfire: http://www.paddlinglight.com/articles/tutorial/how-to-cook-bannock-on-a-stick-campfire-bread/

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Floyd June 10, 2013 at 10:45 am

I have a jar of sourdough bread starter. My friend wants some of it. What do I do to give her a share of the starter and still have what I started with? Can I add the ingredients before I share? After I share?
She wouldn’t have enough if I just gave her enough to bake a loaf of bread? If I give her a cup full what will she have to do to increase it?
OH what to do? What to do?
Fly

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jonnie ish February 26, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Thanks for sharing this, it is inspiring – cant wait to try it on our next camp trip!
Jonnie, London

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piper August 1, 2012 at 6:56 pm

Here’s a loaf about done in my DO. Great camp food. The guy who makes this bread doesn’t do dishes that night. piper

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Breadtopia August 1, 2012 at 7:38 pm

Awesome loaf. I’d do the dishes for a slice of that!

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Sheryl June 4, 2012 at 5:29 am

Just did my third loaf of campfire bread using different recipes first one turned into a brocket the other two turned out great. Thank you so much for the video. I would not have though about cooking bread at the camp sight before I saw you do it.

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Dick Halsey January 20, 2012 at 8:23 pm

Hi Eric,

Just a note to say thanks for posting the “campfire bread” video. My friend and I watched both I and II and enjoyed them thoroughly, especially your “use what you’ve got” attitude as well as “it is what it is.” We’re going to try the dutch oven bread soon.

I wondered, as I watched you mix the dough by hand, how you avoid the sticky dough phase. My dough always goes through a VERY sticky phase, somewhere between mixing in the bowl and kneading it. Yours seemed to bypass that. Is that really true, or just a cinematic special effect?

Thanks much!

– Dick Halsey, in Idaho

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Dick Halsey January 20, 2012 at 8:24 pm

PS Also enjoyed the wildlife and scenery pix! Tetons are truly awesome!!

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Jack November 26, 2011 at 10:22 pm

I wanted a long loaf of bread using your no knead method and here it is..I used a stainless steel fish poacher and it worked great

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Breadtopia November 27, 2011 at 4:49 am

That is truly awesome.

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Michael November 2, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Nice effort on the bread. May I offer some advice.

Do NOT preheat dutch oven.
DO rise the loaf the second time in the dutch oven instead of the bowl.
DO place 3 small rocks to rest the dutch oven on and to keep it off the coals so they can get oxygen and burn. You are smoothing the coals placing the pot right on them.
DO place 12 coals under and 12 on top rotating lid and base every 15 mins.

That should do it….

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elpidio olvera October 19, 2011 at 6:02 pm

Certainly your contryside baking looks great and so all the nature around. The bread looks wonderful!!!!!

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joy tuedor October 17, 2011 at 12:34 am

thanks for the videos i wll try that on my own

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Ricardo Lafaiete October 12, 2011 at 6:57 pm

Hello, Erick!
I am Richard Lafayette, formed in food and baker, Brazil. Congratulations on the bread! I love your site, your posts, recipes and technique.
What a wonderful place to make bread during the holidays!
Well, Brazil is beautiful! But this makes you want to know your camp site!
A big hug!

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DALTON CRUM October 12, 2011 at 11:49 am

SINCE MY FAVORITE PLACE IS THE BOUNDARY WATERS OF MN., AND BRIQUETTES ARE HARD TO CARRY INTO THE WILDERNESS, THERE MUST ALSO BE A METHOD WITH WOOD!
I FORWARDED YOUR SITE TO GOOD FRIEND, RON BERG, AT THE END OF THE GUNFLINT TRAIL. RON IS A SEMI- RETIRED CHEF AND A GREAT WOOD OVEN BREAD BAKER – MY MENTOR IN SOUR DOUGH AND ALL BREADS. I WILL FORWARD HIS RESPONSE – HE ALWAYS DOES (RESPOND- HE IS ALSO A RETIRED TEACHER!)
D.C.

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kedron October 12, 2011 at 9:23 am

All good info,love your website
kedron

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Luis October 11, 2011 at 9:35 pm

Great video…..go Giants.

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kedron October 11, 2011 at 7:45 pm

Glad to know where youv’e been,missed you.The secret when using brickets is,for a 350-375 oven add 4 brickets to the top and subtract 2 for the bottom from the diamater of the dutch oven .no spell check
your on your own
kedron

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diane October 11, 2011 at 12:16 pm

what a wonderful video seeing wild life and yes camping making real homemade bread thks for sharing

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Diana DeHaven October 11, 2011 at 10:17 am

What fun! I loved the new videos. I’ve done a good deal of camp cooking but haven’t done the baking. Next trip I’ll be trying several things in my dutch oven including bread. And I loved the clips of your adventure as well. Thanks, Eric and co., for such an informative and interesting website. I keep telling my friends about it.

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Georgina October 11, 2011 at 9:08 am

Eric & company I could almost write a book on how awsome your video footage is of not only beautiful Wyoming – Teton but of your adventurous, incredible bread baking over the campfire. Just fabulous !

You lived and learned….yuppers! And I think you did a great job.

Like you, I would have been dedicated to the bread making at the camp over the hiking, fishing, whatever…haha

Can’t even begin to tell you how impressed I am with your dedication to your bread but also to this fantastic website that is dedicated to the art of bread making. Even your products side bar rotating pics is greatly appreciated.

I love how you include everyones comments…good or bad..success or failures with these recipes. Everyone knows that with bread making its try try and try again if you want to succeed and your website is dedicated to that end.

Eric and co. thank you for sharing these vids, feedback, comments, tips and all things bread with the rest of us. Truly appreciated.

Shine on you guys !!!!

From an extremely grateful Canadian viewer, all the best always !

Georgina

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David October 11, 2011 at 8:07 am

Great videos!! Just a small tip to help get your charcoal started. When using the chimney something I saw Alton Brown do on his show. Take a couple of sheets of newspaper and drizzle some cooking oil (your choice of flavor) on the paper and then roll them up into a ball and place under the chimney. Light and off you go! I have to say that I have been using that for quite a few yrs and it really gets the coals going!!

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Judy October 11, 2011 at 7:14 am

When I am baking my regular soft bread and dinner rolls I very seldom measure ingredients, just go by feel. It was nice to see how forgiving this bread was when mixed and baked in a camping situation without exact measurements. I can just taste it now! Maybe if I hurry I can get there to taste a slice before it is all gone! The sounds of the birds and water were wonderful, but I did miss the cracking sound of the bread when it came out of the dutch oven. Thanks for that tip in your previous videos. That is one of my most favorite things to hear! My husband even comes over to share that sound with each loaf! Just ordered your round baker. I use the long one all the time. Thanks for your wonderful videos so that we too can make this wonderful bread.

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Donna October 11, 2011 at 7:05 am

We make delicious food proof bread whenever we camp. We never have burned crusts.

We use a Dutch oven with a lid that has a lip. It keeps the coals on more easily but it is not necessary. Your Dutch oven gives you a lid that also doubles as a frying pan, an important consideration if weight and space are a problem. Our Dutch oven has three legs which keep it out of direct contact with the coals.

We use approximately 24 coals, with 18 on top and 6 below. But if we require longer cooking time, we add more coals to both the top and bottom. We cook an entire meal in one Dutch oven; bread is just part of the menu. I am talking about spareribs, baked potatoes and vegetables, bread, and a fruit crumble dessert or baked apples. We use the same coals to make coffee and heat water for washing dishes.

We also have an oven thermometer to help us maintain a steady temperature, but that is not as important in cast iron cookware because the heat is evenly distributed most of the time. Of course, a regular thermometer is important also to test when the meat and bread are done. Most of the time, we do not use the thermometers because we are experienced enough to judge temperatures of the oven and the finished product. But we used them when we were learning to cook in a Dutch oven.

The secret to perfect bread every time is to put a small rack inside the Dutch oven. Then the bread is in contact with hot air and not with hot cast iron. Allow the bread to rise in a clay baker. We use an unglazed clay baker for our bread at home. It duplicates the effect of baking in clay ovens and produces an excellent crust.

We bought our first one online from King Arthur Flour but I see that you also have them on your website. These bakers are too large for a Dutch oven, so we bought a potato baker to bake loaves that are better baked with a lid. For individual rolls, we use clay flower pot bakers. They do not have a lid.

These bakers are hard to find. We bought them at an upscale department store in their cookware section many years ago. I cannot find any online at this time. Some people suggest using any clay containers for bread making. I would not do that because I am not sure that clay pots intended for growing plants are free of toxins. If they don’t say food-grade, I would not use them.

Here is a link for instructions for making bread in flower pots. They use standard flower pots. http://www.cookingwithkids.com/cookbooks/kneadit/pot.html

To make our lives much easier, and to use a lot fewer coals, we put our Dutch oven inside a Volcano cooker. It is designed to burn with preheated air and can burn practically any solid fuel. We have campfires in it, but also use charcoal in it when we use Dutch ovens. We don’t bother with the charcoal starter that you use (we have one). We just light a fire inside the Volcano cooker and when it is hot enough, we add the charcoal.

This unit is amazing. We never camp without it. We are able to put ours on top of a picnic table and because it is double-walled, the picnic table does not get hot. We can usually make the entire menu above (ribs or roast, potatoes, vegs, bread, cooked dessert, coffee) and hot water for dishes from 24-30 coals.

It has adjustable bolts at the top which allow you to use different size Dutch ovens and to vary the distance from the coals. This will also help to prevent burning on the bottom.

This unit also helps to maintain a constant temperature. It can be used as a grill, as a firepit, and for Dutch ovens. It starts a fire quickly and without smoke because of the design of the air intake. You can also purchase an attachment for using propane.

I don’t often see it in stores. I bought mine online from the manufacturer, but one year, I did see one in a Gander Mountain store. We have the Original Volcano Grill. If we ever buy a new one, we will buy the Collapsible Volcano Grill.

One of our most enjoyable camping trips was just below the tree line in mountains in Wyoming. We camped in a secluded location in a government forest where there were no services, no people, just wild animals. The Volcano cooker gave us the security of having a fire without any danger of it spreading. Early each morning and at dusk, we would sit and watch the deer browse at the edge of the trees. During the day we would walk up to the Alpine meadows with the most brilliant tiny flowers and enjoy the spectacular mountain view.

That was a holiday enough, but to come back to a home-cooked meal ,especially the aroma of baking bread, was beyond words. No hotel or restaurant can give you this.

We purchased a cooler that will keep cold for 5 days. Ads show a cooler full of ice being left out in temperatures over 90F for 5 days and still having some ice inside. We pack it full of frozen food and frozen filtered water. We find that the meat still is very cold after 5 days. Of course, we cover it with reflective space blankets and our sleeping bags during the day.

I am including this information to give another hint to bread bakers who don’t have a lot of spare time on a camping trip (because of river trips, hikes, etc.). We make our bread dough, let it rise once, prepare it for the second rising, and then freeze it in the correct quantity for our meals. Sometimes by the third or fourth day, it has thawed out and started to rise, but it still works well. This saves time and mess at the campsite. Of course, it is fun to make it at the campground if you are going to be there all day and not concerned with animals. We don’t leave food around at campsites. But we have never had an animal disturb a hot Dutch oven or our Volcano cooker.

There is nothing like the aroma of freshly baked bread at a campsite. We have had many strangers drop in at our campsite to observe. It has been a great way to make friends when we are in a traditional national forest campground.

Fresh bread while camping is not a luxury; it is a necessity!

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Breadtopia November 5, 2011 at 9:17 pm

Thanks very much Donna. I added a link (above) to this post.

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Angie Furst October 11, 2011 at 6:29 am

You definitely get an A for effort. Baking with a dutch over requires MORE charcoals on the top, than on the bottom. It is also recommended that the bottom charcoal encircle the bottom instead of sitting directly on the coals. Some prefer Dutch Oven’s with legs for this reason.

http://www.dutchovendude.com/campfire-cooking.shtml

The site above has a handy calculator for figuring the ratio of bottom coals to top coals. However in the middle of no where the following rule works:

Take the dutch oven diameter and add 3 briquettes on top. Subtract 3 briquettes underneath. So, a 12 inch oven would have 12+3=15 on top and 12-3=9 underneath. This works for any size dutch oven. Then you need to adjust briquette placement depending on the type of cooking

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Breadtopia November 5, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Nice formula, Angie, I added it above. Thanks!

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Melody October 11, 2011 at 6:27 am

How exciting! The Grand Tetons are my old stomping ground, and I’m looking forward to try the campfire baking. Here in CO, high altitude is a regular thing we overcome when baking. A few tips- try increasing your salt just a tad (I do about 2 tsp, and if you’re using more flour you definitely won’t notice it as much). For a regular no-knead recipe, I measure 17-18oz of flour instead of 16oz (when not camping) because you have to add extra flour at higher altitudes…which might explain why your first loaf was a little wetter than you wanted, it was probably closer to one of my standard loaves. So if you want a larger (and stiffer) loaf, try decreasing the water a tad AND increasing the flour. I live just north of Denver, and at a mile high altitude (I think I’m slightly higher actually), my typical proof time is only 8 hours when the room is at 80 degrees. So, that could have also been a source of the over-proofing. High altitude air is thinner, so the added flour gives the bread more structure (keeps it from falling sooner), the salt slows down the yeast (helps aid in a sort of normal proof time so that it doesn’t taste like floured water), and you just have to watch the dough. I’m excited to go light my fire pit now, so that I can try this!…. :)

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Carolyn October 11, 2011 at 5:24 am

I really enjoyed your videos. Lovely Country. It was fun to see you having more problems than I do with the heat. I loved seeing the consistency of your dough. Although I still consider I am a beginner I try to make my bread in a no knead kinda way and recently a friend in Tennessee sent me some dried sour dough starter which I activated successfully. Like you I burnt my bottoms at first but dont any longer. A rule of thumb is for a 12″ camp oven is you use 6 under and 18-20 on top, I dont have altitude to deal with. Pretty as your oven was the 14″ one on the ground with a lip on the lid would have held your heat better with less chance of ash in the bread. If I have time I do the second rise in the oven bottom and heat the lid with all the beads for about 10 minutes prior to cooking.

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Alfonso October 10, 2011 at 6:01 pm

Ha! Ha! Now you’re in my comfort zone! I do a lot of camp cooking at home and in the great out doors. A key point in using a dutch oven is in the distribution of coals in the top and bottom. You should have more coals on the top than bottom just as your manual says! Also to keep any hot spots from forming, try turning bottom portion clock-wise by to 3 O’clock every fifteen minutes. The top lid can be turned counter clock-wise too. This also helps on keeping an eye on how long you’ve been baking. Hope this helps!

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Breadtopia October 10, 2011 at 7:41 pm

Excellent advise! Thanks Alfonso. I’ll be adding a link to this.

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