The first time I saw some serious baking in the wild was while I was hiking in New Zealand, or “tramping” as they like to call it. I was on a six-day hut-to-hut tramp and along the way I met an energetic Kiwi family—Ma, Pa and their two littlins. The poor father had an enormous pack for his size and I felt sorry for him because I knew he had a hell of a climb ahead.
That night we ended up in the same hut. By the time the family arrived I had finished my simple pasta meal and was busy trying to decide whether to make my chocolate stash last me for the rest of my hike or just eat it all at once.
I watched the family take over the gas burners and start making their meal. It didn't take long to figure out that Pa's pack was filled with baking supplies and cooking utensils. Before long the family was sitting down to an amazing three-course feast followed by a wonderful chocolate cake. I know there were two things on the minds of everyone else in the hut that night: not feeling sorry for Pa, and hope for an invite.
Since my New Zealand experience I've tried baking while camping. But outside of cooking the odd meal using tinfoil and a fire, I never really managed to bake consistently. Then I discovered the Outback Oven—a lovely piece of equipment that is compact, light, versatile and fairly consistent when it comes to baking.
The oven is pretty simple. There’s a special plate that sits between the burner of your stove and the oven’s baking pan to deflect the heat around the pan rather than just heating the bottom. The oven also comes with a flame/heatproof cover that captures the deflected heat and holds it around the oven. The lid on the baking pan even has a temperature gauge on the top that’s visible through a hole in the cover, although I find that this feature isn't very reliable.
Now, don't get the idea that you’re going to go out on your next kayaking trip and make a soufflé—even my oven at home isn't consistent enough to do that. The recipes included here are pretty simple but can add a whole new dimension to your outdoor cooking repertoire.
Backpacker's Pantry, the company that makes the Outback Oven, sells an entire series of camping food specific to the Outback Oven, including things like pizza, lasagna and brownies. Visit www.backpackerspantry.com for more information on these prepackaged selections and the Outback Oven itself.
Chocolate Crazy Cake
Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Make three depressions in the mix. In the first depression place the vinegar, in the second depression pour the oil and in the third add the vanilla. Now pour the warm water over the depressions and mix until you have a nice smooth batter. Transfer to a well-oiled baking pan. Bake slowly until a knife comes out clean. While it's cooling you can make a simple topping from leftover coffee, cocoa (2 tbsp) and icing sugar (1/2 cup). Depending how much coffee you add, you’ll have a spreadable icing or a glaze to pour over the cake before serving. Warm topping is particularly nice. Eat and of course share (the Kiwis did, in case you were wondering)!
Bannock Cinnamon Rolls
Mix flour, baking powder and 2 tsp sugar in a bowl. Cut half the butter into the dry mix—use a fork and basically mash the hard butter into the flour mix until it is evenly distributed. Slowly add warm water and knead into a soft but not sticky dough. Divide the kneaded dough into six equal balls. Flatten each ball into a small disk about the size of your palm. Spread the remaining two tablespoons of butter on the surface of the disks. Sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon and optional fruit and then roll up the dough and seal the edges by pinching together. Place in well-oiled Outback Oven. Bake slowly until risen and golden brown.