A weekend of experiments using several methods to bake on the trail
I have now tried several methods of
making bread on the trail and want to make this page available on the net.
Special thanks to John Pickett for his experience related on the
Backpacker Stove group, and to Aaron at Brasslite for his excellent
instructions on using the TrailBaker.
I used the two quart covered pot from the "Mamma's Kitchen" set I am testing for BackpackGearTest. I cut a square of hardware cloth (1/2 inch holes) with each side about a quarter inch shorter than the diameter of the pot. I bent the corners down so the octagonal shape would fit in the pot and be held up from the bottom about an inch or an inch and a quarter. This was meant to give me a chance to test the boiled bread recipes of the Bake Packer. I put an inch of water in the bottom of the pot and brought it to a boil. There was about a quarter inch of room between the screen and the top of the water. On this screen I tried cooking several different recipes. I tried both Bisquick and yellow cake based creations. About a half cup of one of the mixtures was placed in a freezer zip-lock bag, the mixture kneaded with water in the bag, and the bag placed on the screen. I tried keeping the bag closed and opening it and rolling down the top. I also tried cooking in one of those pot covers that look a lot like a shower cap.
Results: Both the Bisquick and cake batters cook well enough in the steam bath inside the pot. (The pot was covered and boiled for about 20 minutes). There is no browning and the recipes seem a little waterlogged, but they are cooked just fine. There is no taste of uncooked flour in the end result.
I simulated Aaron's TrailBaker by suspending a foil pastry cup (from a pot pie) from several pieces of malleable wire in the two quart pot. I made a lid of tin foil and put a candy thermometer through a hole in the top, resting on the bottom of the two quart pot. I heated the pot with a Turbo II Brasslite stove, closing the simmer ring ports as taught by Aaron. In the suspended foil pastry tin, I put a third of a cup of moist cake mix after coating the inside of the cup with a bit of olive oil. I put 30 cc of alcohol in the stove and began the "dance" of keeping the pot below 400 deg F and above 300 deg F. This required a good deal of taking the pan off the stove when it would get too hot. I discovered that the "oven" pot only got too hot when the stove was no longer simmering, but had heated and was supplying a flame the size of the outside diameter of the stove instead of the diameter of the top port. The cake cooked for 20 min and tasted heavenly. I had about 15 cc of fuel left to burn when the 20 minutes was reached.
I read the post here by John Pickett. I decided to give that method a try. I cut a strip of aluminum weather stripping 14 inches long and two inches wide. I cut overlapping slits a half inch from the ends of the strip so I could let tab A slip in slot B and I would not need to use a paper clip. This gave me a ring of aluminum on which I could set the potpie foil plate. I used my copy of the Brasslite Turbo F (feather weight) this time, but needed to add a simmer ring. I cut a piece of aluminum flashing about 3/4 inch by 5 inches and wrapped it around the stove body. I held it in place with a little 8 inch piece of malleable wire twisted on the end. This allows me to slide the simmer ring up or down to cover or uncover the side ports. I put the support ring on the bottom of the two quart pot and the foil cup on top of it and then prepared first, a cake and later, a biscuit. (Remember the oil.) I heated it with the alcohol stove, without the thermometer, but whenever the stove began to run a little hot and make a wide flame instead of a narrow flame, I took the pot off the flame until the stove cooled down for a minute or so. I did not use a thermometer for this. Great results! I especially like the addition of a couple heaping teaspoons of oatmeal to the cake. BTW, I only fueled the stove with 15cc of fuel and it cooked for about 20 minutes before burning out.
Same as the above, except that I used the 3 cup pot. This was a little daring. I had previously burned the no stick coating off the 2 quart pot, but it is still in good shape in the 3 cup pot. I was again able to bake in the pot pie inside the 3 cup pot. The alcohol stove did allow the no stick coating to melt where it was in contact with the aluminum and made a very thin line about 2 inches long on the bottom of the pot. Good results, however.
I used the same set up as above, but used a small WoodGas stove made from a soup can. The wood gas fire did not heat the pan any more than the alcohol stove, and caused no more damage to the bottom. However, the 10 minutes or so from a single filling of the stove did not finish cooking the cake, despite the prolonged charcoal period. Future experiment will try adding a little fuel to the stove to keep it burning for a few extra minutes.
It occurred to me that the small pot fits well inside the large pot of the set. For this experiment, I built a different "coil" pot support 3/4 of an inch wide and 14 inches long. I heated the outer pot with an alcohol stove and cooked cake in the inner pot. Oh, Man! What heavenly cake this made. I waited for it to cool a bit, plopped the cake on the lid of the larger pot and dribbled some confectioner's sugar icing on the cake. It was a lot like heaven.
1. I can cook over boiling water, but I don't like the wet cake a lot. This takes a lot of fuel if you need to boil the water first and then keep it boiling for 20 minutes.
2. I can cook in a pan suspended in a pot. It is equivalent to cooking on the metal coil (circle). The circle of flashing feels steadier than the suspended pan. Using the thermometer is a good training device, but not required for cooking each time.
3. The nested pots of the Antigravity Kitchen make a great baking device.
4. The WoodGas stove needs supplemental fuel to bake for 20 minutes.
5. I will need to go on a diet for the rest of the week.
Bruce Calkins wrote: “The Bake-Packer instructions does recommend reducing the liquid content of the mixtures used.”
Tom wrote: “Nesting pans make a great oven. I have one of those cheap stainless steel sets from WalMart, the ones with the copper plated bottoms (brand name Ozark Trail). I've found that I can bake in either the small pot nested in the large pot, or the large pot nested in the fry pan. When using the large pot, I can bake up to one-half of a boxed cake mix at a time. The smaller pot will do about a third of a boxed mix.
My setup is designed to minimize direct heat conduction into the pans, so that the pans do not a) overheat and get damaged, and b) scorch the bottom of the food before it's done baking. Nesting the pans helps shield things, but I also add some separator rings to minimize direct contact between layers. My setup is like this, stacked from the bottom up: -- a soda can stove, with Photon-style pot stand (and simmer ring, of course) -- a Scorch Buster from an Outback Oven (sorry, I haven't found a good "found object" replacement for this yet, and it's only ~7 dollars) -- a "crown ring" to lift the outer pot up off the Scorch Buster (more details below) -- The outer pot -- a thin ring to lift the inner pot up off the surface of the outer pot (I use the top ring off a canister of protein powder) -- The inner pot, containing the batter (greased and floured, of course, for easy release) -- The lid for the outer pot. -- Over the top of the whole stack, the regular windscreen for the stove -- Resting on top of the windscreen, a conical "hat" made of aluminum flashing to slow heat loss out the top.
That takes a lot more effort to describe than to actually use! The weight of the bakery-specific components totals 5.6 ounces. Two things that bear more explanation: 1) The "crown ring" is a one-inch ring cut out of a 10 oz chicken/tuna can. I call it a "crown ring" because I cut scallops out of it, in order to reduce metal-to-metal contact to the outer pan. It looks like a little crown with 6 points. The baking pan rests on the points, instead of on a solid ring of metal (without the scallops, I always got a ring of scorching on my baked goods) 2) I control the heat generated by the alcohol stove by raising the windscreen up off the ground about an inch. This increases air flow around the burner, and reduces the amount of heat reflected back at it from the windscreen, which reduces the likelihood that the burner will start to run wild. (I stuck a couple of pieces of steel rod through the pot stand mesh, and rest the windscreen on top of that.) It's not quite "set-and-forget", but it's a lot better than with the windscreen completely down around the burner.”
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