Tag Archives | bread baking

Home Education Group

Following on from our fun sessions throughout the summer holidays, David has been running more Environmental Learning and Bushcraft sessions at Shortenills Environmental Centre in Chalfont St Giles. The morning sessions are with children aged up to 7 years and those in the afternoon for age 7 and above. They have proved to be very popular, with sessions regularly fully booked.

Making natures dream-catchers with home-education group

Making natures dream-catchers with home-education group

In this weeks session, the younger children made dream-catchers, with a little help from their parents who are actively involved throughout. We gathered pieces of green-hazel and bent them into hoops and then created a web of jute string and wool – the n fun began with weaving in things found in the woods: leaves, feathers, pieces of bark and more. It was lovely to seem them turning in the breeze.

We finished off with cups of nettle tea, with the kettle boiling over the campfire and nettles foraged from the edge of the woodland.

The older group were introduced to the safe use of knives. Each child was shown how to whittle a tent peg, with the younger ones receiving one-to-one instruction and supervision to ensure they had fun and successfully made their tent peg! More nettle tea followed!

Making fat lamps with home-education group

Making fat lamps with home-education group

Other weeks activities included making fat candles. We used a variety of fats, pork lard, beef dripping and vegetable. The children found interesting pieces of wood with shallow holes or crevices in which to place their candles. Then we filled them with fat and each child lit a match to light their candle.

Bread baking with home-educator group

Bread baking with home-educator group

And yes, we baked bread too. The children made the dough using string bread flour, milk powder and baking powder. With a little help, they wound the dough around the sticks and cooked them over the campfire.

David is looking forward to running more Environmental Learning and Bushcraft sessions – if you’d like to know more the by all means do get in contact – thanks!

Bread baking at the Bushcraft Show 2016

It was great to be providing bread baking workshops at the Bushcraft Show again this year. Places filled very quickly, early on the Sunday morning, while the baking area was set up in front of the main stage.

Bread baking workshops at The Bushcraft Show

Bread baking workshops at The Bushcraft Show – Thanks to John Potts of The Funky Studio for photo

The huge teepees of the main stage provided a nice back-drop and meant lots of people could learn about bread baking on campfires, whilst watching some of the teams make and kneed their dough, make bannock while waiting for the dough to prove, before finally baking their bread.

Bread baking in Petromax Dutch ovens

Bread baking in Petromax Dutch ovens

We baked bread using Petromax Dutch ovens (the FT6 model, one with and one without legs). Whilst you can bake good bread using mugs, pots and pans, a cast iron oven distributes the heat of the fire more evenly and as a result creates a more even bake. You can see a few green sticks in the bottom of the ovens – these raise the small tiffin tins up to allow convection to distribute the heat around the loaf. Alternatively you could use a few pebbles or stones or even use a purpose made trivet!

Team photo - proud of the bread they baked

Team photo – proud of the bread they baked

It was a shame there wasn’t enough room for everyone to bake bread – but it was lovely to see perfect strangers with a hunger to learn, happy to work together to form baking teams.

Bushcraft show visitors baking bread and bannock

Bushcraft show visitors baking bread and bannock

The baking teams produced some lovely loaves with patterns created so each team could recognise their loaf – The recipes used are all available – details below.

Some of the freshly baked loaves of bread

Some of the freshly baked loaves of bread

It was wonderful to chat with old friends and make new ones and a big thank you to Olivia Beardsmore and her fabulous team for putting on such a wonderful event. It was great to be back at the Bushcraft Show again this year.

If you’d like a copy of the bread baking recipes used in the workshops then just subscribe! No, you don’t to have been participating, just have an interest in baking bread over a campfire. I’m hoping the budding bakers will do their homework and bake some bread by the end of June! By all means share pictures of your bread baking over on the Bushcraft with David Willis Facebook page I’m looking forward to seeing the results!
Find out more and book a place on Campfire Bread Baking!

The recipes for bread and bannock used at The Bushcraft Show

Bread baking workshop at The Bushcraft Show

Bread baking workshop at The Bushcraft Show

Wow, what a fantastic weekend at The Bushcraft Show. My bread baking workshops were booked up quickly, with individuals, couples and families all wanting to bake bread and make bannock on a campfire. There was a lovely friendly atmosphere throughout, with people helping each other, commenting on their own experiences and asking questions, not just those in the workshops but many of those watching too. The bread baking workshop started with making a yeast based bread and then while this bread was proving and then baking, we made, cooked and enjoyed eating bannock!

The campfire

When cooking on a campfire, it is important to recognise that no matter how good your fire, the embers will cool. If you are just boiling a kettle that may be fine, but if baking bread, you will need a sustained heat source; a good supply of embers to maintain the required baking temperature.

One way of making sure you have sufficient embers is to have a long-fire, perhaps double the width you may actually need for cooking. One half should be used for cooking while the other is used to maintain a fire and create new embers. As the embers you are cooking over cool, you can then rake fresh hot embers into your cooking area.

Baking bread in billy cans - note tiffin tin inside billy can and green stick supporting it!

Baking bread in billy cans – note tiffin tin inside billy can and green stick supporting it!

Pots and pans

With the exception of baking bread directly in the embers, you are going to need a pot to cook the bread. Options include a Dutch oven or some combination of billy cans to form an improvised oven.

The benefit of a Dutch oven, it being made of cast iron, is that it is good at distributing heat evenly around the pot. But, if you place a Dutch oven directly over flames, the bottom will still get hotter than the sides and will likely burn what you are cooking inside.

To avoid this when baking with a Dutch oven, you can cook your bread in another pot inside the Dutch oven. This creates an oven, similar to what you would find in a kitchen. Items cooked in an oven are usually cooked in the middle of the oven, supported on a rack. In the Dutch oven the pot containing the food to be cooked or in this case the dough to be baked is supported on green wood pieces or stones.

Bread and bannock baking at the Bushcraft Show

Bread and bannock baking at the Bushcraft Show

The Dutch oven is a very useful item in a fixed, semi-permanent camp or perhaps on a canoeing journey, but if hiking it’s weight would be far to much to carry. An alternative, lighter option is to carry two pots or billy cans, one sitting inside the other as the Dutch oven above. Lightweight aluminium pots are an option, but you may find they tend to deform easily with the heat of the fire. My preference is for stainless steel billy cans.

Bread recipe

A wonderful basket of tasty bread

A wonderful basket of tasty bread

This recipe produces a lovely small loaf with a nice dome. I cook this one in an improvised oven; a Zebra stainless billy can with another smaller can inside, a tier from a Zebra stainless tiffin food carrier.

  1. Measure out 1 mug of good quality bread baking flour (350ml mug) and ½ teaspoon of salt and put in a mixing bowl, ideally warm the bowl first.
  2. Activate the yeast, I use Allinson dried active yeast; Add 1 teaspoon of sugar, a pinch of flour and 1½ teaspoons  of dried active yeast to a ⅓ of a mug of warm / hot water, mix well and leave to activate – bubble and froth for a few minutes. I find the best way to judge the temperature is to carefully put a finger in the water, it should feel hot, but not so much as you need to remove your finger – please take care not to scold your finger!
  3. Once the yeast is activated and frothy, add to the flour and salt, and mix well and form into a single ball of dough. You want a loose dough, not too dry but not too wet, add a little warm water or a sprinkle of flour as required.
  4. Kneed your dough, stretching it out and getting the glutens to develop and make an elastic dough.
  5. Oil your baking pan (the tiffin tin), I like to use a little olive oil, and put the dough in the tin. Place a few green sticks (or stones) in the bottom of the oven billy can and place the tiffin tin inside. Place the lid on and then put near the fire to warm and prove the dough. Ideally you want it to double in size. Depending on the weather conditions and temperature of your fire this is likely to take 20-30 minutes.
  6. One the dough has proved sufficiently, scrape back the embers of the fire and place the billy can in the middle and push the embers back up against it. Baking typically takes 30-40 minutes; check after 20 minutes and if it looks like a loaf with a nice raised dome, replace the lid and cover with hot embers to finish baking.
  7. To judge if the loaf is cooked through, use a thin pointed stick as a skewer and push it through the top of the loaf. It should go though with little resistance and come out clean. If it does, turn out the loaf and tap the bottom, it should sound hollow.

Bannock recipe

Bannock baking as dampers over the bread baking fire

Bannock baking as dampers over the bread baking fire

As much as I love making bread, if you are pushed for time and hungry then a bannock is just the answer, it’s really quick and easy to make.

  1. Measure out ½ mug of good quality bread baking flour (350ml mug), ¾ teaspoon of baking powder, 2-3 dessert spoons of milk powder, 1 teaspoon of sugar, I like to use muscavado, a brown sugar to add flavour and if you want a more cake like bannock a dessert spoon of whole egg powder.
  2. Mix all these together with sufficient water, warm if you like, to create a slightly sticky dough.
  3. Prepare a stick ready for cooking the bannock, use green wood to reduce the chances of it burning. Trim the bark back to avoid imparting any bitterness to the bread – be careful what wood you choose, a hazel, sycamore, ash or oak stick should be fine. Use a long stick, so you don’t have to be quite so close to the fire and avoid the smoke.
  4. To cook the bannock, roll the dough out into a long sausage and wrap around the stick. Leave room between the twists around the stick to allow it to rise and cook. It should resemble a helter-skelter, with room for an imaginary marble to roll down! Squash down the ends onto the stick so it doesn’t fall off into the fire.
  5. Cook over the embers until golden brown all over. It should be firm to touch but still have some spring to it. Carefully slide off the stick and eat while warm.
  6. Alternatively, rather than use a stick, cook in a heated and oiled cast iron skillet. Press the bannock dough down into the pan so that it is thumb thick. Prop up the skillet near the embers to cook in the radiated heat, turn as and when necessary to cook evenly all over. When the first side is done, turn and repeat. Tradition has it that bannock should be broken, so please don’t cut your bannock.

Thank you to everyone who joined the bread baking workshops at The Bushcraft Show, I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I do. Don’t forget your homework, there is more bread to be baked!

Bread baking at The Bushcraft Show

David will be running bread baking workshops at The Bushcraft Show. They’ll be bannock cooked over a campfire, loaves of bread baked in a Dutch oven, dough twists cooked on a stick and bread baking using improvise ovens.

Bread baking workshop at The Bushcraft Show

Bread baking workshop at The Bushcraft Show

The Bushcraft Show attracts thousands of people. With expert speakers from across the globe, exciting activities, demonstrations, specialist instruction, things for youngsters to do, entertainment, trade stands and lots more. All of this makes The Bushcraft Show an interesting, exciting and fun event.

David will be running workshops throughout the weekend. If you are going to the show, do join in one of the baking workshops. David is looking forward to meeting folks at the show and getting more people baking!

A day of backcountry cooking at Black Park

A day of learning to bake, steam, roast and cook on campfires. Starting with bread making, we made an unleavened  dough, baking the bread around the campfire. The campfire oven, a fire pit with hot rocks had been slowly cooking our joint of lamb and now it was time to dig it out, carefully uncovering our roast lunch!

Steaming trout in damp moss over a campfire

Steaming trout in damp moss over a campfire

A selection of fish, tuna and trout were steamed over the fire. Wrapped in burdock leaves, the fish cooked in the steam of the damp moss, creating a delicately cooked fish.

Backcountry cooking, lamb roasted in a fire pit with fresh baked bread

Backcountry cooking, lamb roasted in a fire pit with fresh baked bread

The star attraction, roast lamb cooked in the woods. The lamb was cooked to perfection, eaten with some of the baked bread, no one went hungry. But just in case, there was a variety of items to kebab and then it was on to making drop scones, topped with home made damson jam.

Backcountry cooking; campfire kebabs

Backcountry cooking; campfire kebabs