Tag Archives | campfire

Freshly baked sweet chestnut bread

It’ll come as no surprise to those that know me, that baking bread is something I love to do. Whilst you can certainly bake a good loaf in your oven at home, baking your bread over a campfire is something really special. For me, it’s the process that brings such joy: The gathering of firewood and kindling, and the lighting of the fire, that brings the expectation of the bread to be eaten.

Foraged sweet chestnuts

Sweet chestnuts pan roasting

Sweet chestnuts pan roasting

With such a hoard of sweet chestnuts, and some nice big ones to boot, I needed to do something with these lovely, sweet and tasty nuts. Ah ha I thought, how about a sweet chestnut loaf! The best ideas come when sitting by a campfire – that’s for sure!

The first task was to roast those chestnuts – you need to make a small cut into the shell to avoid them exploding. Yes, they really do explode! When roasting some recently, one escaped being slit and exploded with an almighty bang. Because, it’s a little late for foraging chestnuts, I wanted to ensure they were all good to eat and no dodgy ones would spoil the bake. So, I halved all the chestnuts and chucked out any that didn’t past muster.

The roasting was done in a small cast-iron pot, it has a lid, which was used. A little olive oil was poured into the warmed pot, the nuts added and stirred to coat them in the oil. Then a little hot water from the kettle was poured in and the pot sealed with the lid. I roasted them for about 20 minutes and then, well, I just had to taste a few!

Bread making and baking…

Sweet chestnut bread - baking in Petromax Dutchoven

Sweet chestnut bread – baking in Petromax Dutch oven

I warmed some water for the yeast and mixed up a classic-loaf with strong bread flour, a little salt and that yeast once it had frothed nicely. I used a spoonful of sugar and a pinch of flour to feed the yeast. With the dough well mixed, those sweet chestnuts were added and rolled in with a glug or two of olive oil.

The well-kneaded dough was put in the warmed Dutch oven to prove. I tend to keep it suspended above the campfire, at a height that means it will keep warm but not start to bake. 30 minutes later – I check, it’s risen nicely, I knock it back and we go again. After the second prove it’s time to bake – the oven used is a Petromax. The oven is lowered and embers put on the top to bake the bread. Dutch ovens have a rim around the lid to stop the embers falling off!

Sweet chestnut bread part-baked

Sweet chestnut bread part-baked

On the first check, the loaf was pale and under baked. It had been baking for 25 minutes, which with a hot oven would be fine, but today the weather was very cold, so back in it went. This time the oven was placed directly on the embers and the ember-glowing log-ends placed on top. Care is needed doing this, because with the intensity of the heat there is a possibility of over-baking and burning the bread.

Sweet chestnut bread - finishing the bake

Sweet chestnut bread – finishing the bake

The reveal was 20 minutes later, with a nicely browned loaf. Tapping the bottom provided a reassuring hollowness and confirmation that the sweet chestnut loaf was baked and ready to eat!

David’s top tip for baking with a Dutch oven

Dutch ovens are fab for campfire cooking. The cast iron dissipates the heat throughout the pan, but there is still a possibility of the bottom getting to hot and burning the contents. For baking, place the dough in a separate pan inside the Dutch oven, supporting it on a few green sticks or stones. This will raise the dough up from the bottom of the oven, allowing hot air to circulate (as it would in a conventional oven), and provide a more even bake without burning its bottom!

Sweet chestnut bread - the freshly baked loaf

Sweet chestnut bread – the freshly baked loaf

During the winter months baking will most likely take a little longer due to the colder weather – but don’t let that stop you, your fresh bread will still taste great – Happy Baking!

Oh yes, the folks I shared that sweet chestnut loaf with, thought it tasted rather good. Join me on a Campfire Bread Baking course and have fun baking and eating a variety of tasty breads.

Find out more and book Campfire Bread Baking

Enrichment for Princess Risborough School

David has been providing Bushcraft enrichment at Princess Risborough School – once per week all students have an enrichment session. These sessions provide an opportunity for students to broaden their knowledge, acquire new skills and above all, have fun learning something new. As part of this programme, David was invited to provide Bushcraft sessions for year 5 (rising 12 years).

For our first week, we started with fire lighting skills, covering a few different methods and lighting a fire on the school playing field (we all found that fun!). Students practised leave-no-trace, which meant there was no evidence left of our campfire, just as well given where it was! The following week saw us erecting shelters and building on previous skills: lighting a storm-kettle to boil water.

Lunchtime whittling at Princess Risborough School - Bushcraft enrichment

Lunchtime whittling at Princess Risborough School – Bushcraft enrichment

Each week we spend an hour learning something new whilst building up a little more experience with previous skills – this week students were learning to safely use knives and were practising by whittling hazel sticks. It was good to see their care and attention to the task.

Watchful eye as students practice carving - Bushcraft enrichment

Keeping a watchful eye as students practice carving – Bushcraft enrichment

We have adopted a corner of the school sports field for our Bushcraft activities. It has the advantage of providing shelter from the wind if it gets a little blowy and yet receives the lunchtime sunshine too. Looking back at these pictures, it’s nice to see other students playing rugby while we whittle hazel sticks!

Happy carving a pointy stick - Bushcraft enrichment

Happy carving a pointy stick – Bushcraft enrichment

It’s always a pleasure teaching the students at Princess Risborough School – great to see their smiles too as they achieve new things each week. Oh, and what happens in the winter months you may well ask, we will be wearing coats and dressing up warm – just like those playing outdoor sports we will be outside enjoying nature.

Proud of their achievment - Bushcraft enrichment

Proud of their achievements, lots of wood shavings everywhere and some pointy hazel sticks on show – Bushcraft enrichment

Interested in Bushcraft enrichment for your school? Contact David for details!

Ready to connect with nature?

Ready to connect with nature? Put the kettle on, make yourself a cuppa, relax for a couple of minutes in this peaceful woodland setting in the Chilterns, where the oak, ash and sycamore trees reach high into the sky, there’s the rustle of squirrels, a hint of wild garlic still lingers in the air and the birds are singing – this is where I work, join me in the woods… (play the video)

Courses are run at this peaceful and private location in the Chilterns, Buckinghamshire. It’s a beautiful place for running Bushcraft courses. You don’t need to have any prior knowledge to attend these courses, just come with the enthusiasm to learn and a desire to have fun outdoors.

Take a look at some of the pictures in the course gallery and find out more about the courses by clicking on any of the pictures or go straight to the Bushcraft Courses and Events Calendar.