How to Bake Bread on a Fire

One of the most rewarding skills you can acquire as a campfire cook, is making your own fresh bread.

Homemade bread is always so much tastier than shop-bought, and if you are camping for any length of time without easy access to shops, making your own bread becomes a necessity.  This bread recipe is very easy, and once you’ve made it a few times, you’ll probably also be able to make it from memory, and ring as many changes as I do!

There are a few basic rules to remember when making bread:

  • the warmer the area you are working in, the quicker it will rise,
  • yeast needs sugar to feed it, so that it can grow, or rise,
  • kneading the dough makes it possible for the gluten in the wheat to rise too, and gives your bread good texture,
  • your liquid ingredients should be luke-warm (when you put finger in it, it should not feel cold or warm,  it should be at ‘blood’ temperature), if the liquid is too hot, the yeast will die before it can rise; too cold, and the bread will take a long time to rise and be heavy,
  • salt should be added for flavour and to help control the rise of the yeast,
  • add the ingredients in the order in which they appear in the recipe.

Here is the basic recipe I use, with a detailed set of instructions for those of you who have never made bread before.

Basic Brown Bread

3 ½ cups brown bread flour (875 mls)

1 sachet instant yeast (10 grs)

1 tsp salt (5 mls)

6 tsps maple syrup/golden syrup/sugar (30 mls)

12 tsps cooking oil (60 mls)

1 – 2 cups of luke-warm water (+/- 500 mls)

  • Measure the bread flour into a large bowl, add the yeast and salt, and stir well
  • Make a well in the centre, and add the syrup/sugar and the oil, stir into the flour slightly
  • Start to add the warm water, bit by bit, stirring after each addition to blend the flour and liquid – you may not need all the liquid, so don’t just slosh it all in, or you will end up with a sticky mess, and have to add extra flour before you can start to knead the dough
  • Once the dough binds together, turn it out onto a clean surface, over which you have sprinkled a spoon or two of flour.  When making this in my caravan, I work on a large plastic bread board to make clean-up easier; I also work very carefully and neatly, so as to not get flour everywhere!
  • With your hands, work the dough together, until all the flour is incorporated (sprinkle some more on the board if it still sticks), you will notice when it comes together, because it will be firm and no longer stick to the work surface
  • Continue kneading, until your dough is smooth, almost shiny,  and  pliable (your kneading method will be whatever suits you – I like to work the dough with my palms, pushing it out across the board away from me, giving it a turn to the side, and repeating – you can use your fists too!) – work gently but firmly.
  • Once your dough is nice and smooth and elastic, it’s time to let it rest, or ‘prove’ – lightly oil a dish about twice the volume of your dough, place your dough in it, oil the top of the dough slightly, cover with a lid or clean cloth, and leave it somewhere warm and cosy, no draughts if possible, or throw a blanket over it if its cold
  • Once the dough has doubled (maybe after half an hour), toss it out onto your kneading surface, and knock it back down.
  • Now it’s time to get it ready to cook – you can shape it into a loaf and place it in a well-oiled pot (maybe you have one of those special bread pots) or you can shape it to fit your trusty black flat bottomed pot.  But do oil your pot very well, or you’ll never get the baked bread out!
  • Set the pot with the bread dough aside somewhere warm to rise again – this should take about 15 or 20 minutes, longer if it’s cold
  • Meantime get your coals ready – you’ll need a nice bed of coals, not too hot, the heat needs to be steady and you’ll need some coals to place on top of your pot, too
  • Once your bread dough has risen to almost the top of the pot (leave about an inch for rising when on the fire) place it over the coals, and place a few coals on top of the pot – we usually place the pot on the braai grid, close to the coals – placing the pot in the coals may be more traditional, but can give you a very burnt bottom crust
  • Bake the bread until it looks done – golden brown, and more  importantly, it should sound hollow like a drum when you tap it (if you are still not sure, stick a sharp knife or skewer into it – it should come out clean)
  • Turn your bread out onto a board, and enjoy!!

Variations

  • Add about ½ cup of mixed seeds to the dry ingredients for a seed bread – healthy and delicious.  Try sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, linseeds, poppy seeds, or a mix of all of them
  • To make white bread, use white bread flour instead of brown bread flour
  • To make a finely textured, sweet loaf, use cake flour, double the sugar, and use warm milk instead of water
  • To make a raisin bread, add cinnamon and a ½ cup (or more) of raisins to a sweet bread dough
  • To make a savoury bread, add chopped fresh herbs and cheese, or chopped onion and garlic, or fried bacon – use your imagination!  Have fun!

You can also use this recipe to make bread rolls, baked over the coals.  Here’s how:

Seed Bread Rolls

  • 1 qty brown bread dough, with seeds added
  • Once the dough has proved, and you have knocked it back and kneaded it lightly again, roll it (a wine bottle makes a good rolling pin) or stretch it out.
  • Using a glass or mug, cut circles of dough.  Don’t make them too big, a white wine glass is a good size, and a batch of dough should yield about 16 rolls.
  • Flour the tops of the rolls slightly too, and leave them to prove again under a cloth, while you get your fire ready.
  • Place the rolls directly on your grid over the coals, and watch them carefully – they will rise and bake quickly, and you need to turn them often.
  • The rolls are done once they sound hollow when tapped – break one open to check.
  • Enjoy!

Once you have mastered the techniques of baking bread on the fire, you’ll want to try something more challenging.  Here’s the recipe for a sweet loaf I made when we camped at Mahai in the Drakensberg in January 2011:

Sweet Raisin and Almond Bread

3 ½ cups cake flour (875 mls)

1 sachet instant yeast (10 grs)

1 tsp salt (5 mls)

12 tsps maple syrup (60 mls)

12 tsps cooking oil (60 mls)

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 – 1 ½ cups of luke-warm milk (+/- 250 mls, maybe more)

½ cup of chopped almonds

½ cup of raisins

Cinnamon to sprinkle

  • Make the bread in the same method as the brown bread, adding the egg along with the syrup and oil
  • Once the dough has proved, knock it back, and roll out fairly thinly, the short side should be about the same size as the bread pot you are going to bake it in
  • Spread the almonds and raisins over the dough evenly, pressing them into the dough gently
  • Sprinkle generously with cinnamon
  • Roll the dough up as tightly has possible from the shorter side
  • Place in a greased loaf pot, and leave to prove
  • Bake over hot coals – place some coals on the pot lid, and change them when they cool down
  • Serve with lots of butter, syrup, jam, chocolate spread – YUM.   Enjoy!

If you have questions, or would like to send me a message, please email me at firedupcooking@gmail.com

Happy cooking and camping!

6 responses to “How to Bake Bread on a Fire

  1. Where did you get that loaf pan with the lid on it? i’m looking online and can’t find one. Thanks

    Like this

  2. Hi Linda, THANK YOU for the answer[I am lazy by birth].
    enjoy your topics, plse keep it up!Take care!

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  3. Very Interesting,
    is it necessary to knock bread down after rising the first time?
    thanks F Robert

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    • Hello Robert – thank you for your comment. You can get out of knocking the bread down, but the results won’t be as good. Allowing it to prove a second time gives a more delicate bread.

      The brown bread in particular doesn’t even need kneading, you can just stir it together, put it in a tin and let it rise, then bake it! Give it a try! :)

      Like this

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