Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Camp Stories: Brotherhood of the Travelin' Scones

It's no secret that the muse of Good Stuff NW and, frankly, much of the rest of my life, is my life's partner-in-crime, my husband of 35 years—almost 40 if you're counting from the time we began dating—the meat smoker, baker and cocktail-shaker who makes so many things so delicious around here. Early on we were avid backpackers, but our camping gear has ballooned to include glassware and a cast iron Dutch oven, to which was recently added a cast iron griddle so Dave can make even more incredible breakfasts over the campfire.

Heating the Dutch oven.

Baking has become a consuming passion for him, which means that every two weeks he's making six loaves of the most delicious sourdough bread from a starter he made himself—friends, feel free to chime in here with kudos—inspired by the amazing book by Chad Robertson, Tartine Bread. That means four loaves of white-with-a-pinch-of-wheat, and two loaves of whole wheat or whatever flour he's experimenting with (bags of barley and buckwheat have been seen lurking in the pantry lately).


Whether it's a bread weekend or not, he's always got some additional baking he wants to do. And that includes weekends we're not even at home. No matter where we go now, from the forest to a beach house with a passle of friends, he brings along his flour, a dab of sourdough starter or some ingredient he needs to make bread or rolls or scones or pancakes or…you name it…whatever is possessing his attention at the moment. And, guaranteed, if he makes it, it will be good.

This is roughing it?

One of his go-to recipes at the moment is one for breakfast scones with currants or dried cranberries or whatever dried fruit hasn't been gobbled up in our family's constant foraging for snackage. Warm and fragrant, with a touch of sweetness that begs for a smear of honey or jam, that sunrise shape when it comes steaming out of the oven defines a perfect morning served with butter (or, in his case, a pat of margarine) and a hot, strong cup of coffee.

Currant Scones

3 c. (13 1/2 oz) whole wheat flour (or 2 c. all-purpose, 1 c. whole wheat)
5/8 oz. (20 g) cane sugar
3/4 oz (22 g) brown sugar
2 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter or margarine
1 c. milk
2 eggs
1/2 c. currants
Extra flour for forming dough

In a gallon zip-lock bag or other container, mix flour, both kinds of sugar, baking powder and salt. Bring along butter, milk, eggs and currants separately, along with parchment paper. If baking in a lidded Dutch oven (footed or one with a trivet/lid lifter), bring briquets and, if available, a laser thermometer. Good heavy welding gloves also come in handy for manipulating the hot cast iron. As a friend said, "Every project requires a tool budget."

To make the scones, put the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and add the butter or margarine in 1/4" slices. Cut in with a fork or pastry cutter until the mixture is the texture of cornmeal. Stir the currants into the mixture. In a separate bowl, whisk the milk and eggs together. Stir the liquid into the dry mixture and mix until all the flour is moistened. Turn out the mixture onto a floured surface. Knead until the dough is smooth, about 25 kneads—this is a bit more handling than with biscuits. Form the dough into a ball.

Place the ball on a piece of parchment paper,and flatten it with your hands to form a round disk about 10" in diameter. With a bench scraper or a knife slice into  into wedges (we usually make 12 from this recipe) but don’t separate the wedges.

For baking in an oven:
Preheat oven to 375°. Put parchment paper on a baking sheet or rimmed baking pan. Form disk and cut wedges. Place in oven and bake until golden brown, 22-24 minutes.

For baking in a Dutch oven using briquets:
In a chimney starter or in the campfire, place a pile of briquets using this guide to determine the number of briquets needed. On a cleared space on the ground near your campfire ring—make sure there are no flammables nearby and that no people or pets will stumble into the dutch oven—spread about one-third of the briquettes evenly below the Dutch oven and two-thirds on the lid. After 30 to 45 minutes of preheating, remove the lid and, using the laser thermometer, check the temperature of the bottom of the oven. It should be between 350-375°. If it isn't up to temperature, remove any briquets that have burned out and replace them with fresh ones. Once the oven is up to temperature, lift the parchment with the scones (see oven method, above) and place them in the oven and cover with the lid. Every 10 minutes or so, turn the top lid a quarter turn to the right and the oven itself a quarter turn to the left for more even baking. Baking time may vary from a home oven, but check it at about 20 minutes and gauge timing from there.


Farmer Jo said...

I am pretty sure my dad and your husband are lost soul mates. He is an avid baker in his retirement, and tinker of all tools (and gardener and brewer!) I love the idea of scones while camping! I am bookmarking this.

Kathleen Bauer said...

How nice for you! (I hope he shares the results of his efforts, Jo…) Let me know if you make them, and how they turn out. Also note that there are instructions for making them in a home oven, just in case you want to do a test batch!