Friday, January 11, 2019

Old West Recipes: Breads



For 2019, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at some Old West cooking. For most of this, you’ll need an old-fashioned cast-iron Dutch Oven – that little 3-legged cookpot with a lipped lid. Dutch ovens have been in use since the 1700s, and nobody cooking over an open fire would be without one in the Old West. You can roast in one (place coals on top of the lid and underneath the pot), fry or boil (place coals underneath), bake (place coals on top of the lid in a 3-to-1 ratio with coals underneath, leaving most of the coals on top), and simmer or stew (place coals underneath in a 4-to-1 ration with coals on top of the lid, with most of the coals beneath). Legends of America has a great table showing how many modern charcoal briquettes to use in order to achieve specific cooking temperatures in your Dutch oven. 



Let’s start with some basic frontier bread recipes.

Bannock or Frying Pan Bread

1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
Water

Grease and pre-warm a skillet or Dutch oven. Thoroughly mix dry ingredients, then add just enough water to make a stiff dough. Work dough as little as possible and form a 1-inch cake. Set cake into skillet and brown both sides, then set in front of the fire to bake. Test for doneness by thumping with a wooden spoon handle or stick. A hollow ringing sound tells you it’s done. Or, you can insert a clean stick or matchstick – if it comes out clean (no clinging dough), the cake is done.

Hoecakes or Johnnycakes

1 cup white cornmeal
½ cup flour (optional)
½ tsp salt
Water

Lightly grease your skillet or Dutch oven. Combine the dry ingredients and mix well. Flour will improve the texture of the cake, but is optional. Add just enough cold water to make a stiff batter. Drop large spoonfuls of batter onto the skillet and cook slowly.

Ash Cakes

1 cup white cornmeal
½ cup flour (optional)
½ tsp salt
Water
Mix dry ingredients and add just enough batter to make a firm dough. Form dough into thin cakes. Clear the coals from an area of your fire and lay the cakes on the hot earth. Rake coals and ash over the cakes and let them cook for five minutes. Test for doneness by thumping with a spoon handle. A hollow ringing sound indicates doneness.



And here’s a more modern recipe for an old-fashioned product:

Hardtack

2 cups stone ground flour
1 cup water

Combine flour and water and knead until smooth. Sprinkle some flour onto a smooth surface and roll the dough flat until it is one-fourth inch thick. Cut biscuits out with a can or glass, making each one about three-fourths inch in diameter. Poke holes into each biscuit with a fork. Place on a floured cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees F for 35 to 45 minutes. Biscuits should come out hard and dry.

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