Saturday, March 31, 2007

Cake on the river

I don't feel like being too serious this morning, so I'll share a story from the last river trip.

One of the folk on the trip, EJ, celebrated her birthday on the second day of the trip. We baked a pineapple-upside-down cake.

Now, some may not be familiar with the fine art of wilderness baking (those of you who are can ignore this post). I am always amused when there's a newbie on the trip who's shocked by a fresh baked treat while camping.

The dutch oven (hereafter DO) is a wonderful invention, allowing the baking of many a gourmet dish. I only use a cast iron DO, but the aluminum ones are also workable. The real secret is managing the charcoal briquettes. The most common error I've seen is using too many coals, leading to an overcooked outside with an under done middle.

For cakes: Start by lighting 12 to 14 charcoal briquettes. Grease the DO lightly, and put cake mix in (package mix or from scratch). Arrange the burning briquettes in a ring on the lid. Some folks make the mistake of also putting briquettes under the DO, but you shouldn't do this for cakes, as the bottom will scorch before the middle is done. Briquettes on the bottom work well for meat dishes, but not for cakes.

The big secret is to be patient. DO's aren't fast. As the briquettes burn down, resist the temptation to add more. When the cake smell is emanating from the DO, wait 5 more minutes before removing the lid. Allow the cake to cool before removing it from the DO.


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