Experimental Kettle Baked Muffin – The Second Attempt

Experimental Kettle Baked Muffin – The Second Attempt

IMG_6184aTaking advantage of a fire we made in the back yard to cook pizzas I did another test muffin last night. I used a bigger fire this time, just coals, but more than the previous test.IMG_6185aI also broke out the new, oversized, silicone muffin mold. As you can see experimental muffin baking is not an exact science and there were a few issues with escaping batter. That was due to an unstable spacing platform under the mold.IMG_6186aYou can see the higher heat did a much better job browning the top of the muffin. I guess twig fires might work if you were willing to work that hard, but a good coal bed seems the way to go. IMG_6190aThat bottom is nicely browned and looking like an actual baked good. The untreated mold released pretty well leaving an easy clean up job and a nicely formed muffin.IMG_6194aHere you can see cause of the problem; the folded aluminum foil spacer was too small to hold the muffin as it baked. Uneven heating made the batter rise more on one side and the muffin tipped over. I either need a bigger spacer or a wider platform on top to act as a tray to hold up the mold as it bakes.IMG_6191aEnough about the failures, lets look at the successes. Out of the mold this baby looks like something a mother would make in the kitchen at home. Nicely browned but not burned and a bit of character to the  uneven top.IMG_6193aInside you can see this time it baked all the way through. Using twice as much batter and the over sized silicone mold results in a nice sized treat. Definitely going to have to find space to carry a few bags of mix on this next trip to do some field testing, but it tasted pretty darn good here at home.

Hitting the trail for a few weeks so the next round of experimental kettle baking will have to wait for a bit, but I have some other ideas I’d like to try out. Bread or biscuits would be nice I’m thinking, maybe with some jam or honey, though they’d be great plain too after a week or two without. Have to ponder how to make an easy sweet roll out of a bag, but that might be pushing it too far heh.

Squashapalooza

Squashapalooza

I don’t usually write about food, other than eating it, but I thought this might be of interest to some other folks, whether they are backpackers or just like squash. This time of year you can often find great deals on winter squash and I’ve been cooking and freezing it in my spare time. I’ve also been making up huge pots of this very simple squash soup. We’ve eaten our share for lunches and dinners, but this batch is being dried for use on trail. If you’re tired of pasta and rice based meals this hearty soup is a nice change of pace.

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Other than a little olive oil and a few spices this picture shows all you need to get started. I used a combination of acorn, butternut and kabocha squashes, but you can use whatever sort you can get your hands on. Start by heating some olive oil in a big pot, then toss in chopped garlic and onions. If you are planning on dehydrating keep the oil to a minimum or eliminate it entirely to aid drying. You can always add a squirt of oil after rehydrating.

Next add in chopped cauliflower and the squash after peeling and cutting into chunks. You can also add some peeled and cut up sweet potato if you’d like. Finally you want to toss in some vegetable stock, I used broth saved after cooking up squash for freezing, or water if you’ve nothing else. Let it cook for a while, stirring a few times until the veggies begin to soften.IMG_5481a

At this point you could add spices, simmer for a bit and eat if you want a more rustic version. I like to run it through the blender to mix everything together, then return it to the pot before adding spices. This makes for a nice smooth soup that combines all the flavors and also dries well. My favorite spices to use include cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and curry, but you can experiment with your favorites to see what works for you. Previously I’ve used a little maple syrup with good result and my next batch I’m intending to use a few hot peppers to add some heat.

If you aren’t dehydrating you may want to skip the rest of this and go start making some soup. I’ll totally understand if you’re ready at this point.

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Letting the soup set overnight seems to enhance the flavor so I wait a day before starting the drying process. Each tray holds roughly one good sized portion. I try to start with an evenly covered tray to help the drying process and use a relatively high heat setting of 140°f on the dehydrator.

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This batch took roughly 10 hours total to reach a partially crunchy dryness. I peeled it off the tray and flipped it over at the 8 hour mark so the back of any thicker spots would dry. The drying process filled the house with the wonderful spiced smell of the soup, but thankfully we held some in reserve for eating now.IMG_5511a

The dried soup breaks up easily into chunks that fit in the blender when ready. This step isn’t really necessary, you can just package the big pieces, but I find it easier to reconstitute the smaller pieces.

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I don’t worry about turning all of it into powder. Getting it to the point where the largest pieces are smaller than a fingernail works well enough.

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As you can see a fair bit of it has been reduced to powder. Besides eating this alone as a soup on trail, it also makes a great base for mixing in other ingredients. Dried veggies would give it some more texture and either freeze dried or pouched chicken would be a great add in for the meatatarians. I’m looking forward to enjoying some of this on my winter camping trips. Some hot soup warmed over the fire sounds like a great way to start a long winter’s night. Also pretty sure this stuff is going to come in handy on some of the longer trips I have planned for next year.

Now a question for those reading: Would you like to see more about my trail meal preparations? I’ve mentioned a few of my secret recipes in trip reports previously, but if there is interest I could share  some of those secrets.