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Camp Cooking
Bannock Bread
July 2017
Bennet Martinez

Bannock bread is a type of simple bread often made with a chemical leavening agent, typically baking powder. It is a simple recipe useful for preparing in the wilderness. Because it uses baking powder as a leavening agent instead of yeast for example, it can be made relatively quickly out in the field.

Bannock bread is also useful since it can be cooked multiple different ways; most common is probably fried with some oil in a skillet. Other methods range from baking in the comfort of a kitchen at home to just throwing on the coals of a fire to make an ash bread.

Early bannock breads were typically made unleavened meaning that no process, chemical (like baking powder) or biological (like yeast) was added to the mixture to make the bread fluffy and airy. Modern bannock breads typically use baking powder to leaven it though it is possible to do the same with yeast.

The origins of bannock bread are difficult to completely track down but the word itself seems to have Celtic and Scottish origin. The root word may be traced all the way back to the Latin word panicium which means baked dough. Bannock bread has similarities with frybread which appears in many different cultures around the world. Native American made their version of bannock bread using corn flour and baking on a flat stone without a leavening agent. It was not until pioneers arrived in the new world that innovations such as baking with a chemical leavening agent or cooking with cast iron was brought to the new world. This seems to have developed to the camp food as it is known today.

Bannock bread can be created a variety of ways depending on personal tastes. It can be made very simply with just water and flour or it can be made as a dessert variety with cinnamon and sugar for example. Due to a low water content, bannock bread is supposed to resist growing mold over time, but usually it is eaten up before finding this out. One recipe found to work well for general purposes like supplementing a dinner meal, or a quick and easy snack in the field, uses the following ingredients:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp powdered milk
  • 1 tbsp oil or butter

The dry ingredients are combined in a quart to a gallon sized plastic bag depending on what is available. This has the benefit of being easy to travel with until it is time to prepare the bread. Other ingredients can be substituted to taste such as sugar, cinnamon, cheese, or even nuts and berries.

Once it is time to prepare the bread, water is added directly to the bag for mixing. There is no exact amount of water, around a third of a cup should be good, but it is best to go by dough consistency. The dough should have a roughly Play-dough feel to it. It will not be very elastic like a general bread dough and will come apart if pulled on.

The dough itself can be cooked in a variety of ways from here. Probably the most common would be lightly oil a cast iron skillet and fry it up over the coals of a campfire. This can also be done on a stove, in a Dutch oven, on a flat rock, or even wrapped around a stick and held over the fire. The bread should be flipped at least once and be a golden brown color. Enjoy!

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