Baking in Baxter: How to eat like a camp king

You know that phrase “everything but the kitchen sink”? That’s what’s cool about car camping — the type of camping where you can drive right up to the campsite. You don’t have to skimp on packing. Just ask my family.

A feast in Nesowadnehunk Campground Baxter State Park after a long hike on Doubletop Mountain on Aug. 9, 2014.

A feast in Nesowadnehunk Campground Baxter State Park after a long hike on Doubletop Mountain on Aug. 9, 2014.

Each year when we camp in Baxter State Park, everyone brings the necessities — a tent and sleeping bag, food and water. Then someone pulls out a screened in gazebo, or two. Out come the games — Can Jam, Ladder Ball and Cribbage. Mattresses are blown up and clotheslines are erected. Then its time to set up the kitchen.

Of the 30-some-odd people who attend the annual “family” (and friends) camping trip, everyone seems to have their own cooking mechanism. Out come the grills and grates, charcoal and propane, Colemans and Dutch ovens. There are pots and pans, tongs and skewers, reams of tin foil and boxes of plastic utensils. And don’t forget the coolers. They hold the most precious cargo.

I think my family would actually bring the kitchen sink, if it were at all possible. As it is, they have to wash the dishes in a big plastic bin.

Why all the fuss? For us, camping in Baxter is a special event, a time to enjoy the wilderness, recreate, socialize, relax and eat. Food is a big part of it. In fact, we eat like royalty. And because everyone likes to contribute to the table, we always end up with a feast.

Uncle Bruce checking on the "Baxter Bread."

Uncle Bruce checking on the “Baxter Bread.”

What started as a meal of marinated pork chops, roasted red potatoes and fresh vegetables on our most recent camping trip on Aug. 9 quickly inflated to include homemade potato salad, ceasar salad, marinated deer meat, freshly caught trout, and my personal favorite, a bread roll filled with meat and cheeses, courtesy of my uncle Bruce Jordan.

To wash it all down there was a variety of wine and beer — my favorite being the elderberry beer homebrewed by family friend Jeff McBurnie.

Later, around the fire, bags of homemade chocolate chip cookies and ginger crinkles were passed around the circle of camp chairs. And if you weren’t full by then, s’more fixings were laid out on the picnic table.

Oh! And before heading to our tents, we packed it all up in our cars — all food and drinks, even trash. We were in bear country, after all.

Baxter Bread recipe

Serves 8

Courtesy of Bruce and Kerry Jordan

Ingredients:

  • 1 basic bread dough, prepared and uncooked
  • 1/4 lb. thin-sliced Virginia baked ham
  • 1/4 lb. thin-sliced Genoa salami
  • olive tapenade, to taste
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar
  • 10-12 roasted garlic cloves

Directions:

Eve Jordan slices the campmade Baxter Bread, which her father made in a Dutch oven at Nesowadnehunk Campground in Baxter State Park.

Eve Jordan slices the campmade Baxter Bread, which her father made in a Dutch oven at Nesowadnehunk Campground in Baxter State Park.

Start with a basic bread dough made with unbleached flour. (For camp, freeze it in the shape of a ball and throw it in the cooler. At camp, let it warm up for an hour or so on a picnic table.)

Preheat a lightly oiled 12-inch cast iron Dutch oven to about 400 degrees by placing 10 coals under the pot and 18-20 coals on top. This will take about 15 minutes, depending on how cold it is at the campground.

Roll out and stretch the dough into a rectangle. Layer the dough with thin-sliced Virginia baked ham and Genoa salami. Spread on a thin layer of olive tapenade. Sprinkle with shredded cheddar and roasted garlic cloves (liberally!).

Now, it’s time to roll up your bread. Starting with the long edge, roll the dough into a tight roll, folding the ends in as you go. Pinch the ends and seam to seal. With seam side down, bend the ends into a spiral. Cut small slits into the surface and place the bread roll in the preheated Dutch oven (be careful! The Dutch oven will be hot so you’ll want to use potholders or oven mitts while handling the oven and lid). Cook for approximately 1 hour with same amount of coals, adding fresh ones as need. Don’t forget to turn the pot for even baking.

Cooking time may vary, so check after 40 minutes and don’t remove it from the pot until the bread is nicely browned and the sides are no longer soft. Let it sit for about 5-10 minutes before slicing (in wedges, like a pizza, typically). Enjoy!

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Aislinn Sarnacki

About Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn is a Bangor Daily News reporter for the Outdoors pages, focusing on outdoor recreation and Maine wildlife. Visit her main blog at actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com.