My British friend, Ian House, recounts one special breakfast on his journey through Desolation Wilderness
I'm awake. It's a little after 6am...
I'm up early because I challenged myself to make bread this weekend, having put it off last night (the light was fading). At this early hour, fresh bread for breakfast doesn't seem to be the great plan it was last night. Still, I am driven, and this quest is on my 'to-do' list of challenges for this season.
Bleary eyed, I wriggle out of my sleeping bag, unzip the tent and face the world outside.
Tahoe's high land is a wonderful place, even more so in the peace of morning. The golden light raking across the white Sierra granite is simply breath taking. This is day three of our 'Desolation Wilderness' backpacking trip. My fellow hikers and I are at Upper Velma lake, about twelve miles from the trail head at Meeks Bay.
Shaking off the last remains of sleep I contemplate the scene: It's time to tackle the conundrum of baking in the wild-lands, at 8,000ft.
Activating the yeast:
The rising sun was not yet warm enough to activate my yeast solution. Thankfully though, quick thinking created a warm water bath that got the yeast foaming, frothing ... and doing it's thing, all the while, giving off that wonderful beery smell.
I started mixing it with the flour to make a dough. By the time my camp mates were starting to emerge from their tents, the dough was formed and ready to rest. By now there had been a 'sunshine lift' and the day was warming up nicely. I placed the dough into an oiled pan, covered it and placed it in warm position for a hour, waiting for it to double in size.
A cup of tea or two later and everyone's up:
I planned to bake the bread over my gas burner for about an hour using a baking chimney and a 'flip-bake' method. This means that for approximately two thirds of the cooking time the bread will be heated over the burner in a closed pan. The pan is then turned over and the 'top' of the bread is finished in the remaining time. A chimney is constructed from rocks and stones to lift the pot and the bread three or four inches above the direct heat of the cooking flame. The chimney lifts the pan off the direct heat spot, so as to not cause a burn. Thus, it encourages a more even heat across the base of the pan, while providing wind protection so the heat is not simply blown away. In short, the chimney increases cooking efficiency by creating an upward funnel, directing the heat to bake the bread.
About 'flippin' time:
After approximately forty minutes on the heat, the pan was ready to be flipped. It is important to have oiled the lid of the cooking container ahead of time, so that the bread will not stick. I ventured a peak inside the pan: The bread had risen nicely and was showing promise. After flipping the pan it was time for a quick swim in the lake before it finished baking. A few short minutes later the invigorating freshness of the lake had instilled in me a ravenous hunger for breakfast. The gentle aroma of the burn prompted a quick check for a dull thud when the crust was tapped, signifying it was perfectly ready. Hey presto! It was time to lay out the cheese, gather the gang and put the kettle on once more.
My quest is complete and I'm enjoying freshly baked bread at 8,000ft!
A backpackers dream come true perhaps? Either way, we wolfed down our hearty 'door steps', with cheese and tea. Eating like the Kings and Queens, atop our lofty spire, amongst the biggest blue mother nature has to offer and breathing in the glory of our conquest.
Ian House, 2008
2007 | Blows You Away "Ajo Blanco" Soup aka White Gazpacho
2006 | Succumbing to temptation: Harissa, Almond and Chocolate Tart
2004 | The Coffee Table, Silver Lake, Los Angeles, CA
© 2008 Sam Breach Alpine Bread