We have a cabin, a cabin in the mountains. A cabin on 40 acres of forested rocky mountain. I love our cabin, it’s where we spend nearly every weekend of the summer at. A place with out cable, internet and cell phones…a getaway.
Since McGyver and I play mountain man and mountain woman every weekend (hey, it’s not that kind of roll play), I really wanted to challenge my traditional cooking and go more old fashioned. I can’t say simpler, because cooking over an open fire or in a Dutch oven is not simpler. As a matter of fact it’s harder.
In my house I don’t have to deal with bad weather and I have dials and buttons and displays that tell me my temp, time, bake, broil or which ever. It’s just guess work out there. It’s guess work at first and then it’s experience.
I’m still in the guess work stage. If you remember my post about cooking a chicken over an open fire on a spit = epic fail, you know I’m definitely guessing! McGyver and I had a 4 day weekend, and the Baby boy was to drive up and meet us on Saturday for the rest of the weekend. Which meant that I had time (and help) to tackle some old fashion cooking.
I planned on baking a loaf of bread in a Dutch oven. If you follow me at all, you know I’m afraid of the yeast and really am not much of a baker. But I had this idea to bake a loaf of plain white bread and have sandwiches and toast for the weekend. I also planned on a meatloaf cooked in the Dutch and, gulp, my nemesis, the dreaded chicken on a spit.
On Friday, I mixed and made my dough and set it to rise. After one hour, it was looooking good! I punched it down and put it in my clay loaf pan (which had been soaking during the rise), while it was on it’s second rise I went out and lit my coals for the Dutch oven. Only it was real windy, after 22 matches the newspaper caught on fire and I was set (I was using a charcoal chimney).
Or so I thought.
Turns out that wind just caused my newspaper to burn up too fast to light the coals. I got more newspaper (brought from home, we don’t get delivery there…imagine that). This time I shoved it in as tightly packed as I could, my second dough rise was going on and I needed some coals! After another 22 matches, the newspaper caught on fire and I was set.
Or so I thought.
Really! That’s it, I’m a desperate woman now. I had it with the wind so I took my chimney and my newspaper and my matches to the only place that I have that isn’t windy, the cabin. I stuffed that charcoal chimney again with newspaper and after only 1 match it lit! I set it right on top of my wood stove. And. it. worked.
It worked so well in fact that the cabin was quickly filling up with smoke. I opened all the windows and ran my chimney outside (cuz it was really goin good..no fear of it going out) and caught some windy fresh air. Since I was sitting outside waiting for the smoke to clear in the cabin, I read that Kingsford charcoal bag (you do things like that when you don’t have cable or internet).
Do you know what it said?
It had a warning label on it, something about carbon monoxide hazard and it should only be used outside. Hmmm, I would have never guessed. Too late now.
Well, I baked that bread in that Dutch oven and it rose and rose. It rose so high that the top burnt to the lid. I went to check on it and lifted the lid and my loaf lifted straight out of the pan and stayed on the lid. Like it had some kind of magnet on it. What could I do? I’m holding a lid with this Dutch oven lid lifter, the lid is like 400°F and my “free” had is bare. I tried knocking that bread off and finally it gave in.
The loaf was a loss…but Summer didn’t mind! Normally breaking the bread is when you sit down for a meal with family and friends…not feeding it to your dog. But then again, Summer is family.
It took about 10 tosses and an entire roll of film card before she finally caught a piece.
The next day I made meatloaf, guess what? It was perfect!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That’s right. I know it looks like a bunch of overly large turds covered in sauce on the plate but I cooked it in a ring to speed up the cooking time. It just wouldn’t come out of there in a ring.
Hey family, come and get some turd loaf for dinner
On Sunday I tried my hand at a chicken on a spit sans glaze (that was a bad move last time). This time I was going to be using some hickory wood and lightly smoke it. I had it on the spit and cooking shortly after 1:00 pm. I started it low and slow and utilized my stick trick for holding the spit handle in place. I dutifully rotated it every 15 to 20 minutes.
Whilst the chicken was cooking I enlisted the Baby boy to make some bread dough for me. No, I wasn’t going to try and make bread again. See the problem was, my Dutch oven wasn’t deep enough for a loaf in a pan, I was sure that was the real issue. Not to be conquered I decided on rolls instead.
I was busy sanding a table and some chairs, so the Baby boy helped out. He’s never made homemade bread before and I usually use a bread machine but my most recent endeavor left me feeling good about my recipe and the dough itself.
It turned out perfect! The Baby boy did a great job with the dough (with some coaching…) and I baked up some perfect rolls! IN A DUTCH OVEN! I knew I could, I knew I could.
If you are curious about the Dutch oven cooking, I used the Dinwiddie Method on the top and the coal count method on the bottom. My decision was based on recommendations from Toni over at Dutch Oven Madness (the goddess of Dutch Oven Cooking and my new hero).
As for the chicken…at 5:00 pm when I thought she was done, I pulled that leg and thigh out and looked inside. It looked done and the juices ran clear.
Nada. Nope. Not even.
Since I didn’t have any glaze on this bird, it was easy to put it back over the coals. Also, I only partially cooked my pan roasted potatoes so that when the chicken was ready I could just fire them up while it was resting. Another 90 minutes later, perfect. This time it was dinner at 6:30 pm and not raw chicken at 10:00 pm. Still some guess work but definitely better planning (experience). My rough estimation is that it takes about 1 hour per pound on an open spit.
Sunday Dinner, the old fashioned way.
I learned a lot this weekend and I finished painting my old orange table and brown chairs (I’m not sure if I like the red/white combo…maybe too café and not cabiny enough?). I also split and stacked a bunch of wood. I’m also happy to say that I finally learned how to use the manual mode in my camera (I used the aperture priority almost exclusively), I also learned how to use my remote and I borrowed a tripod and practiced with that this weekend.
Isn’t it amazing what can be done when there aren’t distractions?
- 1 1/4 cup warm water (100°F to 110°F)
- 1 pkg. yeast
- 4 1/2 tsp. sugar
- 4 1/2 tsp. lard or butter softened
- 1 1/2 tsp. salt
- 3 to 3 1/4 cups bread flour
- Olive oil
- In a large bowl add water and then sprinkle the yeast and sugar over it, wait 5 minutes. Stir in lard, salt and 1 cup of flour. Add remaining flour 1/2 cup at a a time until the dough starts to form a ball. turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.
- Place dough in into a large oiled bowl and turn to coat dough with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm draft free place until doubled (about 1 hour).
- Punch dough down, then shape and place into a lightly greased 9x15 loaf pan or roll pan. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm draft free place until doubled (about 40 minutes). Bake at 375°F for approximately 30 minutes for the loaf and 20 minutes for rolls, or until the tops are golden brown and sound hollow when you ‘knock’ on it.
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