For our campiversary, C. and I decided that instead of gifts, we would each think up a fun activity or project to tackle together.
Since I got him a camping axe he’s been mastering the fine art of creating the perfect campfire structure for cooking. So my idea was to make naan!
Our first attempt was at Bon Echo Provincial Park using a rock fire pit:
On the left is our “oven” and on the right was our set up for another fire later.
The key is to utilize what you’ve got at your campsite to host a small and mighty fire with a structure above to support your cast iron skillet.
You can see here we used a discarded round wire rack to sit atop the rocks for our pan:
While we conquered the campfire setup, our first attempt produced something entirely other than naan. The recipe we found had too much egg and yoghurt in it and produced more of a batter.
With the cast iron over the hot coals, we poured some of the batter onto the surface…
We held our breath for 30 seconds…
C. checked the bottom and flipped it…
And we both groaned at the same time and exclaimed: “IT’S A PANCAKE.”
We couldn’t stop laughing.
Ah… but a delicious pancake: savoury and moist because of the addition of yoghurt and hint of dill.
So while we had a lot of fun, attempt #1 was definitely a flop in the naan department, though it was a great vehicle for our veggie curries, including this amazing spicy eggplant roast.
Over a month later at Awenda Provincial Park, we made a second attempt, using a more traditional leavened dough recipe.
This one is a total winner. Here’s the recipe and a step by step guide with photos:
The original recipe is by Chuck Hughes. We made some edits and adapted it for the campfire.
Yield : 8 medium sized naans
1 teaspoon active dry yeast (5 ml)
1 cup rather warm water (250 ml) (the ideal temperature is 100°F-110°F, rather warm but not yet too hot to touch
2 tablespoons honey (30 ml)
1 teaspoon salt (5 ml)
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour (preferably unbleached) (625 ml)
½ cup ghee (125 ml)
oil for drizzling
Beyond your campfire, you’ll need the following additional tools:
- metal rack or rocks (for your pan to rest over the flames)
- cast iron skillet (preferred pan for all camping requirements)
- some kind of flat wooden board or baking tray (to knead the dough and to hold the rounds when they rise)
- bowl (for blooming the yeast and resting the dough)
- plastic wrap and cloth (for covering the bloom and dough)
- oven mitt (to handle your hot stuff)
- pair of tongs (for flipping the naan)
1. Bloom your yeast. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast with honey in warm water. The original recipe calls for you to bloom in sugar and salt, but C. taught me that adding salt directly to the yeast can slow it’s growth or kill it, so it’s best to hold it for the flour.
Cover the bowl with a cloth and allow it to stand in a warm spot for 10 minutes. We set it at the edge of the fire pit and monitored it. When the time is up, you should see nice frothy bubbles on the surface:
If nothing happens, it could be because your yeast is dead (expired) or your water was too hot. Try once again. If nothing happens again, replace your yeast and start over.
2. Incorporate your flour. Into the bloomed mixture, add the flour, one cup at a time until it is mostly incorporated.
You’ll see here that we only had a small camping bowl, so we kneaded in the first cup, then set the remaining flour onto our wooden board to incorporate.
The creation of a little flour “well” helps you keep the mixture steady as you incorporate the wet into the dry:
3. Knead the dough. Once the dry and wet are totally together, it’s time to knead the dough for approximately 5 – 7 minutes until all the sticky bits are pulled in and you’ve got an elastic and smooth finish.
This is an important step, and I urge you to be patient! Kneading the dough develops the gluten to distribute the gases that are produced by the yeast. This is what creates an elastic and later very fluffy and delicious result. Check online for dough kneading tutorials.
Remember to keep your surface and hands lightly floured so it doesn’t stick!
4. Allow your dough to rise. When your dough is smooth and set, put it in an oiled bowl. Cover with a plastic wrap, and set aside to rise in another warm spot.
Again, we placed it off to the side of the fire and rotated it every ten or fifteen minutes.
Let it rise for 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in volume.
5. Build your fire. Now it’s about the time that you build your fire and strategize how you’re going to get your pan over it. As mentioned, we used the provided grill at our campsite, but you could use rocks to help you stabilize. The flames should be in rather close proximity for your cast iron to get hot enough. Continue to add enough wood to keep the fire going until you’re ready to cook.
And here’s where you sit back and wait… your dough will rise and your pan will start to get toasty. I enjoyed a glass of delicious mead of 2007 Mon Cherie by Rosewood.
6. Divide your dough. Once your dough has risen to double its size, punch it down.
Tear off 8 small equal chunks (about the size of a golf ball each). Roll each into balls, pinching down the open ends at the bottom.
Place them on your baking tray or a flat surface, cover with a cloth, and allow the rounds to rise until doubled in size, for another 30 minutes.
6. Roll out the rounds! You are almost there! Once all the rounds have risen again, flatten each one by patting down with your fingers.
Roll each out using a rolling pin or wine bottle, making sure to use a sprinkle of flour from time to time to prevent sticking to the cylinder or surface.
7. Cook the naans! Into your hot and toasty pan over the roaring fire, add a tablespoon of ghee and a drizzle of oil into the cast iron pan, allowing it to evenly coat the surface. Place dough on the pan, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until puffy and lightly browned.
You’ll see here that there are some pillowy air pockets, which is exactly what you want.
Turn over and brush the cooked side with a bit more ghee. Continue cooking the other size until browned, another 2 minutes.
Remove the naans from the pan, and continue the process until they have all been prepared.
As the rest are cooking, keep the cooked naans warm in a cloth, tin foil, or in our case, off the side of the fire pit.
This recipe was a total success. C. and I high-fived and yip-yipped for joy several times. As you can tell from the photos it was was a race against the setting sun. The last legs of light left just as we sat down to our lamb curry.
And by the time we were soaking up the last of it, it was pitch black in the forest.
We had four fluffy pieces each! So luxurious.
Good luck! Let me know if you have any questions.