S’mores again? Outdoor desserts can be so much more.
You’ll attract a campground crowd as the scent of chocolate box oven brownies wafts through the air. Or wow your camping companions with chocolate eclairs cooked over an open fire.
Not at all, with these cooking techniques learned from the Girl Scouts.
CAMP FIRE ECLAIRS
Wood for a small camp fire
A fat stick
Biscuits in a tube, from the refrigerated grocery store case (e.g. Pillsbury)
Pre-made vanilla pudding in a cup (one cup makes about three eclairs)
One can of chocolate icing from the baking aisle
What to do
Build a small wood camp fire, and let it burn down until there are a few white coals.
Find a fat stick, about as thick as your index finger.
Cover the end of the stick with aluminum foil, extending the foil about three inches down the stick.
Wrap one biscuit around the end of the foil-covered stick. Make sure the top end of the biscuit is closed over the end of the stick.
Also, be sure to wrap the biscuit dough thinly; if it’s too thick, the inside won’t cook properly.
Roast the biscuit on a stick over the fire, as you would a hot dog.
When the biscuit is nicely browned, remove it from the fire and let it cool a bit. Carefully pull the toasted biscuit off of the stick.
Getting the insides of the biscuits done enough without burning the outside takes some practice, but you’ll get the hang of it eventually. Just keep making more eclairs until you get it right.
Spoon pudding into the hole left by the stick. Smear chocolate icing on top and enjoy.
BOX OVEN BROWNIES
Do this ahead of time
Gather materials and assemble your box oven before you leave home.
Four 6-ounce metal juice cans, empty (Cans used to hold individual servings of pineapple juice are usually made of steel and work well.)
Charcoal briquets (not a fast-lighting variety)
Fire starter (see box)
Charcoal chimney (see box)
Box brownie mix, including added ingredients such as vegetable oil or egg.
Assemble box oven
Start with a sturdy cardboard box. The size used to hold a case of office copy paper works well.
The box must fit over a metal baking pan with about an inch of clearance to spare, so be sure to test your box and pan together.
Line the inside of the box with foil, with the shiny side showing.
Stretch the foil lengthwise, then across the width of the box, covering the entire inside and folding it about halfway up the exterior of the box. The fewer wrinkles you make in the interior foil, the better your oven will reflect heat.
At your camping site
Spread foil, shiny side up, on the ground to serve as a base for the charcoal chimney and box oven. It’s best to set up on gravel, bare soil or concrete.
Don’t bake on wood or asphalt. Clear away leaves or other vegetation that could burn.
Check the temperature
Each burning briquet will generate 30 degrees of heat. You’ll need to calculate how many briquets to use by reading the oven temperature recommended on the brownie mix. If brownies call for a 350-degree oven, for example, use 12 briquets. (12 times 30 degrees equals 360 degrees. Close enough.)
A note about charcoal: do not use match-light or other fast-lighting charcoal. It works fine in an open grill, but can create chemical deposits in a closed box oven.
Set the charcoal chimney in the center of your foil ground liner. Fill the chimney with a few fire starters and the correct number of briquets.
Place the fire starters at the bottom of the charcoal pile, leaving the fire starters stick out a bit so that you can light them.
Light the fire starters. Let the charcoal burn inside the chimney for 20-30 minutes, or until briquets are gray-white.
Using a tongs, remove the chimney. Use a tongs to spread the hot charcoal in an area about the size of your baking pan. (It can be an 8-by-8-inch, 9-by-13-inch or 10-by-15-inch pan.)
Place the four small juice cans at the four corners of your charcoal fire, as a support for the baking pan.
Follow package directions and pour brownie batter into your baking pan. Place the pan on top of juice can supports.
Lower the box oven over the baking pan and hot coals. Use a rock to prop up one edge of the oven about a half inch or so to provide ventilation for the fire.
Follow baking times on the brownie mix. You can check to see whether brownies are done, but don’t knock over the pan.
Getting the brownies to cook thoroughly without burning the edges takes some trial and error.
Even if your box oven brownies aren’t perfect, you’ll always remember the smell of chocolate in the great outdoors.
Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635
Build a charcoal chimney
Remove both ends of a large can, such as the kind used to contain juice or fruit (anything from a 13-ounce to a 64-ounce size.) Or use a 1-pound coffee can.
Using a can opener that makes V-shaped holes, punch holes around the bottom of the can. If you don’t have a can opener, prop the can up on small rocks when you use it. The idea is to provide ventilation for the fire.
When you’re ready to cook, fill the chimney with charcoal briquets. Stuff a few fire starters through the vent holes or at the bottom of your briquet pile.
The chimney will protect your fire from the weather, and it will get the charcoal lighted and ready to use in the box oven faster.