Through the years, the only desserts that I have not been able to prepare in my camp kitchen were ice cream or Jell-O for my fellow paddlers. Cookies, cakes, pies, crumbles can all be prepared in a thick frying pan or an easy to make "camp oven". Although I am not much of a dessert aficionado myself and I can easily satisfy my cravings with an apple of some dried cranberries, it's another story for my husband and my cousin who are two of my regular companions on our summer kayak trips. For them, dessert is as essential as proteins or veggies. In short, I've had to come up with some "real dessert" solutions if I wanted to keep them happy and paddling.
Birthday cake on the go
In my gang, July is the busiest month of the year for birthdays. I have at least half a dozen friends whose zodiac sign is Cancer, which translates into birthday-cakes-on-the-go two or three times in the summer season. But, believe me, that's not a problem. To make good camping cakes, the key element is a Dutch oven (very large cooking pot). You'll also want a small round cake mold that slides easily into the "oven". Place the cake mold on a small heat-resistant bowl set upside down to allow the dessert to cook evenly and without burning, thanks to the heat circulation this elevated position will provide inside the Dutch oven.
The idea is to transform your large pot into a real camp-convection oven with heat circulating all around the cake and underneath. Achieving this is relatively simple. Turn up the heat and place Dutch oven over medium-high heat with its cover for 5 to 7 minutes in order to heat the pot through. In the meantime, prepare the cake batter, grease the cake mold (use a single recipe for one small cake mold) and pour the batter into the mold. Uncover the oven, place the upside down bowl with the cake mold on top, cover and cook over medium-low heat for 40 to 45 minutes. It might require a bit of fuel; but, on the other hand, your fellow paddlers' reaction when they realize you have cooked them a real birthday cake on the go is worth the expense. This technique works wonders with upside down fruit cakes that require no fancy batter.
Other great Desserts
Certainly, it takes a bit of practice to achieve good baking techniques without an oven. But with the right pots and pans it's easy enough. And, you can also prepare interesting desserts without baking anything, which is also important. I have learned from experience that some days, when you've been crossing a long open passage with a bit of swell or a strong headwind, you won't feel like cooking more than a one pot meal once you have pitched your tent. But with the fatigue comes the craving for sweets, like a reward for all the hard work or an easy fix to refuel. That's when cheesecake without cooking comes in handy. Another nice dessert consists of a quick fruit crumble or a date and chocolate pudding. Finally, why not make a giant oatmeal cookie in a frying pan? It's easy, as long as you bring along a small cast iron frying pan. Just bring your favorite cookie recipe, grease a pan well with butter or margarine and spread the mixture to make a large cookie. Press gently in the pan and cook 10-12 minutes over medium-low heat; carefully flip over with a spatula and cook 10 more minutes. Serve in wedges as you would a pie or a pizza. Last but not least: you can make a wonderful chocolate fondue with Toblerone chocolate that you melt gently over low heat with a bit of cream or almond milk. Serve with apple, cantaloupe and orange wedges along with cubes of commercially prepared pound cake and you're in for a great easy to make dessert!
Upside down Cake (4-6 portions)
Prepare the fruit mixture first: chop the peaches in wedges. Melt the butter (or margarine) in a pan, over medium heat. Add brown sugar and cook until bubbly. Add the peaches and the cinnamon and mix well. Cook 2 minutes. Arrange the fruits evenly in a lightly buttered cake mold. Put aside.
Preheat the Dutch oven as explained above. In the meantime, prepare the batter: in a bowl, mix the butter (or margarine) with the sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs and beat well. Add half the flour and the baking powder and half the milk, and mix well. Repeat and mix just enough to blend all ingredients. Pour the cake batter onto the fruit caramel.
Place a bowl upside down in the Dutch oven and add the cake mold on top. Cover and cook 40 to 45 minutes or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the Dutch oven from the heat and let stand 5 minutes. Carefully remove the cake pan from the Dutch oven with tongs in order to avoid burning yourself. Serve the cake directly from the pan or flip it onto a large plate.
Note: You can make this cake with any fruit you like. It is very good with canned pears and crystallized ginger, canned pineapples or with a mix of fresh berries.
In a small bowl, mix cream cheese with honey and orange zest. Set aside.
In another bowl, mix crushed ginger snaps with butter and mix well.
In four small serving bowls (or glasses), layer 3/4 of the ginger snap mixture and press gently. Add a few spoonfuls of the cheese mixture. Garnish with the fruit spread and sprinkle with the remaining cookie crumble.
*Note: Make sure that you keep the cream cheese in close contact with the bottom of your boat at all time, covered with something to insulate it from the warmer air above. This will keep the cream cheese cool. This recipe should be made in the first two days of your trip because the cheese won't keep very long without a fridge.
Quick Fruit crumble
In a pan, melt half the butter (or margarine) and cook the apples with the cranberries and the cinnamon for 5-7 minutes over medium heat. Pour in 4 small serving bowls. Return the pan over medium heat, add remaining butter, granola and chopped pecans. Cook for 5 minutes and sprinkle over the fruit. Serve.
In a small pot, cook dates with orange juice over medium heat for 10 minutes. Puree with a fork. Add orange zest and chocolate chips and mix well to melt the chocolate. Sprinkle with almonds and serve in small serving bowls with some cookies.
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