Thursday, February 28, 2008

Woodstove Cooking: Sourdough Wheat Bread

I’ve wanted to bake bread for a long time. The problem, I don't have an oven at the float cabin. Then I thought, why not try inside my wood stove. I purchased an extra stove brick to create a flat baking surface and got some hot coals going. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Making bread is an all day affair.

The night before I got my sourdough starter out and fed it. By morning it was good and bubbly. I chose a recipe from the Family Circle Illustrated Library of Cooking (look in a used bookstore for this out-of-print collection) and cut it in half to make one loaf for my small “oven.” Here it is:

Sourdough Wheat Bread

½ envelope active dry yeast (1 1/8 teaspoon)
½ cup very warm water (100°F/38°C)
¾ cup sourdough starter
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 ½ cups flour
  1. Sprinkle yeast into very warm water with half the sugar and let stand 10 minutes to foam. This will ensure your yeast is good.
  2. In a large bowl blend the yeast mixture, sourdough starter, remaining sugar and salt. Beat in 1 cup all-purpose flour until smooth. Add 1 cup wheat flour a little at a time until completely incorporated. Mixing at the end is easier with your hands.
  3. Turn out on a board and knead for 10 minutes. I don’t have a board so I use plastic wrap taped to my counter. Use the remaining flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking.
  4. Form into a ball and place in a greased bowl. I use margarine. Roll it over to coat all sides.
  5. Cover with a towel and put in a warm place to rise (1-2 hours or until double in size).
  6. Punch the dough down, turn it out on a board, cover it with the bowl and let it rest for 20 minutes. While you wait, grease a 9x5” baking pan (or cookie sheet) and sprinkle it with cornmeal. I used a baking pan because of the limited space in my wood stove.
  7. Knead the dough a few times and then roll it into a loaf shape. Pinch together any open seams on the bottom. Place the dough in the baking pan, cover with a towel and put in a warm place to rise again (1 hour or until double in size).
  8. Make slits 2” apart on the top to prevent cracking. If you like a crispy crust, mix 1 teaspoon corn starch with ¼ cup water. Brush the surface of the bread before and once again during baking. Use aluminum foil to shield the bread if using a wood stove.
  9. Bake for 40 minutes in a 400° oven. When the bread sounds hollow and is golden on top it should be done. When I took mine out of the pan it felt a little raw on the bottom. I put it bottom side up and returned it to the oven for 10 minutes. An extra benefit was a crispy crust all around. Yum!
I did have one problem using my wood stove. As the baking progressed my coals started to cool. About half way through I had to add a small log and let it catch before returning the bread to the firebox. Because of the flame, a corner burned slightly. Next time I will start with more coals and maybe this won’t happen again.

There was one other problem. Now I know why bread recipes have enough for two loaves. We ate almost the whole thing right when it came out of the oven. But there’s always another day, especially in the winter when the woodstove heat is free.

Do you have any cabin or camp cooking recipes? I'd love to hear them.


  1. I love to bake ...and I use my wood stove to heat my house all winter...last year when we had all the power outages I did use my stove for baking...I had already planned to make some cinammon buns..the power went out...I decided I would bake them in the wood was a bit of a challenge...but hey..isn't it worth it in the end...thanks for the step by step instructions...

  2. Anonymous1:40 PM

    HI Margy, Home made bread is so comforting. Its funny I made bread yesterday then when I checked your blog and you had too.Your cooking method is very creative. I have cooked cornbread in my sqaure cast iron frying pan in a parking lot on a habachi it turned out very good.~ Betty~

  3. Thanks Smalltown RN and Betty for your comments - I guess you could say I was thinking inside the (fire) box for this one. By the way, this was the first time I ever made bread. I was so pleased with the results I made it again two days later. It came out even better because by then I learned to put the foil around the back to shield it from the coals and occasional flame.

    Betty, you have had some really interesting experiences. Thanks for sharing! -- Margy

  4. I've enver cooked on a wood stove, but we have some favorites for the campfire in our Dutch Ovens. (We have two, and sometimes we stack them so that the coals on top of the lower one are the heat for the bottom of the upper one.

    Our favorite is Dump Cake, in which you dump some fruit in the dutch oven, then dump a cake mix on top. Add a few dabs of butter or margarine and bake. It makes a wonderful cobbler.

    Bears in the Apple Orchard is good, too. Apple slices baked in the gingerbread.

  5. Katney - Thanks for the recipes. I have a dutch oven I use on top of my wood burning stove, but I have never tried baking directly in the pot. I've always used a rack to raise my baking pan off the bottom. There is too much direct head from below and not enough from above. Things cook, but they don't brown that way. That's why I tried the bread inside the fire box. Your two cakes should work fine even my way. I'll give them a try. -- Margy

  6. one of our favorites is what we call cowboy cobbler...others call it dump cake as mentioned above.