Archive for June, 2010

Pan de Campo – the official state bread of Texas

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

Texas toast is the state bread of Texas, right?  Texas Toast is popular and ubiquitous, and Texas may be the only state with its own toast, but since 2005 the official state bead of Texas is Pan de Campo.  Literally “camp bread”, Pan de Campo is also called cowboy bread because it originated on the range made from ingredients that a cowboy would ordinarily carry.  Pan de Campo is a simple biscuit-type baking powder bread made with flour, baking powder, salt, lard and water, and it was traditionally baked in a Dutch oven over a camp fire.

 

I made Pan de Campo on a camping trip to Big Bend Ranch State Park. BBRSP is west of Big Bend National Park on the big bend of the Rio Grande.  At over 280,000 acres it is the largest state park in Texas.  It is rugged and remote.  There are no paved roads in the park and the only facilities are at the Sauceda headquarters in the middle of the park.  Their most popular months are October through March.  We were there in May, and with daytime temperatures reaching into the mid 90s my friend James and I were the only two guests in the park during our stay.  All camp sites are primitive with a table and fire ring and maybe a rough shelter.  If you are not into primitive camping the Sauceda headquarters has some lodging and meal service available.  If you want a real west Texas desert wilderness experience, BBRSP is awesome.  And, it was the perfect place to cook up some Pan de Campo.

 

bbrsp 

I made mine the simple traditional way but I substituted Crisco for the lard.  Either will work.  My recipe was two cups of flour, a tablespoon of baking powder, a teaspoon of salt, one-third cup Crisco and water.

 

pdc_lard

 

Combine the dry ingredients, cut in the Crisco and work the mixture with your fingers until you have a mealy consistency.  Then mix in enough water to form a dough.  Kneed the dough slightly until it comes together.  Form the dough into a round, one to two inches thick.

 

pdc_dough

   

Place in the Dutch oven, cover, set the oven in the fire and load the coals on top.  Bake for 20 to 30 minutes.  Remember, the secret to Dutch oven cooking is more coals on top than on the bottom.  You want to bake the bread, not fry it.  Too much bottom heat and the bottom of your bread will burn.  Also, no direct flame.  You want hot coals, not flaming wood.

 

pdc_onfire

 

Perfect Pan de Campo.  Brown and crusty on the outside, soft and steamy on the inside.

 

pdc_done

 

Traditionally served with honey or molasses but you can eat it however you like.  Even plain is yummy.

 

pdc_plate

 

There are many variations of Pan de Campo.  Some recipes call for milk, sugar or vegetable oil.  Instead of one large loaf you can form the dough into individual biscuits.  Charcoal is more popular than a wood fire for Dutch oven cooking because you can control the heat easier.  And, of course, you can always bake Pan de Campo at home in the oven.  However you make it or enjoy it, Pan de Campo is part of the history and tradition of Texas food.