Pan de Campo (Country or camp bread) is one of my most requested recipes, so finally, here it is! We make it all the time here at the ranch, and even though it seems like just another biscuit, it is a tricky bread to make!
Pan de Campo is a Ranch Tradition
The way that you choose to bake it will change your experience entirely. Some people simply want to make pan de campo in their home oven, which is fine. The convenience of turning an oven on and off should never be forgotten by modern folks, because baking with live fire is an artisanal skill.
But I will be the first to say that home ovens don’t give you the same texture, flavor, or adventure that baking over a live fire does. It takes some skill, and the right equipment, but baking bread outdoors is a fun activity when you are camping, or just looking for some cheap backyard thrills on the weekend.
A Skill Worth Acquiring
In the recipe below, I have listed vegetable oil and shortening as the ingredients, but if you watch the video below, you will see that I am using traditional pork lard. Simply replace both the shortening and vegetable oil with 1/2 cup of pork lard. (120ml) It was so hot when we were filming that the lard was almost liquid. Also, I used a non-hydrogenated lard that was naturally rendered, which is my preference. If you render lard at home, even better.
Pan de campo is an excellent side bread for soups and stews, but we eat it as a dessert or breakfast. The leftovers will keep for a few days in an airtight container, and will even fit into the toaster for a little added crunch. Eating this delicious treat with loads of butter and honey are my preference, but also my downfall. I eat too much!!Print
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Total Time: 25 minutes
- Yield: 12 servings 1x
- Category: Bread
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: South Texas
4 cups all-purpose flour (500g)
4 tbsp. sugar (50g)
2 tsp. baking powder (8g)
1 tbsp. salt (12g)
¼ cup vegetable shortening (50g)
¼ cup vegetable oil (60ml)
About 2 cups milk (500ml)
To bake in a home oven
Preheat the oven to 450°F (232°C). Sift together the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the shortening and vegetable oil and work the dough with your hands until it resembles coarse meal. Add 1 1/2 cups of the milk (375ml) and stir. The dough should be sticky but workable. If the dough is too stiff, add more milk; if the dough is too thin, add more flour.
Turn the dough onto a counter dusted with flour and knead for about a minute, but don’t overwork it. Pat out gently or roll into a 9” (23cm) circle that is a ½” (1cm) thick. Using a fork, prick the dough all over. Place it on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. When done, the pan de campo should be golden brown on the outside and have a biscuit texture on the inside.
To bake pan de campo over a fire:
Prepare the recipe as directed above but use a 14” cast iron Dutch oven with a heavy lid. The Dutch oven needs to have feet to sit above the live embers.
The mesquite wood that we use in Texas for all our outdoor cooking burns hotter and smoky or than almost any other wood and gives the bread extra crispiness with just a hint of mesquite flavor.
Build a mesquite fire, and once your fire has burned for about 30 minutes so it has a study at calm heat, you’re ready to bake. Using a shovel, transfer some of the coals to a separate spot a few feet from your fire. Arrange the coals in a small bed about 2 square feet (60 sq cm.) Remove the lid and grease interior of your Dutch oven generously with vegetable shortening. Replace lid and put your Dutch oven in the center of the coals to heat for about 10 minutes. Once heated, remove the lid and unfold the pan de campo dough in the Dutch oven. Adjust the dough so it is centered in the pan.
Replace the lid, and using your shovel, pile of small amount of live coals top of the lid so that the Dutch oven is entirely surrounded with gentle heat. After 10 minutes, open the Dutch oven, and flip the pan de campo for even baking.
The skill in making pan de campo over live coals is in controlling the temperature of the Dutch oven. Too hot and the bread will burn. Too cold and it will not cook properly. Remember that you need a 450°F (232°C) oven to bake pan de campo successfully in your home oven, so your Dutch oven needs to be maintained at the same temperature. Using a thermometer with a live fire is a bit difficult, so judgment and experience with eventually become the tools on which you rely for perfect pan de campo.