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April 7th, 2008

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Chocolate Dutch Oven Cake
From Eric Lundholm

Dutch Oven Cooking

A Dutch oven is one of the most versatile utensils used for campfire cooking. It is an oven, slow cooker, griddle (turn lid upside down), frying pan and a deep fryer. Dutch ovens aren't hard to use and the results can be impressive.

Dutch ovens aren't expensive (as compared to fly rods) and their versatility makes them worth the price. There are many recipes available on the net and there are even contests for those who really enjoy Dutch oven cooking.

Choosing a Dutch Oven

When buying a Dutch oven there are two basic types, those designed for use indoors and those designed for use in a campfire. Most dutch ovens are made of cast iron, though some are made from aluminum. In this article I will focus on cast iron, outdoor ovens. A Dutch oven designed to be used on a fire has legs on the oven to hold it above the coals and a rim on the lid to hold the coals onto the lid. If you have an indoor Dutch oven and want to use it outdoors use three bricks for the base and make an aluminum foil ring to help hold the coals in place. An outdoor oven may be used indoors by placing it on an old cookie sheet on the lowest rack in the household oven.

Dutch ovens come in many sizes from small ones designed for individual servings to those so large it takes two or more men to move them. Most people start with a 12 inch dutch oven and move up or down in size for their second. Ovens are made in America and over seas. In my experience you get what you pay for and the American ones are worth the extra cost. The foreign ones have larger pores which make them harder to season and clean. When purchasing an oven shop around, prices vary greatly.

You've purchased your oven now what? When buying a new dutch oven, it will come with a protective coating, which must be removed and the oven seasoned. This means scrub it heat it, and oil it. Instructions come with the oven, or are available online. I recommend doing this for the first time outside as the smoke can be intense.

Tools

There are as many tools as there are people who use dutch ovens. You need something to move the oven with, something to move coals, and something to protect your hands. For these jobs, I use vice grip pliers, salad tongs and leather work gloves.

Let's Cook Something. At the Idaho Fish-in last fall I cooked a chocolate cherry cake. It was well received and is a good first recipe.

    You will need:
    A seasoned 12 inch dutch oven.
    Charcoal
    Aluminum foil
    One large can or two small cans of Cherry pie filling
    Devils food cake mix
    Eggs
    Oil
    Water
    7 or 8 Large Marshmallows

Method

    Light at least 24 lumps of charcoal
    Oil the inside of your oven with a light coat of oil.
    For ease of cleaning line your oven with foil
    Pour pie filling into oven
    Mix cake recipe according to package and pour over filling.
    Place marshmallows into cake mix distributed evenly across surface

When charcoal is evenly coated with ash, place 10 coals in a pattern on the ground that the oven will just cover. Then place 14 coals across the top of the oven. (Heat rises so to get an even heat you need more coal on top than bottom) This will heat your oven to approximately 350 degrees. Note the time that you start cooking and sit back and sip your favorite beverage. After 10 minutes have passed take your pliers or other tools and rotate the lid turn to the right then using your gloves, rotate the whole oven turn to the left. This movement keeps the cake from burning in one spot. Repeat this every 10 minutes until the cake is almost done. See cake box for approximate time (open the lid and check the cake when you turn the lid.) At this point I remove the oven from the bottom coals and allow the coals on top to finish browning the cake. When the cake is almost finished (it will continue to bake as the oven cools) shake or brush the coal and ash from the top and set the oven aside on something that you don't mind scorch marks on until it is time to serve. Serve the cake warm with ice cream or whipped cream.

With a little practice almost any recipe that can be cooked at home can be cooked in a dutch oven. ~ Eric Lundholm


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