They say that soldiers march on their stomachs. However, soldiers two hundred years ago didn’t have the means to keep their food fresh on the long journeys they faced. They would be issued with their flour ration and have to use their wits and skills to turn it into something palatable.
Ash cakes are arguably more than palatable – made properly, they can be positively pleasant to eat. Essentially a paste of bread and water, the cooking method infuses a smoky depth that makes it both satisfying and tasty to eat.
This is a great one to try with supervised kids. Mixing up a flour paste and smearing it onto the wood is perfect food prep for even the youngest fingers!
Related: Pioneer Recipes That Survived The California Trail
- A pinch of salt (optional)
- Hot ash bed
- Wooden board/large leaves
1. Wait for the flames in your fire pit to cease and for the coals to become covered in a layer of white ash. This is when you need to cook your bread – don’t wait for the coals to cool further.
2. Mix the flour, salt and water together in a bowl or plastic bag, adding the water gradually to make a stiff but sticky mass. The paste needs to be gluey enough to cling to the board while cooking.
3. Press the dough onto the board in a thin, even layer. This will enable it to cook more easily.
4. Lean or prop the board close enough to the coals to cook the fire bread. The dough will need around 6 – 7 minutes cooking time, so rotate the board after 3 – 4 minutes so that both sides cook reasonably uniformly.
5. When the bread is evenly browned, remove the board from the coals and ease the bread off.
6. No board? Gather some large leaves and wrap your flattened dough inside, covering the contents with a few layers of leaves.
7. Place the package directly onto the white coals and use a fire stick to move some more coals on top of the leaves and cook for around 3 – 5 minutes. Remove the leaves and most of the ash before eating.
8. An even simpler way of cooking fire bread, and useful if you don’t have either a flat board or large leaves, is to cook the flattened dough directly on the coals themselves.Again, pull some of the hot coals on top of the bread and leave for 3 – 5 minutes. The bread can burn quite quickly using this method, so start checking it after 2 – 3 minutes.
9. A little ash won’t harm you, but brush off what you can before eating.
Learning to take the most basic ingredients and turn them into something good to eat using primitive means is a vital prepping skill. Any of these methods produce an edible fire bread that might surprise you with how genuinely tasty it is. Another way of cooking up raw dough is to wrap a flattened strip around a cleaned branch and hold it over the coals until browned. The kids love that one!
Whichever method you try, this is a great way of getting into some wild cooking!
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Don’t cook on plywood, as in the photo. The glue contains chemicals that the heat will release
If using leaves,be certain they are not toxic, know your plants.
Is that PLYWOOD???? Nothing like a little glue and formaldehyde to make a well rounded meal!
Don’t use treated wood either. Wouldn’t want to find out what those chemicals would do to a person.
if you cut down a tree or find a down tree and cut it into a plant can you use that ?
Do y’all have to knit pick everything? You can’t tell if it’s plywood or not! All it takes is common sense. If you don’t have that you won’t survive anyway.
Maybe they can get some non-gmo, certified organic wood planks from whole foods on the way out, LOL
There is a great youtube channel called 18th Century Cooking with Jas-Townsend and Son that is really informative. I highly recommend that yall check it out. Here is the link to his video on making this kind of bread.
I see you are a fan of James Townsend and Son too, do you reenact?
Please put me on your email list.
It’s obviously plywood. Don’t use it if you can avoid doing so and do be mindful one’s choice of leaf for wrapping should one choose that method. I suppose you all are smart, lest you wouldn’t be here.
Keep up the great work..GOD bless you!!!
Not a bad ration especially when mixed with salt and herbs.
I am Apache/ Scott descent I was raised in the desert by Marines Recon/ Scot Sniper Uncle.
My G father was born 1880. Your ash cakes derive from a similar feast I ate as a child living 200 miles from the nearest city. Except Native Fry bread is cooked on a hot/ hot rock which is probably safest. It can be fried in oil or dry. With honey it is my favorite treat even at my age now Rock oven and or just a simple flat stone on hot coals works awesome and possibility of poisoning is greatly lessened.
Keep up the good work Hondaa
Thank you for the information Wahila, I’ll teach it to my brethren.
I like this site. Good information and interesting peopl….
I have heard about this type of bread being cooked on a hoe-thus they are called hoe cakes.
These can also be made from acorn and yucca root cakes. Smash rinse about 3 times after taking seed from casing let dry for flour add water pat into muffin like with elder berry or blues it is awesome! Then place on a hot stone.