Thursday, September 1, 2011

Cookistry Cooks Books: Campfire Cookery

When I got a review copy of Campfire Cookery from the publisher, I set it aside for a while. The closest I get to camp cooking is my backyard grill, so I wasn't pawing though it like I usually do when I get a new book. But somehow it moved itself to the top of the browsing pile, so I figured I'd see if anything looked interesting.

When I saw the recipe for apple dumplings, I immediately remembered (in a vague way) I book I read when I was a kid. Now, I have no idea what the book was or who the author was. I don't even remember the plot of the book. What I do remember is apple dumplings. I'd never heard of them before, and the story made them sound amazing.

The book was set in pioneer days and a girl in the story waited all year for there to be apples ready to make dumplings. I think she had promised them to someone, but I don't really remember who. It might have been her farther or grandfather or maybe her boyfriend. She got her apples and she made the dumplings. Maybe like 12 of them. There was some description of the process, but it wasn't a recipe. And it was nothing like anything I'd ever seen my mother do in the kitchen. It seemed unreal.

So then she had these dumplings and things started going wrong. At one point she was alone in the cabin her family lived in and some Native Americans showed up, and of course they couldn't communicate very well. She ended up giving away some of the apple dumplings, and then the visitors left.

It seems that at some point she had the apple dumplings wrapped in cloth and stored under the bed, but that seems pretty implausible. Maybe I don't remember it correctly, or maybe the book assumed that kids wouldn't realize how weird that is.

Bit by bit, the apple dumplings were eaten until finally she had one left for whoever it was she was making them for. So I guess it was a happy ending except that by the time the last apple dumpling was eaten, it must have been very stale, if not seriously moldy.

But that didn't matter. In my mind, apple dumplings must have been amazing to go through all of the trouble procuring the ingredients, making the dumplings, and protecting them from all the disasters that befell them along the way.

I suppose you'd expect me to say that I immediately found a recipe for apple dumplings and made them. But, no, at that time I was too young to be cooking on my own, and baking wasn't my mom's forte, so she was no help at all. By the time I got interested in cooking, I'd forgotten all about apple dumplings.

Until I found the recipe in this book. And not only was it a recipe for regular old apple dumplings, it was a recipe for heirloom apple dumplings. How could it be any better? Well, it's actually a recipe for Heirloom Apple and Cheddar Dumplings. Extra flavor. Sounds good.

The recipe was written for cooking in a Dutch oven on an open fire with hot coals on top of Dutch oven. I wasn't willing to go that far for the recipe. I have an oven, and I'm not afraid to use it.

When I looked at the recipe for the dough, it seemed like it was going to be too wet. I cut way back on the water, but it was still too wet. I'm not sure if the book's cup of flour was that much heavier than mine, but I carried on.

It didn't get much better from there. The pastry was fairly bland and not sweet at all, There was no sugar in the filling - just apples and cheese. But I carried on with the recipe as it was written.

In the end, it was a savory pastry. The apples and cheese were a classic combination, but it could have used a little something else - a little sugar, a hint of salt. Maybe some cinnamon or vanilla. It wasn't awful, but not something I'd go out of my way to make again. On the other hand, I might go looking for other apple dumpling recipes and see if I can find something I like a little better.

Looking through the book, it looks like I managed to choose an unfortunate recipe. There are plenty of others that look like they might turn out much better. I might try the ketchup recipe next. It sounds interesting and it only makes a pint, so it's not a big commitment. And quite a few of the recipes would translate quite well to my grill.