Tuesday, October 26, 2010


As the Chuckwagon cook, "COOKIE" held many hats of responsibility. None less important than the other. Nevertheless, none more demanding than feeding 3 meals per day to his crew of wranglers and mavericks. Sourdough biscuits was frequently made for crew on the long trail drives moving cattle north out of Texas. However, cookie also baked a bread that requires no leavening and has been around before the birth of Christ. While it is called many things across the world, in South Texas it's known as Pan De Campo and recently signed into law by a bill designating Pan De Campo as the official State Bread of Texas by Governor Rick Perry.

Pan De Campo translates as "Camp Bread" also known as Cowboy Bread. It cooks in the time it takes to cook biscuits and can be done in the Dutch Oven. There are many different recipes available but most often the King Ranch Recipe is used. Annually, during the King Ranch Cowboy Breakfast, held the Saturday before Thanksgiving, Chuck wagon volunteers will be cooking up enough of this bread to feed 6,500 people.
Here's just one way to make the dough as this is my own: However, if you want the KING RANCH recipe, you'll just have to purchase their book.

* 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
* 1/2 cup shortening
* 2 teaspoons salt
* 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
* hot water

Place flour into a large bowl. Mix salt and baking powder in with flour together. Add shortening working it into flour. Add enough hot water to make the dough thick. If you get this to wet, just add more flour.
Now to knead the dough you need a work area. To prevent the dough from sticking, sprinkle some flour out over the surface of your work area, such as the work table on the chuck wagon, but if you don't own a chuck wagon, well that's OK. Use the kitchen counter top or out doors, a large cookie sheet set on top of that ice chest will do so you have a place to work. Once your work area has flour spread out, take the dough and lay it out on the surface. Knead for two to three minutes or until smooth. Don't overwork it.
Separate the dough into two portions. Let it rest covered with a damp cloth for 15 to 20 minutes.
While the dough is breathing, take a 10" inch dutch oven out and grease the inside with lard enough to cover the surface and place above your camp fire to pre-heat. The oven should be about 18" inches above the fire. Do not place the oven in the fire. If you plan to cook this indoors, still use the cast iron oven and preheat the stove to 350 degrees (f).

When using shortening mixed in with baking powder and flour, the shortening will go through a process of leavening "RISE" without using yeast. If the dough does not rise enough to suit you, add another 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder.

After it has breathed take one portion of the dough and roll out round until it is about an 8" inch diameter like a mini pizza and will be about 1" thick. Removing the dutch oven wearing an oven mitt, set aside on a trivet and once more grease the inside surface. Place dough inside the dutch oven and cover.
Outdoors, simply take some coals out from the fire and lay on the ground. About one shovel full, then set the dutch oven directly on top the coals. Now place about half a shovel full on the lid and cook for about 8-10 minutes. Using a lid lifter, it is OK to take a peek after about five minutes to check on the bread. If it appears cooking to fast on the bottom, remove from the coals and allow the lid coals to continue working. Dutch Oven outdoor cooking does takes some practice and can be done right in your own back yard. However, if conventional ovens is more your style, then place the Dutch Oven inside for about 8 minutes or until golden brown.

Once cooked, place out on the table and cut much like a pie. Serve it hot or allow to cool, then take out the second cut of dough and cook another loaf of flatbread.

HISTORY: Flatbreads are the oldest of all bread types. This style of bread cooks fast and can easily be made requiring little fuel to cook over conventional bread loafs. Recipes vary across the world due to resources of grain types and personal taste. The Middle eastern nations call this bread Pita, Turkey it's known as Lavash while India calls it Naan.

Before cast iron, this bread was cooked in a portable clay oven that resumes a dutch oven called Tandoors. The Tandoors can be placed on top coals just as we do today with cast iron and are still used in the middle east. Indians in the New World made corn tortillas very similar to this style bread as the Spanish explored what is now Mexico and the lower United States. I hope you enjoy Pan De Campo and if you just enjoy eating bread, try it with some butter and honey spread over top.                                     

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                                             Photo by Lori at My Wooden Spoon


  1. Always wanted to visit the King Ranch event, but never did. Will definitely try this Pan de Campo bread recipe. Thanks

  2. Finally! A pan de campo that looks like my grandmother's. She grew up outside of Kingsville and could make pan de campo by open fire and by oven.

    Anyone have a recipe for pan de campo turkey dressing?