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Camp Cooks: Don't forget dessert!

By Kevin Callan

Book Cover I have another book out. Yes, that's two books in one year. A couple months ago I released "Dazed But Not Confused: Tales of a Wilderness Wanderer" (Dundurn). This time its "The New Trailside Cookbook: 100 Delicious Recipes for the Camp Chef" (Firefly Books). I'm a co-author. My publisher partnered me up with Margaret Howard, a nutritionist and professional cook.

Margaret wrote up the recipes and I did the "how-to" section - it was like having Julia Child and Red Green do a book together.

Here's a sample. It's all about making a good dessert.


Don't forget dessert

At times making dessert may seem too time consuming. It's not. Don't fall into the routine of handing out chocolate bars to everyone to munch on around the campfire. That's not dessert. Besides, desserts can be quite simple to make. Fresh fruit covered in melted chocolate or even caramel pudding served with a shot of Grand Marnier is better than a stale cookie. Just look at the history of the S'more. Since it's creation, camping has definitely stepped up a notch.

S'mores have been a camp tradition ever since the recipe first appeared in the 1927 edition of the Girl Scout handbook "Tramping and Trailing." And there's no doubt why it was given its name - short for "some more." Think about it. Kids get to pierce a sugary marshmallow with a stick, hold it over the campfire until it ignites, then squish it between two chunks of chocolate and two Graham crackers (some campers have been known to toss the crackers).

Similar to most recipes the s'more wasn't completely original. Products with a comparable recipe (marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers) entered the market place prior to the Girl Scout manual. Moon Pies were introduced in 1917 and Mallomars were on the store shelves as early as 1913.

Marshmallows, the key ingredient to a s'more, have an even longer history. Egyptians would squeeze the sweet sap from the mallow plant growing in wild marshes and add honey for flavor. By the mid-1800s the treat had reached France when owners of a small candy store whipped, sweetened and molded the gummy sap.

It didn't take long for the natural mallow to be replaced by gelatin and modified cornstarch. In 1948 a marshmallow manufacture, Alex Doumark, had the idea of pushing the sticky substance through a long pipe and cut it to the shape we're used to seeing. A couple years later some other manufacture had the idea of injecting air, giving the marshmallow its fluffy, light texture.

To date no one seems to know who actually started the act of toasting a marshmallow over a campfire and transforming the white spongy puff into a burned carbon shell with a sticky, tongue-burning centre. It was probably some camp councilor that couldn't stand baking up another can of pork and beans. But it's in the United States where most are now consumed - 90 million pounds per year to be exact. The majority of those consumers are - no surprise - under the age of twelve. It seems the older one gets, the less inviting toasting a marshmallow becomes. Most adults, 56% in fact, prefer eating it raw. Truth is, parents secretly despise them; and they especially loathe the making of s'mores on camping trips. The problem is that the gooey mess will undoubtedly get all over the kid's clothes, making them bear bait for the rest of the evening.

Recipe sample:

Mocha Mousse Cake
This dark chocolate dessert has a mellow flavor and the aroma of rich milk chocolate with a splash of coffee.
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 3/4 cup strong coffee
  • 1/2 semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs (can be powdered eggs)
At home or at camp:

Line 8 inch (20 cm) foil baking pan with parchment paper; lightly oil sides of pan.

In heavy saucepan, combine cocoa, flour and half the sugar. Stir in enough coffee to form a smooth paste. Mix in remaining coffee, cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture begins to thicken. Simmer for 2 minutes. Immediately stir in chocolate chips, stirring until chocolate has melted and is very smooth. Stir in vanilla.

With wire whisk, beat eggs with remaining sugar for about 5 minutes or until volume has doubled and eggs are very light and fluffy. One-third at a time, fold eggs into chocolate mixture. Pour batter into prepared pan, set pan in Dutch Oven (see instructions on page 57) and add boiling water to halfway up sides of baking pan.

Bake for 30 minutes or until cake has risen and the surface springs back when lightly touched. The cake will still jiggle in the center and the interior will be quite gooey. Remove pan from hot water and cool.

To unmold cake, slide a thin knife around sides of cake then invert onto a plate. Remove paper and when you can no longer wait, dig in and enjoy.

Serves 8
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes



Kevin Callan is the author of 15 books including "Wilderness Pleasures" and "The Happy Camper." A regular keynote speaker at major North American canoeing and camping expos for over 20 years, he has received three National Magazine Awards and four film awards, including top award at the prestigious Waterwalker Film Festival. Callan lives in Peterborough, Ontario, birthplace of the modern-day canoe.


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