Please visit our home site at

Anke and I live aboard WAYWARD, and wrote about it's design and construction at

Access to the net comes and goes, so I'll be writing in fits and spurts.Please feel free to browse the archives, leave comments where you will and write... I'll respond as I can.

Fair winds!

Dave and Anke
triloboats swirly gmail daughter com

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Flour Power: A Dough for all Seasons

Biscuits fer Breakfast!
Bake them biscuits, Baby,
Bake 'em nice and brown.
When you get them biscuits baked
We're Alaskanny bound!
Local variant of Pig in a Pen

I must have used up my slim tolerance for exactitude in boatbuilding. I sure don't seem to have any left for cooking.

I was thinking of sharing a medley recipes for various doughs and uses thereof, but realize I don't really have numbers... it's about yea, here and a dash of that, there and to taste throughout. But I'll do my best to come up with some.

Lacking an oven on SLACKTIDE, we cook solely on the stove-top in a Dutch Oven whose lid can serve as a shallow frypan. We heap kitchen towels loosely on the lid to keep heat in. For baking, an oven can be made by throwing some canning rings in the bottom of the Dutch Oven to raise a smaller pan clear of contact.

All amounts are approximate. If it doesn't look right, mull it over and add a bit more of the ingredient whose function will fix it. Li'l bit at a time....

The doughs I make involve four basic ingredients in order of importance:
  • Flour - Ground whole wheat flour.
  • Water - Fresh, mostly, but sometimes a dash of seawater to add salt.
  • Oil - Liquid oil, though if we're around butter, it may make a guest appearance.
  • Baking Powder (non-aluminum) - This is a quick leavening agent that replaces yeast.
Plenty of other things get stirred in, from time to time - milk powder, cornmeal, sugar, spices, nuts, fruits - but they're along for the ride. The dough is the vessel.

I always start by combining dry stuff, then oil and water last.

Water is the easiest to overdo, so I try to err on the side of caution. But if I overshoot, a bit more dry ingredients make it right... extra dough never goes to waste. As soon as I notice that it's on the dry side, I stop stirring and add a bit more water. Tell you the truth, I never measure, but keep a clear target look and feel in mind.

Water and stirring set up gluten from the flour, a binding protein that holds things together. Stir less for lighter results (biscuits, scones, etc.); longer for more cohesive results (flatbread, chapitas, etc). Liquid batters can be left lumpy. Generally, the less the better unless you want a structurally cohesive result.

Oil moistens doughs, affects their texture (tends toward flakier) and adds flavor. The more used in the dough, the less you need in the pan.

We love substitution and ersatz cooking. Half the fun is working out a way to satisfy some culinary craving that might descend out of nowhere far, far from the nearest store. As in sailing, play and experimentation are not only fun, but they soon confer mastery.

The following is just a taste...

Mom's EZ Crust

This can be adapted for pies, quiches, spanakopita, pasties, etc.. More oil makes flakier and less prone to burn. If you come up a little short, just wing it to make a bit more. Very forgiving stuff.

In a pie pan or equivalent, stir together about 2 cup Flour, 2/3 cup oil, and about 1/4 cup water. Stir just until saturated... less makes a flakier crust. Remove about half, roll into a ball and set aside. Press remainder out to edges of pan.

The other half can be the bottom of a second pie, or a cover for this one. To cover, pinch out thin 'leaves' of dough and patch over filled pie. Gaps are fine, as they vent steam. Sprinkle with topping spices and/or sugar and bake as usual.


This is a simple, tough bread used for scooping up pasty goodies, such as hummus.

In a bowl, combine 3 cups flour with  about 1 teaspoon salt. Stir in 1 1/2 cup warm water. Knead until firm and elastic. Let rest 4 hours (you can tell this is one of Anke's). Roll into balls and form flat and thin as possible. Fry hot in liberal oil, turning to get both sides.


These can be made in a number of styles, and perked up with all manner of ingredients. We especially like to top with jam and melt cheddar cheese over.

In a bowl, combine 2 cups of flour, milk powder (optional) and a pinch of baking powder. Make a depression, and add an egg or two (optional)... beat with a fork (on top of but without mixing into flour, yet). Add about 2 cups of water and stir all together. Add water as necessary until thick side of easy flowing batter, less for crepes. Add nuts, seeds, fruit, etc. now if you want them cooked in the pancake.

Heat liberally oiled frypan until a flick of water hops and sizzles on contact. Pour in batter. When bubbles pop but do not close, flip and cook until golden. Top as desired.

[NOTE: Eggs tend to make a dough cakier, and add protein and flavor. Optional, but use more liquid if omitting. Anke skips baking powder for German style pancakes.]

Coffee Cake

This is just one variation among a number of ways you could take it.

Start with pancake batter, but increase baking powder, oil and add sugar to taste. Pour into greased baking pan (looking for about 1 1/2 inches deep... about 8x8 inches).

In a second bowl, mix 1/3 cup solid oil (e.g., butter or peanut butter) with sugar and cinammon to taste. Should clump, but be a bit crumbly. Strew large chunks as streusel over surface. Bake like cinnamon rolls (see below), about 25 minutes.

Baking Powder Biscuit Dough (BPBD)

Most baking powder cans come with a recipe... any will do as a basis for all of the following. You can add milk powder, cornmeal or other flours. More or less water will thicken or soften dough for various uses. Here's the mix for biscuits:

In a bowl, combine 2 cups of flours with around 1 heaping tsp Baking Powder. If adding milk powder, add to 1/4 cup and increase water slightly. Add 1/3 cup oil, and about 1/2 cup water. Stir until just combined, with light, turning motions (I use a fork). Small lumps okay.

Fork in clumps onto medium hot, ungreased skillet, cover and insulate. Check on them when you smell them and turn if doughy on top. Generally takes about 12 minutes.

[Diagnostic Tip: If things are burning on the bottom but doughy elsewhere, the heat is too hot... it doesn't have time to cook through before burning. If things are taking forever, and seem cooked but are pale on the bottom, heat is too low... plenty of time to cook, but can't close the deal.]


For Flatbread, start with BPBD, but use a bit less water (thicker dough), stir longer, and press dough lumps flat in the frypan. Add oil to the pan, if you like, and cook a bit hotter for a crusty piece, aka frybread.

Eggs McSLACKTIDE - Top flatbread with a fried egg and cheese, cover and heat over low-medium heat until cheese is melted. Top with your favorite sauce.
Faux Ruben - Saute thin slices of meat (venison or summer sausage work great). Smear flatbread with special sauce, top with meat and cover with saurkraut.

Cinnamon Rolls

This one is a little tricky... small differences seem to have big consequences. I'm getting it down, but there've been several batches that ranged from chewy to a weird pancake. Always tasty, though, and looks aren't everything, they tell me!

Start with BPBD, then add flour until dough can be handled. Roll flat into a rectangle about 3/8 inch thick. Spread butter liberally and sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon, raisins, chopped nuts, etc.. Roll from one long side to form a roll. Slice into about 1 1/2 inch segments, and transfer to a lightly greased pan. Bake at medium-high heat for about 25 minutes. Dribble frosting, if desired.

These are thick, so err on the cooler side so as to not scorch the bottom. The more insulation, the merrier, as these can't be easily turned.


This is a quick meal, which is unfortunate. That means self control is the only thing standing between ourselves and a steady diet of this over-rich food.  8)

Start with thickish BPBD. Sprinkle cornmeal on a frypan and press out dough. Cover, and cook medium-high until first whiff. Put a low trivet under the frypan. Spread sauce, top with choice goodies, cheese last. Cover and cook until smell drives you nuts.


Leftover Bake

Once in a while, we'll have some bready something or other left over.

In a frypan, saute up some garlic, onions, and whatever's going. Crumble in breadstuff and beat in an egg or two. Deal cheese slices over the top. Cover, place on a low trivet and bake over medium heat. Mmm-MMM!


One last word; things don't always turn out as envisioned. But there's very little that can't be salvaged and redeemed, in whole or in part. Burnt dishes can be transferred to another pot, taking care to leave the burn stratum undisturbed. Spice and sauces cover a multitude of cooking gaffes. Often, just a creative name change will make all the difference; crackers, flat bread and biscuits are all points along a spectrum!

Well, I'm getting hungry... bye!


  1. This is awesome, guys! I had a major turning point in my enjoyment of bread several years ago when I realized all sorts of breads can be made from the same basic recipe simply by changing a few ingredients and proportions. You can add almost anything to change things up... an old friend (now passed on) used to make what she called garbage bread and garbage soup every Friday morning. She would divide her leftovers from the week into two groups - those that would go well in bread and those that would work in soup - and mix the bread group into a highly modified basic whole wheat yeast bread recipe. The bread was always heavy and moist, a little sweet and a little savory, and the soup always hearty and yummy.

    I don't usually add leftovers to my bread because I don't often have them on hand, but my basic recipe is 2 parts flour, a little salt, a little baking powder and about one part liquid (water or milk). The flour is usually whole wheat, with unbleached white flour sometimes added for something a little lighter or sometimes some corn meal or rye or ground rice (or cooked rice). I almost always add cinnamon and cayenne to the dry ingredients, because I like them; often some other spices as well. A little sugar if I want something sweeter (or honey added with the liquid).

    If I have butter and want to add that, I usually cut it into the dry ingredients with a pair of table knives. Oil gets added with the liquids or later in the kneading.

    At this point (before adding liquids) I add any other dryish things I might want... almost always some grated cheese (well, a LOT of grated cheese!), sometimes a little finely chopped meat or veggies; mix them in thoroughly with my pair of knives. Now if I have eggs and want to add them, I will add one or two and cut them in with the knives... it's starting to get a bit sticky at this point. Then add some water or milk and oil if I am doing that, mix with the knives until that gets to be work, then start kneading by hand. It does not take a lot of kneading usually before everything is mixed in and the dough is feeling good to me.

    If I am adding oil, I will frequently leave it out of the liquids, then add a little on top of the kneaded dough and continue kneading until the oil is worked in. When the kneading is done, divide the dough and roll it into balls a little bigger than golf ball size. I usually pat and stretch it out in my hands then drop it in the skillet which has been heating over medium heat with a tiny bit of oil in it. Sometimes I roll it out to get it extra thin, but usually do not bother. Cook until done, generally about 5-8 minutes on a side but tear one open when it looks done and try it.

    No baking powder? Use baking soda and add some vinegar (or yogurt?) to the liquids. No baking soda either? Try it without leavening as in your "Chapitas" (chapatis?) recipe above.

    That's my basic flat bread recipe. For biscuits I usually add more shortening and a bit more liquid to get a sticky dough I can scrape off a spoon (I think more shortening and a bit less liquid would give a biscuit dough you can roll out and cut). For pancakes, I leave out most of the things like cheese and such, and approximately double the proportion of liquid.

    Oh, and peanut butter makes a great addition (or topping) for pancakes or a sweeter bread.

    Now I'm ready for breakfast!

  2. Hi Samantha,

    I especially like the baking soda / vinegar combinaton... that eliminates one more item aboard (baking powder).

    A friend used to keep a box of baking soda handy to the stove as a fire-extinguisher that wouldn't create a huge mess for a small stove top fire (spilled oil, say). As long as you kept it topped off, it could double as leavener.

    I'll be sure Anke sees this. I don't like to get my hands into the dough, on board (I make an exception for the cinnamon rolls!), but Anke LOVES it. Most of these recipes were from 'my side' of the kitchen, and are all stir breads.

    Love the Garbage Bread/Soup concept!


  3. Brilliant! Going to laminate this post and put it aboard... The amount of yeast bread I have had to make for charter guests and the like proving it and all that jazz, gets me thinking how much time I could have saved with a few of these recipes.

    Also you have done the recipes the smart way, with the method and the quantities combined rather than the stupid way most cook books do it. Brilliant!

    1. Hi Ben,

      Hope I have the proportions right... I've been eyeballing it for lo these many years. Be sure to work out your own before the charter guests are ravenous!

      I should mention that liquid proportions vary somewhat, depending on whether one uses whole wheat or white flour. Whole Wheat generally takes a little less.

      Bon Apetit!


  4. And don't forget dumplings! For those of us who are not especially inspired when it comes to cooking, but quite fond of eating :-)

    A friend did this when we were camping, and I happily adopted it: vegetables in the bottom of the pot with water -- potatoes, onion, carrot, something green, whatever you can get, added in order of cooking time required. Whole fish (cleaned) or mussels still in their shells or something on top of that, enough liquid to look like stew or quite chunky soup. Then biscuit dough -- so many great possibilities listed above! -- Just spoon the dough into biscuit sized lumps around the top of the pot of soup/stew, where it is partially supported by all the vegetables and whatever. Put on the cover and cook until done. You would think it would be a disaster putting dough in liquid, but it turns out just fine. Wet on the bottom but still tasty, and regular biscuit-y in the upper layers. And only one pot to clean, for the whole business!

    -- Shemaya

    1. Hi Shemaya,

      Yes indeedy, DUMPLIN's! And for desert, COBBLER (spoon sweetened biscuit dough on top of fruit stew)!!

      Another camp thang:

      Sweeten, befruit and spice thickish biscuit dough. Form around the end of a fat stick (~1 1/2" diameter... end up with a 'cup' of dough). Cook over coals (not flame). Eat 'n repeat.

      A variation on the beach is same dough, but scrape away coals from sand. Put a ball of dough in a smallish shell and cover with a biggish smell. When they start to smell, check 'em. Not the most practical method, but way fun. Kids love it!