Space is always a premium when travelling light in just a four wheel drive. Our next big trip will be to the Simpson Desert. Being that remote means we need to be completely self-sufficient – there’s no corner store for buying milk or snacks!
Being someone who loves to cook at home I was keen to find a way to make our usual favourites like fresh scones, cakes, baked desserts, and perhaps even a roast. On past trips when we’ve had a bit more storage available we’ve taken the Weber Baby Q barbecue. Unfortunately its bulky, heavy, and just not practical to take on our next trip, so we’ve been searching for alternatives. We came across the Coleman Camp Oven in a local camping supplies store. I was rather skeptical of how well this little oven would work – with its folding design and thin sheet metal construction it didn’t appear particularly efficient. My initial research suggested there were two types of owners – those who had them stowed away unused in their camping gear, and a small few who swore by them.
With little background knowledge to work with, we jumped in head first and bought one before our last camping weekend.
First impressions of the Coleman Camp Oven
Upon unboxing the oven I was once again nervous about how well it would cook! It certainly does appear a little flimsy, but that is what keeps the weight down. It folds down nearly flat making it great to store. With a little fiddling we managed to assemble it and set it up on our camp stove.
While I prepared the scones (recipe to follow), James preheated the oven. It was surprisingly easy to get it to reach the required temperature and was relatively stable. We didn’t have an oven thermometer to check the temperature so had to trust the dial and hope our scones cooked the way we expected!
My scone recipe calls for a roughly 200 degree Celsius oven and a baking time of 22 minutes. The scones cooked exactly to time in this little oven, much to my surprise! I’ll let you see for yourself just how amazing they looked.
I go for the “rustic” look when baking scones, particularly when I’m camping – these were cut using a knife (I had nothing else available to cut them to size while camping) and quickly hand-shaped. They come up fluffy, with a moist crumb, and crusty both top and bottom, just how scones should be. They go down a treat with homemade strawberry jam and a little dollop of double cream!
Overall, I was really impressed with the performance of the Coleman Camp Oven! I was pleasantly surprised at how well the oven held temperature considering its light-weight construction. It suits our needs well being light and folding down to a compact, flat size.
Now for the one criticism I have of the oven’s performance – the bottom of the scones burnt. Just. The kind of burnt that you’ll forgive a little when you’re camping and just scrape off with a knife, not the kind that gives your food that charred, bitter taste. It was forgivable, but not perfect. Next time we’ll try a pizza stone or similar in the bottom of the oven to help diffuse the heat a little better.
My first impressions suggest this oven has a future in out camping kit. I’m definitely looking forward to baking some other go-to camping recipes like fruit cobbler and chocolate self-saucing pudding!
UPDATE (May 2018): Since our first use of this oven – which this review was based on – we’ve experimented a little more. We’re pleased to report we’ve discovered a quick “hack” that dramatically improves the performance of this oven! We managed to track down a square dinner/cake plate that fits the bottom of the oven nicely. With the plate upturned on the base of the oven our scones no longer burned. If you’re keen to try this hack for yourself make sure your plate is oven-safe and able to withstand the high temperature it will be exposed to.
We’re also keen to test this oven to see if it can be used as a smoker. While we can see it working quite well as a cold smoker cabinet for the likes of cheeses and garlic (using a smoke generator in the base), we’re also interested to test its performance as a hot smoker. Our plan is to try adding wood chips to a smoker box in the base of the oven, using it otherwise as per its design. Drop us a comment if you’re keen to hear how our smoking experiments turn out.
My recipe for scones
I promised to share my recipe for scones with you all. But first for a little disclaimer – this is not your traditional recipe with all ingredients measured perfectly. Its the kind of recipe that you can keep stored in the memory bank for those moments where you have unexpected visitors or have a sweet-tooth craving when you’re camping. Its flexible, allowing you to make a small batch for two, or enough to feed a small army. I understand that, as a result, this recipe may not result in perfect scones for everyone who makes it on the first attempt. Pay close attention to my descriptions of how things should look at different stages. I make this based on texture, and have used anywhere from one to three cups of flour using the same technique with perfect success.
The secret to a nice, fluffy scone is the right ratio of flour, cream, and milk. I know there’s easy recipes out there for lemonade scones, but I think these easily beat them with the added bonus of being scalable.
So, with disclaimers and explanations aside, let’s get on with the recipe!
This is my go-to, completely flexible scone recipe. Want scones for two? Just make less! Feeding a small army? Just increase the quantities!
The amounts listed for each ingredient should serve as a guide, not a hard-and-fast rule. Pay close attention to the descriptions in the method, as ensuring you have the right texture at each stage will guarantee you get the best results.
- 2 cups Plain Flour
- 4 tsp Baking Powder
- 1-2 tbsp Sugar (sugar can be added to taste)
- 1/4 cup Cream (fresh thickened cream or long life can be used)
- 1/4 cup Milk
Preheat the oven to roughly 200 degrees Celsius (392 degrees F) or just under (I usually aim for around 190 degrees C in a fan-forced oven). Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and lightly flour.
Mix the flour, baking powder, and sugar together in a mixing bowl. Increase the sugar if you like really sweet scones. Ideally the flour and baking powder should be triple sifted together to ensure they're well combined, but who has time for that? I find that a whisk works well to mix the dry ingredients together thoroughly.
Add the cream gradually, mixing with a knife or fork (avoid a large spoon). 1/4 of a cup of cream is the rough amount I'd use for 2 cups of flour. You may find you need a little more. The texture should be quite ragged - a little more together than coarse breadcrumbs, but not forming a dough yet either.
Add the milk, only about 2 tablespoons at a time as you may not need the whole amount or you may need a little more. The dough should be coming together at this stage. You want to add enough milk to achieve a moist, sticky, homogenous dough. It should be moister than a standard bread dough, but still holding together enough to turn out of the bowl and knead.
Flour a chopping board, table, bench... whatever flat, clean, stable surface you have. Turn your dough out of the bowl and lightly flour it. Knead until it feels soft and consistent. Sprinkling more flour over the dough or bench will help stop it sticking excessively - even if you've made the dough a little too moist the extra flour here will compensate for it.
Work the dough out to roughly 20-25mm thick. You can roll it out, but its not necessary. Cut the scones to size. I would usually reach for a drinking glass of roughly 50-60mm diameter as my cutter at home (flour the edges so the scones don't stick), but you can use a knife to achieve the same results. Work the dough round between your hands a little to plump it up to around 30-35mm thick and slightly smaller diameter. Put the shaped scone onto the tray and repeat until you've used all the dough. How many scones you'll get depends on the size of the batch you've done and how big you've made your scones. I find that 2 cups of flour would usually make anywhere from 8-12 scones.
Pop the tray into the preheated oven and bake for around 20-22 minutes. I usually like to have a quick peek at 15 minutes and make sure everything is looking OK. When the scones are done they should be lightly brown and crusty on top, like the picture shows.
Leave to stand for around 5 minutes. The scones are definitely best served fresh from the oven, but the standing time allows them to cool a little so they cut nicely. Cut each scone in half and top with jam and a dollop of double or whipped cream.
I’d love to know what you think of the recipe if you give it a go, and am more than happy to help troubleshoot any problems you might have.
Have you tried the Coleman Camp Oven? Got any tips for new users like us?
We have received no payment or incentives of any kind for this review. The review is based on our own experience using the Coleman Camp Oven and is shared in the hope it may benefit others considering the product.