In an earlier post I mentioned how despite living in the middle of the rainforest without an oven, at Timburi Cocha we've been enjoying little homemade luxuries such as breads and cakes. It is no rocket science, simply a method of using pots and pans as mini-ovens on a gas stove. But let's just call it jungle baking, because everything sounds better with the word "jungle" in front of it.
I've decided to describe how we make jungle cake, because it is something that always seems to surprise visitors and people I speak to back home.
For cakes, we use a double-pot boiling method: first we fill about a third of a cauldron with water and put it on to boil.
While that's heating up – analogous to preheating an oven – we prepare the cake like any other cake. When the caldron of water has reached a boil, the wet and dry ingredients of the cake are mixed together and poured or scooped into a smaller, greased pot.
We use a plastic bag placed between the top of the pot and the lid as a moisture and water barrier, since our pots are not in the finest condition. The pot goes inside the cauldron of boiling water (you can see why the plastic bag under the lid is a good idea!).
Given the shape of our pots and pans, we usually weigh down the lid of the large pot or cauldron with rocks, in addition to sticking a plastic bag beneath its lid as well, when we have one big enough.
It takes much longer to prepare a cake like this than it does with an oven. The banana cake shown took about 5 hours, but the best thing to do is to check it every hour or so after the first couple of hours using the "clean knife method" (you put a clean knife into the cake and if the blade comes out clean, it's ready).
Once ready, we leave the cake in the tin for a while to cool a little – with the lid on, since we live in an environment riddled with a diversity of invertebrates and other wildlife. After half an hour of so it's usually okay to turn the finished cake out onto a plate.
We've mainly been enjoying flat breads, although we did have soda bread once as well. Flat breads can be easily prepared by leaving the dough in the sun covered, with a tea towel. An hour in the tropical heat is usually enough warmth for the yeast to do their job. We then dry fry the rolled out pieces of dough in a large, heavy-bottomed pan. (Photos to follow - next time we make bread...)