With Sherry out on the back deck birdwatching this week — see the “Parting Shot” column — I told her not to worry, I would handle the recipe feature this week. In times past when I’ve been pressed to whip something up for the cooking section it was usually a wild game recipe found on the Internet. But this time I decided to offer one of my own variations.
This past winter I sold a five-part series of stories to one of the country living websites I write for on occasion. The focus was Dutch oven and cast iron cooking. I started with the history of cast iron cookware and worked my way through Dutch ovens and all sorts of recipes, ending the series with a section on desserts.
By far the easiest mix and bake Dutch oven dessert to make is a Dump Cake. You lightly grease a 10 or 12 inch oven, then dump in a yellow cake mix, cut into that a stick of butter, toss in the contents of a can of apple filling (apple, cherry, any fruit flavor of your choice or mix and match), stir one figure 8 through the contents with a spoon or spatula, cover and bake at 275 for about 25 minutes.
A couple weeks ago we camped at a nearby state park. On Saturday evening we invited friends over and, after supper, I pulled out a 12-inch oven and made a couple batches of iced cinammon rolls. In that case I cheated and used the pre-made rolls that come in a can. I placed the rolls from the can evenly spaced on a metal pie pan. In the bottom of the Dutch oven I set a cast iron trivet to keep the baking pan off the bottom of the hot oven. I sat the pan of rolls on top of the trivet, put the oven lid on and baked at 400 degrees for about 18 minutes.
To get a 12-inch Dutch oven to heat evenly to about 400 degrees, pre-heat about 36 charcoal briquettes in a charcoal chimney. When the coals develop a white ash covering, shake out 18 coals on the cooking surface and arrange them evenly spaced within a 12-inch circle. Now place the oven atop the coals, and evenly distribute the other 18 coals atop the oven lid. Every 10 to 15 minutes rotate the oven 45 degrees in one direction, and the lid 45 degrees in the opposite direction to help maintain a more even heat.
When the rolls were done we set the pan aside and let it cool for a minute, then iced the rolls and served them up warm. It was that simple.
While this next recipe is a little more complicated, the final taste is worth the extra effort. I’ve made this Dutch oven pineapple upside down cake multiple times. While much Dutch oven cooking are “comfort foods” such as stews and soups usually prepared in the winter, this dessert is great for a summer gathering. In fact, I use my Dutch ovens for cooking all year round. My wife won’t let me cook in the kitchen since I mess up too many dishes and the countertops. My domain is my cast iron cookware and the fire pit. But this cake works perfect in a cast iron oven and it’ll really impress your friends or family.
Dutch Oven Pineapple Upside Down Cake
4 Tbs. butter
1 cut brown sugar
1 can pineapple rings
1 jar maraschino cherries
1 yellow cake mix
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup cooking oil
Preheat 24 charcoal briquettes in a chimney or grill. Melt the butter in a 12-inch Dutch oven. Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the butter. Place seven pineapple rings around the bottom of the oven atop the butter and sugar, with an eighth ring in the middle. Place a cherry in the center of each pineapple ring. Pour about 1/3 of the pineapple juice from the can gently into the oven (go easy as to not wash all the brown sugar and butter to one area)
In a mixing bowl add the cake mix, water, eggs, oil and remaining pineapple juice from the can. Mix well. Gently pour or spoon the batter in on top of the pineapple rings. With a spoon or spatula spread the batter evenly.
Place lid on oven and bake with nine briquettes spaced evenly beneath the oven and 15 spaced evenly on the lid. Let bake for 35 to 40 minutes, rotating lid and oven a quarter-turn in opposite directions every 15 minutes for even cooking. Remove from heat and let stand 8 to 10 minutes.
To remove the cake, remove lid and place a layer of aluminum foil or parchment paper across the top of the oven and replace the lid. Using leather gloves, in one move rotate the oven over and sit the lid on a lid stand or other heat-resistant surface. Now tap the upright bottom of the oven to help release the cake. Gently lift the oven away. Let the cake cool for a few minutes.