Steam muffins – ultralight food need not be ultraboring

Tags: backpacking, food

I’m generally fairly unadventurous when it comes to backpacking fare. I carry the bare minimum of kitchen equipment: a tiny titanium pot or mug and a spoon or spork. I carry dehydrated backpacking meals to limit the need for washing up, extra fuel or utensils. Cooking and eating the evening meal is often a purely functional experience. Although I look on jealously at the tasty-looking meals that my hiking partners cook, when it is time to pack for the next trip I tend to revert to type and take the ‘just add boiling water approach’. I am starting to experiment though. If you are willing to carry the weight of a tiny aluminium pudding tin and you can find one that sits snugly in your pot then why not do some steam baking on the trail? The inspiration for this culinary exuberance was an article by Mike Clelland over at, Groovy-Biotic Cooking: Quick, Healthy Meals with an Ultralight Cook Kit in which instructions are provided for steam-baked muffins. There is further encouragement in Don Ladigan’s excellent Lighten Up! (illustrated by Mike Clelland).

The basic instructions:

  1. Buy a supermarket just-add-water muffin mix.

  2. Add the water to the mix on the trail.

  3. Put the mixture in a small pudding tin balanced on small stones in the base of your pot together with a little water.

  4. Put the lid on the pot and steam for 6 to 10 mins.

In the UK I struggle to find just-add-water muffin mix. More commonly I get the just-add-milk-and-egg-and-oil muffin mix. I find milk powder and egg powder are adequate substitutes.

I find that the muffin cooks better without a paper muffin case. Sure, the mixture will stick to the tin but that’s not too much of an issue if you eat the muffin warm.

A bit of foil helps retain steam There is no way to crisp up the top of the muffin when steam baking. I like using chocolate muffin mix as the inherent anemic sponginess is less obvious.