Pan de Campo
“Campfire cowboy, cook this bread, Doo-dah, doo-dah . . .”
In 2005 the Legislature declared it “only right and proper” that pan de campo be named the state bread. Among those who care deeply about these sorts of things, flour bombs commenced to flying, with many arguing that sourdough, toted along on cattle drives that crisscrossed the entire state, made a better choice than the more-regional pan de campo (country, camp, or cowboy bread, depending on whom you’re talking to), which originated with the vaqueros of South Texas. I say there’s no knead to fight: the state is surely big enough for both of them.
A durable, portable flatbread borne of scarce provisions (in its most elemental form, it needs only flour, baking powder, salt, fat, and water), pan de campo could be easily cooked in a traditional Dutch oven out on the range. Fortunately for our purposes, it can also be easily cooked within the range, i.e., your oven, in a greased cast-iron skillet. What emerges looks like a giant, flat biscuit, crackly on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. Cut it into wedges and serve it as a side, to sop up main courses like chili or carne guisada, or just eat it on its own, preferably slathered with butter.
Serves 4 to 6
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
6 tablespoons shortening, slightly chilled (can also use lard)
3/4 cup whole milk
Preheat oven to 450. Stir together the dry ingredients, then blend in the shortening with a pastry cutter or your fingers until the mixture is crumbly. Add milk, a bit at a time, until you can form a not-too-sticky ball of dough. Turn it out on a floured surface and knead gently for about 1 minute. Flatten the ball of dough and roll out into a round about 1/2 inch thick. Prick the top all over with a fork.
Meanwhile, melt a little shortening in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet (enough to coat the bottom). Add the round of dough to the skillet and place in the oven. Bake for about 6 minutes, then flip the bread and bake another 6 minutes.