After a long day of backpacking and mountaineering, nothing is as satisfying as a sweet cinnamon roll. Out in the wilderness, this simple dessert tasted like freedom and success, but with butter.
This summer, I spent 30 days backpacking through the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming. I learned how to bushwhack through dense forest, cross glaciers and icy-cold rivers, and navigate with nothing but a map and compass. Most importantly, though, I learned how to make delicious food with nothing but a frying pan and a four-inch diameter camp stove.
On day one, my group of twelve students and two instructors arrived in the mountains, disembarked from the yellow school bus, and said goodbye to civilization. The first thing that hit most of us were giant mosquitoes. Nowhere in the world are there more mosquitoes than in Wyoming’s Wind River Wilderness. They tint the air gray there. Suffice it to say we all wore long sleeves, long pants, and mosquito nets for the rest of our trip. We camped in a meadow of wildflowers that night and ate our first dinner of pre-made sandwiches.
We hiked about five miles overall that day. Most of our route took us through wide open fields in the base of a valley strewn with giant rocks deposited from long-melted glaciers. The hiking was hard but doable, and we had a great view to distract us from the growing pains in our shoulders and the blisters forming on our feet. By early afternoon, we came upon an endless field of willow bushes. Looking over it, we felt like Horton the elephant surveying the infinite field of pink poppies searching for a tiny dust speck.
That afternoon felt very long and miserable. As the shortest person in the group, I often got hit in the face with willow branches of all sizes. Nobody was speaking to each other at this point. We were all exhausted and ready to set up camp. After about an hour and a half (that felt more like three), we reached the end: and we could see our campsite!
We stumbled up the last hill as quickly as we could and shed our giant packs. Nobody moved for about an hour. We all just lay strewn across the dirt, relishing the chance to do absolutely nothing. Once we had regained the ability to move, we set up tents, took a swim in the nearby lake and cooked dinner. We feasted on cheesy quesadillas, salty spring rolls, and of course, savory cinnamon rolls.
What you’ll need:
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups water (more as needed)
2 cups sugar
Stick of butter
1 tablespoon cinnamon
A frying pan
Prepare the dough:
Dumping the flour, baking powder, pinch of salt, vanilla, and a quarter cup of sugar into a bowl and knead everything together with your hands. Add water, about a cup at first and then a spoonful at a time, kneading it in until the dough becomes elastic but not sticky. It should be about the same consistency as bread dough.
Next, find a clean flat surface upon which you can roll out your dough. The bottom of a frying pan works well. Dust that surface with a bit of flour. Take a quarter of the dough and roll it out. Use any cylindrical object you have on hand. (A Nalgene or thermos works.) Once the dough is flat and evenly rolled out, cover the entire surface with a thick layer of sugar and dust it with approximately one tablespoon of cinnamon.
Now take the edge of dough nearest you and roll it up towards the other edge. Cut the roll into 1/12 inch thick discs. Repeat this process with the rest of the dough.
Set up your camp stove on a flat surface. Pump the fuel into the stove and light it. Use a sturdy sheet of aluminum to create a “tower of power.” Curl the aluminum into a cylinder that surrounds the stove, and make sure it is wide enough to hold the frying pan above the stove.
Melt as much butter and sugar as you’d like in the bottom of the pan and place a few buns in there. Turn the buns on all sides and cover them with the sugar-butter sauce as they cook. Leave them in until the dough is baked through, turning frequently. Repeat until all the buns are cooked.
Alaina Scallan can be reached at email@example.com.