Cooking Ash Cakes – 18th Century Cooking Series S1E3

Cooking Ash Cakes – 18th Century Cooking Series S1E3

It’s very common for soldiers in the 18th
century, especially when they were on the march, they’d be issued their rations, maybe
several days ahead of time they’d be issued several days of meat and then they’d be
issued their flour or their bread ration, and because they would be gone for a while
they would likely be given just flour instead of bread as that would just go bad and so
there they were on the march with not very much equipment to use and all they had was
flour and they would have to make some kind of food with it. Today we’re going to make
fire cake or ash cake, a very, very simple thing that the soldiers would be able to make
with just the flour and a little bit of water. So what are we going to need to make ash cake?
Well, number one we’re going to need to have good ashes. We’re going to have to
have a really nice ash bed to work with, good and hot. So we don’t have very much equipment.
We’re going to try to do this with three different methods. We’re going to use a
simple bannock board, or if you don’t have a board like this, maybe you could just use
a half split of firewood that’s nice and flat. We’re also going to use a method where
we put leaves around our fire cake or ash cake and so all you’re going to need for
that is some large leaves like a grape leaf or a large tree leaf, burdock or cabbage leaves,
something like that. And the last method, we’re not going to use anything at all,
we’re just going to make our cake and we’re going to place them right on the coals.
So, now our coals are getting really close to being ready to use. Let’s make up our
dough. I’ve got a simple wooden bowl here for us to make our dough in, the flour that
we’ve been issued, and I’m going to make up 3 or 4 ash cakes here. If you have any
salt, available to you, which the soldiers may or may not have had salt that day or that
particular time, but salt will add a lot to the taste of your fire cake, so in this case
we are going to add a good bit of salt to it, and we’re going to stir that around
while our ingredients are still dry so it will be easy to mix. And now we’re going
to need some water. We add enough water to make a stiff paste, and we’re going to start
out with maybe a little less than we need so that we don’t go overboard. For the ash
cakes that we’re going to cook on the bannock board, we’re going to get this to be a little
stickier because we need to stick it to the board. It needs to stay there while it’s
cooking. Okay, we’ve got our dough mixed up. It’s
nice and the right kind of consistency, a little stiff but still sticky enough to work
with and I’ve got this. We’re going to take this one and we’re going to flatten
it out on our bannock board, going to get it nice and thin. The thinner, the better
it’s going to cook. We need to make sure that it’s sticky enough that it sticks to
the board. Our board has two holes in it so that we can prop it up. Let’s put this up
by the fire and let this cook while I’m working on the other ones.
Okay, we’ve got the fire banked up a little bit higher on this spot and I’m going to
place the board, I don’t want to get it too close so it catches on fire, but I can
feel the heat here, that feels pretty good. I’ve got our little stick here to prop it
up at an angle, and that feels really good. We’re going to let that cook.
Let’s use leaves for our next fire cakes. I’m going to keep watching that one and
make sure it doesn’t burn, but here’s our next fire cake. Let’s take out a dough
section here, and we’re going to make it into a patty. We’re not making it as thin
as that but, you know, thinish. We’re going to make it in relationship to the size of
our leaves. I’ve got here some wild grape leaves and some cottonwood leaves, depending
on the time of year, you know, different leaves are going to work better than other ones but
you want a nice big leaf that’s going to protect your fire cake, so let’s use our
grape leaf on the inside because a bit of the taste does end up on the fire
cake. We’re going to put grape leaves on the inside and then a little extra protection,
because the leaves are going to slowly burn through, we’re going to put the cottonwood
leaves on, and I’ve got a really nice coal section here, we’re just going to place
this right onto the coals. Since it’s got the coals right on top and below it, it’s
not going to take that long to cook, 3, or 4, maybe 5 minutes. That’s something you’re
going to judge, you’re not going to be able to tell, so it takes a little experience to
know when it’s ready to come out. The ash bed is really important that you’re cooking
on. If your ashes are grey, they’re probably already too cool to do any cooking on, like
this color. This white hot ash over here, it’s really warm, that’s the kind of ash
we’re cooking with. The stuff that’s still white. If it’s grey, it’s gotten too cold
to cook with. Our bannock board biscuit looks like it still
needs a little bit of time to cook. I’ll have to turn it over pretty shortly, but this
one’s probably ready to come out. It’s been about 4 minutes or so. I’m just going
to lightly scrape off our ashes from the top and scoop the whole patty out. There it is.
Let’s put it on top of this board so we can see how it turned out. There we are. It
feels like this one’s just about done. I could have probably left it in about another
minute or two but it’s still hot, it’s still cooking so I’m just going to go ahead
and set this off to the side where it will stay warm, but it’s still hot so it’s
still cooking on the inside. Our bannock board fire cake over here, you
can see it’s starting to brown up along the bottom side so I’m going to go ahead
and rotate the board so the other side, the top side of it, can cook. You want to be really
gentle when we turn this over so that we don’t knock the bread off, and I’m going to tilt
this a little bit further because our coals are getting a little bit cooler, but they’re
still really warm right there, so it should cook right up.
Well, let’s try our fire cake where we actually put it directly on the coals. If you don’t
have good leaves to work with you can just try cooking our fire cake right on the coals.
It’s going to char up on the outside but that’s all we have to work with so let’s
do it. We’re going to place it right on the coals here. I’ve got a nice hot section
of coals and we’ll place it right on there. I’m going to use my tomahawk because this
fire is hot. There we go, and I’m going to find some hot coals close by and we’re
going to set them on top, lightly and gently bury it in the hot coals. I’m not going
to bury it completely. I don’t want to lose it in the fire. I want to be able to see around
the edges just a little bit so I can watch it cooking.
Well, it looks like our bannock board fire cake is ready to pull off. It’s browned
up all over on the outside so we’re going to go ahead and pull this off the board and
put it onto our plate. This may be tough to get off, but this one came off, now you can
see it’s still a little damp on that side, cooked completely on that side. I call that
done. Well, our bannock bread’s off, the other
one’s out, it smells like our ash cake that’s cooking right here in the coals is probably
ready to pull out too, so let’s pull it out with that, dust the ashes off the top.
We’ve still got some that are sticking to the bottom, gently, might still be hot coals,
so I’m not going to touch them. A little bit of ash is known to calm your digestive
tract so the ash isn’t going to hurt you a bit, and it looks really good for cooking
right there in the coals. So there you have it. You’ve got the three
different kinds of ash cake or fire cake. We’ve got our bannock board cake, the one
we cooked right in the ashes and then the one we used the leaves for protection. Let’s
try these out. Definitely very edible, I think I’ll have them for supper tonight. Any of
these things you’ve seen here you can see on our website or in our print catalog and
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  1. As a young scout. I would thread a sausage onto a stick and cook it over the fire. Then wrap some of this bread mix around the almost cooked sausage and cook it into a sausage roll. Salt in the mixture causes a drastic improvement to the taste.

  2. You only tasted one of them. All that, and the video ends before you taste and give commentary about the different methods. What's the deal?

  3. cook on top of a flat rock as well, or as close to a flat rock as u can find, set it in the fire and use it like an odd shaped pan.

  4. My family and I would do a fairy similar thing I New Zealand where we would make the dough much softer and wrap it around a stick, after cooking it over a fire we would stuff the cavity with butter and jam.

  5. A quick comment about ash. It is a great source of potassium. So, eat to your heart's content as potassium is VERY good for the heart.

  6. i remember stories that where passed down to my grand father and one of them was about my great x5 grand father in the revolutionary war and that they used a rock to make fire cake and it exploded that supposedly killed the horse pulling the wagon of rations and linen

  7. There's no sugar, butter, or eggs/yolks in it, so it's not a cake. They're too thick to be roti/chapati. I don't know what a better name for these would be….

  8. Amongst all the many things I've learned watching this, just wanted to thank you for the tip on ash color. I did not know that white was still good to cook and grey is too cool. Really appreciate it.

  9. What is the song playing at the beginning of this video? It is very similar to a song called "To Invoke the Horned God" by Cruachan

  10. Gosh I love these videos. They have the similar effect on me that Bob Ross videos have. Thank you, Townsend and Sons.

  11. My old books say to put it on a stick and cook it ( wrap it around the stick) basic like a hot dog . And turn it while cooking so as to getting done on all sides.

  12. We cook vegetables right on the coals, when cooking meat. Onions, peppers, potatoes right on the coals, charred and with smoking flavor.

  13. I tried making some ash cakes myself on my barbecue grill and "very edible" is the perfect description for them. They're not bad, but the taste is bland when eaten on their own. They taste great with honey or jam, but I don't think a foot soldier would be issued that kind of thing, so next time I'll have to try ash cakes with some beef stew for a more authentic experience.

  14. Basically the same as hardtack from the US civil war. It's written that they have zero nutritional value and soldiers would suffer great hunger malnutrition

  15. Very cool video for survival utilities by bruh…..there has to be a more accurate word for flower and water than cake. Cake is too good for what this is. It’s more like moist hard tack.

  16. Thats pretty much a chappathi/type of flat bread. Also if they had a Tomahawk and a plate why not just cook it on that using it as a skillet? Heck, a hot rock works too. They still do the last one.

  17. "Ash cakes" are mentioned in several of Grimm's Fairy Tales. I was wondering how they were being made. Now I know. Thanks!

  18. We wanted you to eat the actual ash cake! A little disappointed – Lol. I like learning how people survived hundreds of years ago – and these are valuable survival skills. Watching your show also makes me appreciate modernity.

  19. I just wanted to say that I just found your channel and after watching the first video I subscribed. I’m recently retired and have taken up cooking, I also, like history and these recipes are great, thank you for saving what might be lost in the passing of time. People really need to know how to do things without technology, when I was younger I remember having a book entitled “How things work”. It explains the basics of how things are made and function. Too many people don’t even know how to build a fire or filter water to make it safe to drink.

  20. I really liked the video but wish you would have tried all three cakes. Also I am curious which cake tasted the best and which the worst.

  21. I want to see you eat all three of those cakes completely and say wich one tasted best or which one you would prefer to eat every day!

  22. Given just flour, water, and maybe some salt in a field environment I think I would have gone the sourdough route. Would have been much more satisfying than some unladen bread.

  23. I like the leaf technique. I'll go boarding in the winter or early spring.
    Edit After watching the board cake looked pancake on bottom and pita on top. Ash cake looked like a scone and the leaf cake had it's own style. I'll stay with leaf cake.

  24. After all that (which was cool, don’t get me wrong) YOU DIDNT EVEN GIVE US A DESCRIPTION OF THE TASTE OF EACH ONE!?!? DUDE!!!! I was SO looking forward to you describing the difference in flavour profile of each cooking method!!!! I’m so sad now 😔

  25. I bet if the 18th Century Soldiers were here today and tasted the US Army rations, they would consider it a luxury compared to ash cakes and a bit of meat.

  26. I made corn cakes in ashes when I was in middle school. This is the nerdy kind of thing I did as a kid. Glad to see that someone else is just as nerdy as me or even more so.

  27. This channel is so wholesome. I feel like it could actually stand alone as a TV show on PBS or something.

    Real history shared in a way we can all appreciate and understand – food.

    I love it.

    It is really interesting to see how much more simple food used to be before modern distribution and production of food.

    It makes modern food look so complex and convoluted.

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