by Roseann Hanson (co-director, Overland Expo; camp cook; and pyro)
In camp, one achieves happiness through superior firepower. And the best source of firepower, hands-down, is the Snow Peak GigaPower 2Way Torch.
I first saw this little 5.5-inch wonder put to use on a beach in Mexico. In preparation for our customary evening campfire gathering, a couple of guys had piled the fire pit high with a combination of wood brought from home, brush, and slightly damp driftwood. I thought, Oh wow, that's not going to light; it will just smoke and sputter.
Then Pasquale appeared on scene carrying a curiously small torch, which he casually ignited with a pocket lighter. The roar of 14,000 BTUs drowned out our stunned gasps as he inverted the torch, turned up the gas to an even greater roar, and applied it to the wood. About 30 seconds later our campfire was happily and healthily flickering away.
That was how I met the GigaPower 2Way Torch, which Pasquale also said was great for putting the final golden touch on camp pizza cheese and crust, and for putting the brûlée in créme brûlée.
I had to have one.
As soon as we were home I rushed down to our excellent outdoor store, Summit Hut, which has carried Snow Peak since their U.S. debut. But they didn't carry the torch. We were headed out for another trip for which I wanted a torch, so in desperation I bought a plumber's torch with a high-output head, which the Ace Hardware ace said could be used inverted ("how else could plumbers access pipes and such" he said with assurance but apparently no actual experience). Long story short, the flame cut out if you turned the canister anywhere beyond 15 degrees. Fail.
Happily, last week Nate and Joey at Snow Peak USA sent me one to test.
The torch did not disappoint. Stove-top pizza and perfect créme brûlée were simple achievements. The torch head has a generator that allows the torch to be operated inverted, which is essential for browning cheese or melting sugar. I used the torch on a small standard GigaPower canister; an adapter allows it to be used with a Snow Peak CB canister as well.
I have yet to personally try lighting a campfire or charcoal with it, but plan to do so next trip.
It should be noted that the packaging for the torch expressly warns against using the torch for food preparation. Warning noted, thank you.
Below is a recipe adapted for making great stove-top pizza painlessly in camp.
Your camp mates will be amazed and you will help prove another axiom: more friends through superior firepower.
Recipe adapted from Chef's Toolbox (original here)
You will need a good-quality lidded sauté pan or the special Chef's Toolbox pizza pan described in the original recipe (see above); I say good quality because it must be relatively heavy and distribute heat well. I use a Calphalon sauté pan that I bought at a thrift store for $5 because someone over-heated it and its bottom had bulged out (a solid plank of wood and heavy hammer fixed that). A well-seasoned cast iron or enameled iron dutch oven or pan with lid would also work but your heat choices and possibly cooking time will differ from the recipe below.
The original recipe called for mixing self-rising flour with regular flour, yeast, olive oil and water in the pan itself—since I don't buy self-rising flour, I haven't done it this way. I just used regular flour and yeast and for convenience mixed the dough ahead of time at home, covered it in olive oil, and put it in a ziplock bag in the fridge. It will keep like that for several days, and develop good flavor. It will grow, and you can punch it back. Just remember to take it out of the fridge about an hour before you want to cook.
For dough made ahead:
Add 1 teaspoon yeast and 1 teaspoon honey or sugar to 1 cup warm water, let sit for about 5 minutes to dissolve and become active. Mix together 2 cups flour and a big pinch of salt, then add the water/yeast and a tablespoon of olive oil. Combine until a nice dough forms (you may have to add extra flour to keep it from being too sticky), then knead a little until it's smooth and slightly elastic. Rub with olive oil and put into a ziplock bag in the fridge.
For dough made in the pan:
In the pan mix together 1 cup self-rising flour, 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon yeast, 1 teaspoon honey or sugar, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and 1 cup warm water. Mix well with spatula until dough forms.
Note: This recipe makes a big-crusted deep pizza, good for lots of topping. If thinner is desired, try splitting it in half. Freeze other half (oiled and wrapped in plastic).
Once dough forms or is brought to room temperature, oil your fingers and pat the dough around the bottom of the pan and partway up the sides.
When camping, I use jarred sauce as the base, about 1/3 to 1/2 cup. We like any of Newman's Own.
Pepperoni or summer sausage (which is a staple in our camp larder), green peppers, olives, and mushrooms.
Pre-cooked chorizo (chile-spiced crumbly sausage) and green chiles.
Smoked ham, chipotle peppers, and red peppers.
Don't forget the cheese: for convenience, we splurge on pre-grated bags of mozzarela.
Cook on the stove-top over medium heat with the lid on for 10 minutes (I find that a heat-diffuser greatly reduces the risk of scorched crust on the bottom).
Open the lid just a crack and cook an additional 10 minutes. Check the bottom (slide a spatula under and lift gently) for doneness. It should be golden.
Now for the fun part:
Place the pizza pan on a metal table or rock away from anything flammable (needless to say, outside any tent or camper). Light your torch, adjust for medium output, and wave back and forth across the cheese and crust until the cheese is browned on the peaks and the crust is golden brown.
Voilá—perfect deep-dish pizza in 30 minutes on the stovetop, lovingly finished with a Snow Peak GigaPower Torch.
We've whipped up pizzas now on several trips, including outputting three in a row for a party of 8. It's pretty foolproof: the crust is always cooked-through with just the right amount of crunch on the bottom, while the toppings are nicely bubbly.
Next up: créme brûlée
Snow Peak's website is here. The GigaPower 2Way Torch is $40.
Sitting literally on the rim of the Grand Canyon and eating crème brûlée was, we have to admit, a bit amazing. And yet it was surprisingly easy.
Although a staple dessert in many fine restaurants, crème brûlée—"burnt cream"—is simply a cold custard topped by a thin layer of hardened, caramelized sugar. I made the custards at home and brought them along, but they could easily be prepared in the morning in camp (via a Camp Chef pressure cooker—8 minutes and you're done), refrigerated and ready to flame right before dinner.
You simply sprinkle a couple tablespoons of granulated sugar onto the cold custard (it must be cold) and flame with a GigaPower 2Way Torch on its lowest setting until the sugar melts. Careful not to burn it. Serve immediately.
The custard is fiendishly simple. This recipe is for four ramekins, prepared in a pressure cooker:
Whisk together 6 egg yolks with 5 tablespoons sugar until the sugar is dissolved well. Whisk in 2 cups heavy cream and a tablespoon of vanilla until combined (don't whip). Pour into ramekins and cover them with aluminum foil. Stack in your pressure cooker on a trivet, add water until it just comes up to cover the bottom of the trivet, and bring to high pressure, then adjust flame so there is a steady pressure. Cook 8 minutes and quick-release under running water. Test a custard: it should jiggle and be mostly firm, though it will set further in the fridge. Chill well before preparing caramel topping as above. (This recipe halves just fine, but reduce the cooking time by about 1.5 minutes.)