Pan de Campo -- a Staple of the Campfire

by Fran Stephenson | Jun 07, 2012
Pan de Campo was a simple bread served to cowboys and vaqueros with their evening meal. This traditional recipe came from the Rio Grande Valley.

Vaqueros and Cowboys Expected Pan De Campo with Their Evening Meal

The meals for Vaqueros and Cowboys working on South Texas ranches depended on the cook and crew and where they came from. For the most part, vaqueros and cowboys on South Texas ranches expected Pan de Campo with their meals.

The classic pan de campo is baked in a Dutch oven. It comes out as a round loaf an inch and a half or two inches thick. It can also be cooked in a skillet with a lid, or it can be fried. If things are really scarce, you can wrap the dough around a stick and cook it over coals. Modern cooks can bake pan de campo in the oven.

Valley-style Pan de Campo

  • 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • hot water

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut in the shortening. Add just enough hot water to make a thick dough. Turn the dough out on a floured surface and knead two to three minutes or until smooth. Don't overwork it.

Divide the dough into two portions. Let it rest covered with a damp cloth for 15 to 20 minutes.

Form into rounds and bake. (Choose your baking style: Dutch oven or conventional oven. A Conventional oven should be heated to 350F degrees and you will bake until golden brown. Note: the crust may be softer than with traditional methods.)

Cooking Chemistry Note: the small amount of baking powder called for in the recipe indicates that the shortening is relied on to make the bread rise by making steam pockets in form in the dough. If your first batch doesn’t rise enough to suit you, try a heaping teaspoon of baking powder in your next recipe.