Pan Biscuits

In August, my husband and I are taking an Alpine climbing class through the American Alpine Institute – which finishes with a summit of Mt. Baker. While we have been backpacking for more than 10 years, we have never climbed a mountain before. Last week we received our itinerary, packing list and reccomended training schedule! I have many things to purchase and rent, and a whole lot of training to do. As part of our preparation, I have planned to work on some new recipes.

Since backpacking is one of the only places I think I can manage to eat biscuits & gravy one hundred percent guilt free – I have decided to add it to the menu for this adventure.

On Sunday, I took my new biscuit recipe out to the test kitchen – Castle Peak (up at Donner Pass).

My test kitchen is at 8,320 feet. On what I call “lunch rock” about two-thirds of the way up to Castle Peak. We have been out on this snowshoe trek three times this year, and this is the first time we made it all the way to the top. I am pretty sure it was the biscuits that sustained us.


I read up on backcountry baking, most of what I found online involved baking instruments and contraptions – which I wanted to avoid. I also wanted something that was easy to clean up and did not create too much waste that I would eventually have to pack out. This is a pretty standard biscuit recipe, with the baking powder adjusted for the elevation. Powdered milk is substituted for the real thing, and water is added on the trail. These biscuits are a bit on the savory side, since I intend them to go along with sausage gravy in the near future.

Backcountry Biscuits – Makes 12 biscuits
2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 cup powdered milk
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup all vegetable shortening
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 cup water
1 Tbsp olive oil – or olive oil packet
1 ziploc bag – gallon size
Medium-size cook pot with lid

At home:
Add flour, milk, baking powder, salt, and pepper to ziploc bag.
Add shortening to bag and work in to flour mixture with hands
Place olive oil packet or sealed container of olive oil in ziploc
Seal ziploc bag, removing as much air as possible
Write “1 cup” on bag with a sharpie

On the trail:
Remove olive oil from ziploc bag and pour 1 cup of water into bag and seal.
Massage the outside of the bag, working the water into the flour mixture until a thick dough forms. Set aside.
Rub a small amount of olive oil on the bottom and half way up sides of pot. Place pot on lit stove.
Rub a small amount of olive oil on your hands and reach into the bag and grab a golf ball size amount of dough.
Roll dough quickly in your hands to form a ball. Press ball between your hands to make a patty.
Place biscuit patty in pan. Continue until bottom of pan is full.
Place lid on pan and cook on medium heat until the bottom of the biscuits are brown and dough has begun to rise.
Flip biscuits with a fork or spoon and place lid back on.
Cook biscuits until second side is brown and crisp.
Remove from pan and repeat process with remaining dough.
Serve with jam, butter or gravy.