I can’t get enough of chuckwagon cooking so what better place to submerse myself in this tradition than at the World Championship Chuckwagon Cookoff at the Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium in Ruidoso, NM. Twenty wagons and a team of cooks trek across the country to arrive in the mountainous, pine tree town.
Terry Chandler put me in contact with his buddy, Homer Robertson, who was competing in the cookoff. With a lot of prize money on the line and a time crunch, I was thankful to be welcomed into camp…you know how the saying goes “too many cooks in the kitchen.”
I arrived on a bright, sunny morning to canvas teepees marking every campsite and fire pits heating dutch-ovens over hot coals and rolling flames. The woodsmoke tear gassed me several times but the smell of fresh biscuits and apricot cobbler kept luring me closer to get a look inside the heavy, black, ash covered pots.
Homer was waiting for me by his wagon and handed me an apron, it was time to make sourdough rolls. I couldn’t believe the large size of the metal bowl we were mixing our dough in. Without measuring, he scooped out about 5 cups of his sourdough starter (which was stored in a 5 gallon bucket) and added flour until it was the perfect consistency. He also had a special trick for ensuring the dough would rise in the high altitude and cold mornings at Ruidoso. We then dipped each roll in butter and let them rise and then cook.
Next up was the apricot cobbler. I asked how a chuckwagon would get fresh apricots out on a drive, and Homer told me they were using dried apricots instead. I thought to myself, “Now that would be an interesting texture.” We loaded the pot down with apricots, butter, sugar, flour, and spices and let that cook.
Now it was time for the competition and lunch! I visited several of the wagons and was so impressed with all the dishes! I decided to skinnyfy my favorites at the ranch, which happened to be the rolls and the cobbler…hey I love carbs! Little did I know that you don’t just one day wake up and decide to make sourdough anything- I needed a starter. The only experience I had with sourdough was eating it as Grandmama always had a fresh loaf of sourdough bread whenever we came in from riding horses at the ranch. I saw her jar of starter in the fridge but never thought much of it.
I decided to use a sourdough starter recipe that included active dry yeast to ensure I would have a starter ready for the show. I was going out of town so Ty would be stirring it twice a day for me while I was gone. I’ve included the recipe I used for it! I’m so happy with how my whole wheat rolls turned out and everyone loved them!! They were so soft and the sourdough flavor was delicious.
I was able to make a simple but delicious healthy apricot cobbler for you as well. I already love coconut butter (which is blended coconut meat) and baking it turned it into the perfect crust, almost shortbread like. I keep taking “just another bite” from it straight out of the fridge. I love a good hot cobbler too, but this one was amazing chilled!! Hope you enjoy!
Whole Wheat Sourdough Rolls
1 cup sourdough starter
½ stick butter, softened (plus more for rolling dough balls in)
1/8- 1/4 c. honey
1 cup almond milk
3-4 cups whole wheat pastry flour *(you may need more or less depending on the consistency of your starter)
1-1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp baking powder
Whisk the butter and the honey in a large bowl until well blended
Add the eggs, milk, and sourdough starter. Mix until well blended.
Add 2.5 cups of flour, baking powder and the salt, mixing until combined. Mix with a spoon and then your hands until no longer tacky adding more of flour as needed. The dough should still look sticky and may stick to the bowl but shouldn’t stick to your finger when you touch it. You want the dough to look a little wet as whole wheat absorbs a lot of moisture.
Let sit in bowl, covered, to rise for one hour. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead a couple of times, then let rest 3 minutes.
Divide into 12 equal pieces, shaping each into a ball. Dip the ball in melted butter and place in a buttered 13×9-inch baking dish or cast iron skillet with the pieces touching.
Let rise about 5-10 minutes
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
Whole Wheat Sourdough Starter Recipe
In a 4-quart nonmetallic container, dissolve yeast in warm water (110° to 115°F); let stand 5 minutes. Add whole wheat flour and sugar. Stir until blended. The mixture will be thick; any remaining lumps will dissolve during the fermentation process. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let stand in warm place for 5 days, stirring 2 to 3 times each day. The starter will rise and fall during the fermentation period; it becomes thinner as it stands. A temperature of 80° to 85°F is best for developing the sour flavor. When the starter is developed, it is bubbly and may have a yellow liquid layer on top; stir starter before using. The starter can now be used for baking or placed in the refrigerator for later use.
To use the starter, measure out desired amount as specified in the recipe. Let refrigerated starter come to room temperature before using; this will take about 4 hours.
Replenish remaining starter with 3 parts whole wheat flour to 2 parts water and 1 teaspoon sugar or honey. For example if you use one cup of starter, replenish with 1 cup of flour and 2/3 cup water. Stir until blended, some lumps may remain. Cover loosely and let stand in warm place for 10 to 12 hours or overnight. The starter will rise and become bubbly. Stir and store in refrigerator.
If the starter is not used every week, stir in 1 teaspoon sugar to keep it active.
12 oz of dried apricots
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp allspice
1 tsp vanilla
2 T honey
1 T flaxseed meal mixed with 2 T water (Let sit for about 2 minutes)
3 T of coconut butter/manna or more softened (not melted)
1 tsp almond extract *optional
Cut dried apricots in half.
Put apricots in a pot and cover completely with water
Bring apricots to a boil and boil until water is almost completely evaporated. Do not let the apricots burn
Add the cinnamon, allspice, vanilla, almond extract, honey, and flaxseed mixture to the same pot as the apricots and small amount of water. Stir well
Pour the apricots into an 8x 8 dish or a cast iron skillet
Make sure the coconut butter is softened by placing the jar into some hot water for a few minutes. You don’t want it to be runny. You want it to be the texture of peanut butter.
Spread the coconut butter on top of the fruit mixture and spread it around with the back of your spoon.
Bake at 400 for about 15-20 minutes until the top is browned
You can eat it while it’s hot, but the topping really sets once it is cooled and refrigerated making it more like a crust.
Store in refrigerator