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Reviews > Cook Gear > Cooking Accessories > Backcountry Bakery Muffin Maker > Test Report by Andrea Murland

Backcountry Bakery Muffin Maker
Test Series by Andrea Murland

Initial Report - April 18, 2016
Long Term Report - September 18, 2016

Tester Information

Name: Andrea Murland
Email: amurland AT shaw DOT ca
Age: 30
Location: Elkford, British Columbia, Canada
Gender: Female
Height: 5 ft 2 in (1.57 m)
Weight: 130 lb (59 kg)

I began hiking frequently in 2006 and have since hiked in Western Canada, Australia, and spent 2 months backpacking in the Alps. I spend most weekends either day-hiking or on 2-3 day backpacking trips, with some longer trips when I can manage them. I also snowshoe and ski in the winter, but don’t have a lot of experience with winter in the backcountry yet. Elevation is typically 500-3,000 m (1,600-10,000 ft), in the Canadian Rockies and the Selkirk, Purcell, and Monashee ranges. I try for a light pack, but I don’t consider myself a lightweight backpacker.

Packaged Muffin Maker

Initial Report – April 18, 2016

Product Information

Manufacturer: Backcountry Bakery
Manufacturer's URL: www.backcountrybakery.com
Model: Muffin Maker
Year of Manufacture: 2016
MSRP: US $29.99
Listed Weight: 3 oz (85 g)
Measured Weight: 3.75 oz (106 g)
Listed Dimensions: 6 in (15.2 cm) diameter
Measured Dimensions: 6.1 in (15.6 cm) diameter, 3 in (7.6 cm) height assembled
Material: Stainless steel & aluminum. Non-stick silicone coating
Care Instructions: Wash with mild soap before use. Coat with oil for use.
Wash with mild soap after use. Avoid abrasive cleaners.

Description & Initial Impressions

The Backcountry Bakery Muffin Maker is a muffin tin for backcountry use with a backpacking stove. The tin has four muffin cups and attaches to a stand for sitting in a cooking pot. The tin itself is coated in a non-stick coating and each cup holds about 60 mL (2 fl oz) of fluid. The stand connects to the muffin tin with a screw, and holds the tin off the bottom of the pot. Part of the stand assembly also creates a small handle which protrudes above the muffin tin, for lifting the device out of a pot once cooking is complete.

The Muffin Maker appears well made, with no defects noticeable. It seemed smaller than I expected, though it measures to the dimensions that were listed! The instructions and recipes that came with the unit (also available online) seem easy to follow and straightforward. Experimentation to come!
Muffin Maker

Trying It Out

The first thing I did when I started looking at the Muffin Maker was assemble it. It came with a clear assembly diagram, but my brain wasn’t grasping how it all worked and I had to watch the video on the website. It all makes sense now! The unit was easy to put together. The Muffin Maker fits in my largest cooking pot, which is just a simple stainless steel backpacking pot.

I haven’t tried to cook with the muffin maker yet, but a few things have come to mind already that I will have to experiment with. I would like to pack it assembled to reduce the chance to losing little parts, but will have to work out the best way to do that without wasting space. I will also have to figure out how to carry oil, as I’ve never done that and it seems like a messy proposition. And, of course, I’ll have to rethink my backcountry menu to include muffins and brownies!

Summary

The Backcountry Bakery Muffin Maker looks like an interesting item to mix up my backcountry cooking. There are a couple of logistical things I have to work out, and then we’ll see how it works! I am looking forward to being able to surprise my backpacking buddies with brownies!

Long Term Report – September 18, 2016

Field Conditions

Over the past five months, I have used the Backcountry Bakery on three main trips. I used it only in camp, so those conditions are summarized below.

Thompson Falls, Montana
Car camping, camp elevation 720 m (2360 ft).
Weather: Sun, temperature about 20 C (68 F).
Cooked: muffins (once).

Lake O’Hara, Canadian Rockies
3 nights at a basecamp, camp elevation 2000 m (6560 ft).
Weather: Sun, cloud, rain. Temperatures 5-20 C (41-68 F).
Cooked: eggs (once), muffins (twice), biscuits (once), cake/brownies (four times).

Mosquito Creek, Canadian Rockies
3-day/2-night backpacking trip. Camp elevation 2000 m (6560 ft).
Weather: Sun, cloud, rain. Temperatures 5-20 C (41-68 F).
Cooked: eggs (once), muffins (once), brownies (twice).

Observations

General Function:
The Backcountry Bakery worked generally as described. I did have a few struggles with it, but it cooked some tasty things. I didn’t find any “just-add-water” mixes for anything in my grocery store, which may have contributed to the challenge.

I chose to carry it assembled, partially because I didn’t want to lose any pieces, and partially because it didn’t compress or nest or anything that made it take up less space un-assembled. I carried it inside my largest pot, with whatever other small things I could fit in with it. I did have to change my backpacking style while using the bakery, as I typically travel with a small pot and have things like my stove packed in it. With the large pot and the bakery in it, I had to increase the size of pack that I carried to accommodate the bulk, which I didn’t really like.

I carried canola oil in the form of paper towels pre-soaked in oil in a zippered plastic bag. To grease the bakery before use, I would take a paper towel and wipe the inside of the bakery’s cups, trying to get as much oil as I could onto the surface. I still got oil all over my fingers during the process and had to find somewhere to wipe my fingers.

Through the course of the test, it seemed that food sticking to the bakery got worse. I’m not sure if that’s due to changes on the surface with use, or my technique. I tried to get as much oil as I could onto the cups each time. I used canola oil every time except one. Cooking cake one time I used butter and spread it onto the cups before filling them. The butter didn’t make a noticeable difference.

My pot seemed to handle the heat of dry cooking well. A few times it made loud sounds as it “popped” into a different shape during cooking, but there isn’t any lasting deformation. The pot is more discoloured than it used to be. A couple of times what I was cooking overflowed the bakery’s cups, and that was not good for the pot. Brownie batter on the bottom of a very hot pot makes a very burnt mess.

As one would expect, the bakery gets very hot during use. Once the food was cooked, I generally lifted the bakery out and put it on the table to cool for a few seconds before trying to get the food out. Sometimes I also put the pot on the table. With dry cooking, the pot bottom was hotter than normal, and the bottom coil of the bakery was very hot. On a painted picnic table I noticed that the paint was sticking to the pot and bakery and coming off the table. Oops! I spent some time scraping paint off my pot and the bakery and then had to try and find something to put on the table as a trivet in the future. I usually only carry one towel and I was using that as a pot holder so I didn’t burn myself, so that wasn’t as easy as it sounds.

Cleanup of the Backcountry Bakery was a bit of a pain. The easiest way seemed to be to fill the cups with water once the food was out, put a bit of water in my pot, and heat the water. Then I was able to scrub the bakery pan with a nylon scrubber. Sometimes it still took quite a bit of coaxing to get the food off. I usually pick foods that don’t stick to my pot, so my typical backcountry packing doesn’t always involve a scrubber and never involves heating water. I usually wash in cold water.

My fuel usage definitely increased during this test. I usually just have to boil water or cook soup or pasta, but in this test I was constantly cooking. For dinners, I still had to make my regular dinner but then also make biscuits on top of it. For breakfast I usually just boil water. Over the course of this test I still had to heat water for warm drinks, but also had to cook eggs or muffins. And since I never cook my dessert that was an added drain to fuel. Additionally, I was heating water for washing dishes, which I don’t normally do.

I found that the Backcountry Bakery was a fun novelty item in camp with a group. Everyone was interested in it, and other people brought cake mix to try. It became a bit of evening entertainment.

Eggs:
I cooked poached eggs using the Backcountry Bakery four times: once at home as a test, once at Lake O’Hara, once at Mosquito Creek, and once while car camping. I followed the instructions I found on the website. Eggs were one of the most successful items I cooked. My test eggs at home I overcooked so that the yolks were hard, but I did better with the backcountry attempts. As well, since the bakery holds four eggs and I only eat two, I had some pretty happy hiking partners who got some bonus eggs for their breakfast. The eggs did stick a bit around the edges, but they cleaned up pretty easily with some hot water and a rough sponge.
Eggs

Muffins:
I tried muffins on four occasions. I couldn’t find a “just add water” muffin mix, but the website recipes suggested using pancake mix. Well, I couldn’t find any pancake mix that was truly “just add water” either, but I did find one mix for whole wheat pancakes/waffles that said an egg was optional. The mix called for water or milk, so my standard recipe was the mix with skim milk powder and either raisins or dried cranberries. The first attempt at muffins (the first row in the picture below) was pretty successful; they didn’t stick too badly and were edible, if a bit dry. I was paranoid about adding too much water, so I figured I’d added not quite enough and the fruit had absorbed a bunch. Further attempts (the assortment of photos in the second row, from multiple tries) were less successful. Despite adding more water, the muffins were always dry. They also stuck to the pan worse over time.
Muffins

Biscuits:
Biscuits were the most successful item I made. The mix (which actually was “just add water”) came with the Backcountry Bakery, and I haven’t found it in my local store. The biscuits turned out well and didn’t stick.
Biscuits

Brownies/Cake:
My various attempts to make dessert in the Backcountry Bakery were mostly disastrous. Again, I couldn’t find a “just add water” mix, so I had a brownie mix which also called for egg, which I wasn’t adding. Some hiking partners also brought some vanilla cake mix, which also called for egg. I don’t know if the lack of egg in the mix was the reason for general failure here, or something else. I started with brownies, and the first attempt (the first row in the picture below) was reasonably successful. The brownies came out of the pan in little pieces, but the edges were crispy and it wasn’t stuck TOO badly. They tasted good, at least. We tried some cake mix as well (in the second row, to the right, in the photo), and it was not too bad. We kept having leftover bits of brownie and cake mix after filling the cups, so I tried a couple of mixed cake/brownie combinations (left and middle sets of pictures in the second row), and those didn’t turn out very well. I think the two mixes didn’t cook at the same rate. They were both pretty stuck to the pan and came out in pieces. On my trip into Mosquito Creek, I tried making brownies both nights (the bottom row of pictures). The first night the mix just boiled in the pan and never rose or turned into anything resembling brownies. I ended up with thick, almost caramelized, brownie goop in the bottom of the pan that had to be scraped (while it was soft) and chipped (as it hardened) out. The next night I got something that slightly resembled brownies but was still very stuck and had to be pried out of the pan. Thankfully, at that point I’d finished the box of brownie mix and gave up on them!
Brownies & Cake

Durability:
The first item on this list is more about the assembly. As I mentioned, I carried the bakery assembled for the duration of the test. However, the screw holding the handle and holder on loosened itself frequently, I assume due to expansion/contraction of the metals. I would lift out my food and discover that the whole thing was wobbly. Good thing I carry a multi-tool with a screwdriver on it! It was more of an annoyance than anything, but without the right tool in the field I’d have been in trouble.

All four of the cups on the bakery show some spots where the non-stick coating is gone. The worst spots can be seen as shiny bits in the photo below. I know some of this happened while I scraping cooked brownie goop out of the cups. So, the non-stick coating did not stand up to vigorous scraping and hacking with a plastic knife.
Non-stick Coating

Summary

I had limited success with the Backcountry Bakery. Eggs and biscuits worked well, muffins were ok, and cake/brownies were a disaster. The best thing about it was the novelty and entertainment in camp for a group. I will probably spend some time trying some more desserts at home (where I have good cleanup facilities) over the winter, and if that’s successful it may remain on my packing list for group trips, especially if we’re hiking from a basecamp so that I don’t have to carry the bigger pack and more fuel every day. For solo trips the Backcountry Bakery won’t be on the packing list.

Thumbs Up:
Entertainment in camp
Good poached eggs

Thumbs Down:
Food stuck, increased cooking cleanup
Muffins and cake/brownies were mediocre (or worse)
Bulky and had to carry a big pot (and bigger pack)
Increased fuel usage

Thanks to Backcountry Bakery and BackpackGearTest.org for the chance to test this interesting cooking device! It was a fun test!



Read more reviews of Backcountry Bakery gear
Read more gear reviews by Andrea Murland

Reviews > Cook Gear > Cooking Accessories > Backcountry Bakery Muffin Maker > Test Report by Andrea Murland



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