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Reviews > Cook Gear > Cooking Accessories > Backcountry Bakery Muffin Maker > Test Report by Kathleen Waters

BACKCOUNTRY BAKERY MUFFIN MAKER
TEST SERIES BY KATHLEEN WATERS
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - March 31, 2016
LONG TERM REPORT - August 16, 2016

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Kathleen Waters
EMAIL: kathy at backpackgeartest dot com
AGE: 65
LOCATION: Canon City, Colorado, USA
GENDER: F
HEIGHT: 5' 4" (1.60 m)
WEIGHT: 125 lb (56.70 kg)
WAIST: 28 " (71 cm)

Living in Colorado and being self-employed, I have ample opportunities to backpack. There are over 700,000 acres/280,000 hectares of public land bordering my 71-acre/29-hectare "backyard" in addition to all the other gorgeous locations which abound in Colorado. Over the past 15 years, my husband John and I have also had the good fortune to hike/snowshoe glaciers, rain forests, mountains and deserts in exotic locations, including New Zealand, Iceland, Costa Rica, Slovenia and Death Valley. My hiking style is comfortable, aiming for lightweight. I use a tent (rainfly if needed). Current pack averages 25 lb (11 kg) excluding food and water.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Backcountry Bakery
Year of Manufacture: 2016
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.backcountrybakery.com/
MSRP: US $29.95 (plus $5.00 shipping)
Listed Weight: 3 oz (85 g)
Measured Weight: 3.75 oz (106 g)
Listed Size: 6 inches (15 cm) in diameter
Measured Size: as listed

Other details:

* Made from aluminum and stainless steel
* Can bake up to 4 muffins at a time.
* Coated with a non-stick silicone coating (no Teflon!)
* Includes Muffin Tin, stand and handle

Made in ?? - I could not find no mention of where the product is manufacturered though the website does say the non-stick coating is made by a US company.
Muffin Maker Packaging

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

I saw the Muffin Maker at the Outdoor Retailer Show last year, so I pretty much knew what to expect. The website is also a great resource and jogged my over-taxed memory of the show, so there were no surprises when I opened the box and pulled out the Muffin Maker.

The Muffin Maker consists of a tin, stand and a "handle" for removing the tin from my cooking pot which will act as a Dutch oven in the field.

The stand attaches to the bottom of the tin and looks like an short over-sized Easter egg dipper - the kind kids use to dip hard-boiled eggs into food coloring dyes. The tin resembles a very large four-leaf clover with the four leaves acting as the muffin cups. The interior of the muffin cups is non-stick.

The tin on its stand measure just a shade over two inches (5 cm) and the handle adds 3/4 of an inch (2 cm) to the whole assembly. As stated on the website, the tin measures six inches (15 cm) in diameter.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

Before I even received the Muffin Maker, I had a pretty good idea of what was required to make backcountry baked goodies! The Backcountry Bakery website does an excellent job at providing instructions on how to use the Muffin maker. The website has a complete set of instructions, including diagrams, on the site along with a download link for a pdf file I can print out if I wish. There are also a couple of videos on the website which provide clear visual and audio directions. Once my Muffin Maker arrived I found a set of instructions, safety tips and recipes included with the tin, stand and handle.

The process is pretty straight forward and I'm not going to list the steps here in this initial report but will rather cover them as I explain my experiences with the Muffin Maker.

The Backcountry Bakery website also has a bunch of tips and recipes posted as well as some video recipes. I can't wait to try some of them, especially the Pumpkin Spice Muffins and the Rum Cake Muffins! Yum!

As for care instructions on the equipment itself, Backcountry Bakery advises me to gently wash the Muffin Maker with mild soap before first use and after each use, avoiding abrasive cleaners. Also, even though the Muffin Maker is a non-stick product, it is recommended to lightly coat it with oil prior to each use.

TRYING IT OUT - ASSEMBLY

Muffin Maker Assembled Okay, in the interest of full disclosure, I'm the person who when presented with only two possible choices will ALWAYS pick the wrong one first. I will put a tee on backwards, will grab the wrong screw. I will put the wrong tent pole in the wrong slot. Therefore, it did not surprise me in the least that I could mess up such a simple thing as putting the Muffin Maker together on first try.

There are only five parts: two screws, a washer, the stand and the tin itself. It took two tries - and reading the directions which simply say "assemble the Muffin Maker as shown on the right". Sure! While the drawing is perfectly clear, to the assembly-challenged person like me; "which screw is which"?

I confess. I ended up watching the website video which made me feel really dumb to have any hesitation about the assembly at all and the initial "wobble". It should have been perfectly obvious that the longer "screw" also acts as a "handle" so therefore must be the top "screw" and adds stability to the Muffin Maker tin itself.

I did get it though and "Ta-Da", I have a Muffin Maker!

I'm not sure exactly how, just yet, I will be packing the Muffin Maker in my backpack with my existing cooking system. I am sure I will not be disassembling the unit to be put back together in camp. I shudder to think of handling those tiny parts in an environment that would just love to swallow them up when I inevitably dropped them.

SUMMARY

Since my most frequent hiking companions include a professional chef and his equally talented wife, I generally tend to eat well on the trail - as long as they are cooking! Recently though, my daughter-in-law, Julia, and I have gotten very "into" dehydrating meals to enhance our backcountry meals and I have been holding my own against the chefs. Now with the Muffin Maker, I am so looking forward to wow-ing them with home/trail-made bake goods on our next trip in late April to Glenwood Canyon National Park in Arizona. But first, I need to get practicing! Gotta run, but come back in a couple of months to see if my muffins are delectable or detestable! Cheese Garlic Biscuits, anyone?


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Since I received the product for my field evaluation - approximately two months ago - I have used it in various locations and conditions, including:

1.) Fremont County, Colorado (my home "range") - this area is in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains with elevations ranging from 5500 ft (1700 m) to 9900 ft (3000 m). The terrain is mostly rather rough with lots of mud, loose rock and huge slabs of granite rock. Vegetation is scrubby Pinon Pine, Gamble Oak, Juniper, cactus and prairie grasses (or weeds, depending on who is talking!).

2.) Spent 10 days in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area/ Grand Staircase Escalante-National Monument, Arizona/Utah in May where the trekking was in rocky slot canyons, sandy (dry) river washes/ravines and steep slick rock. The area where we camped and backpacked was mostly barren, though it bordered Lake Powell at times.

3.) Did an overnight at Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado in an established campground set deep in a treed area where all the trails we wandered were also tree-covered and packed dirt.

4.) Over Memorial Day weekend, my husband, son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter explored and camped near the Blue Mesa Reservoir in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado. The terrain there is very rough with lots of trees, but also lots of rocky moderate-to-steep trails.

5.) Lastly, at Outdoor PressCamp in Park City, Utah, I spent three great afternoons, day hiking around the Deer Valley Ski Resort. As the name implies, lots of treed, very steep trails that are mainly used in the summer for mountain bikers, so narrow and bumpy, but dirt.

Weather conditions were pretty much the same through all locations (except Trip 2) and throughout the entire season. Hot, Hot and more Hot! Dry, Dry and more Dry! Except for one day in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (and Trip 2), we did not have any rain at all. And for most of this summer, temperatures have been above 90 F (32 C) with several days in Gunnison over 100 F (38 C)! Can't wait for autumn weather to kick in!

Trip 2, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Arizona, saw rain every single night and morning. Temperatures during the day never rose above 65 F (18 C), averaged 58 F (14 C) and dipped down to a low of 42 F (6 C) at night.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

To be perfectly honest, I never did get around to practicing with the Muffin Maker before my trip to Glen Canyon Recreation Area in Arizona/Utah. Which means, the first time I did try it out, was in the field, er, desert, sheltered under an overhang of rock.

I had packed the Maker inside a pot (it just barely fit) along with a pre-packaged biscuit mix. Since I was hiking with others, I had the luxury of carrying a "dedicated" pot to use as the Dutch oven. My daughter-in-law, Julia, carried another pot to use for our hot lunch.

I used a medium flame on my canister cookstove and it took just about 25 minutes for the muffins to be cooked through and nicely browned. I used 1/2 Betty Crocker Garlic Butter Biscuit Mix which I had pre-measured out at home and placed in a zip-locked baggie. I only planned to make one batch (four) of biscuits and the mix actually makes two batches of four.
Making Biscuits for Lunch
Julia Checking on Lunch Biscuits

Having watched the video on the website, I decided to not even check the biscuits until 20 minutes into the cooking time. No sense letting all that nice hot air out by constantly lifting the lid. After one peek at 20 minutes, I was able to tell another five minutes or so would do it (the biscuits weren't quite browned). And five minutes, it was. The biscuits turned out perfectly - nice looking and tasty!
Biscuits in Muffin Maker
Almost Done!
Ready to Eat Biscuits
Cheesy Garlic Biscuits, Anyone?

My second effort with the Muffin Maker, Julia and I made Betty Crocker Brownies. This time we were back in camp, relaxing after dinner and craving chocolate. One package made eight brownies by filling the Muffin Maker 3/4 full. Again, we used our cookstove on medium high heat and cooked the brownies for 25 minutes. This resulted in brownies that were perfectly moist and chewy with a nice crunchy crust. Since we were not going anywhere (except to bed at some point) we decided we needed more chocolate and put on a second batch. This time we used a slightly lower flame because the pot and the Muffin Maker were still slightly warm. It still took 25 minutes but the crust was softer. Both batches were delicious! Note - there are no pictures of the brownies. They vanished too quickly for pictures!

I've tried several other off-the-shelf biscuit mixes (Betty Crocker makes several flavors) as well as altering the yield quantity of my own muffin recipes. Each time, my trail mates and I have been very pleased with the results of the muffins or biscuits..

I found that I do need to make sure the inside of the Muffin Maker is nicely coated with vegetable oil. A neat trick for carrying vegetable oil when backpacking - I soak individual sterile round cotton pads, the kind used for cosmetic application, and put them in a zipper-top plastic bag until I need to use them. When I want to coat the Maker, I just wipe the inside of the tin with the pad. Works great and the pad is easily disposed of afterwards without the mess of carrying a (possibly) leaky bottle.

Using the oil to coat the Maker ensures the contents will "fall" out easily and also makes clean-up much easier. I pretty much can just brush out the crumbs once the Maker cools. Once I am home, I generally soak the Maker for a bit in soapy water to get it clean for my next trip.

I've only had one tiny - and I mean "tiny" - problem with the Muffin Maker and from the very first time I assembled it, I just KNEW it would happen at some point. I haven't a clue, but somehow, someway, somewhere, I lost the tiny washer from the "handle" portion of the Muffin Maker. @*#&@(&*%(&! Of course, it happened in the middle of a trip! And of course, I was not in the habit of carrying spare washers with me in my emergency kit!

Without that washer, the handle portion of the Muffin Maker "collapses" and there is no way to remove the Maker from the Dutch oven easily. I ended up just dumping the whole thing out on a (brushed-off) rock and quickly scooped up the muffins before they got dirty (the 20-second rule).

Once home, my husband came to my rescue with another washer and now, I DO carry a spare washer in my emergency kit. At least I learned something from THIS mistake!

SUMMARY

I really do like this Backcountry Muffin Maker! At first I thought it would be just a novelty item for me - something to impress my trail-mates, now and then. But I've found we really enjoy having a treat on the trail, especially mid-afternoon tea and brownies (there's that chocolate thing again).

I always backpack and hike with others, so there is always the ability to divvy up gear. This means there is almost always room for me to take the Muffin Maker along. It's sitting right now in my pile of stuff that I'm gathering for my upcoming trip to Montana and Canada in two weeks. On this trip, we will be munching on brownies (of course); some honey butter, three cheeses and cheese garlic biscuits as well as Julia's famous biscuits and gravy backpack-style. Dang, now I'm hungry!

Thank you to Backcountry Bakery and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to eat better than ever in the backcountry!

Kathleen (Kathy) Waters

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.

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