This old staple of the vaqueros is still popular today
In June of 2005, then Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed into law a bill designating pan de campo as the Official State Bread of Texas. The Legislature declared it “only right and proper,” according to reports.
Pan de campo, which means camp bread and also called “cowboy bread,” originated with the vaqueros of South Texas. It’s a quick bread that was a staple of early Texans and remains popular today, celebrated at festivals and baking competitions throughout the state.
“I know a lot of you are thinking that sourdough was the bread of the cowboys,” food writer John Raven wrote in a 2005 Texas Cooking article about pan de campo. “Well, if you had a chuckwagon and a cook to man it, sourdough was a real treat. But if you were eating out of your saddlebags, a jug of sourdough starter was a mite difficult to manage.”
The classic pan de campo is baked in a Dutch oven, but also can be cooked in a lidded skillet or even fried. Ingredients are similar across the spectrum of recipes, with choices of fat and liquids being the main variables. Lard is traditional, but bacon fat, shortening, butter or oil will work fine. Buttermilk, milk or water can be used with little difference in the final product.
PAN DE CAMPO
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1⁄2 teaspoon granulated sugar
6 tablespoons lard, bacon grease or shortening
3⁄4 cup water, milk or buttermilk
Preheat oven to 450 F. Stir together the dry ingredients. Blend in lard until mixture is crumbly. Add milk a bit at a time until you have a not-too-sticky dough.
Place on a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute, press into a 1⁄2-inch thick circle, and prick the top with a fork.
Melt enough lard to coat the bottom of the Dutch oven and place dough in the bottom. Bake for 6 minutes, turn bread over and bake for 6 more minutes, until done. Serve immediately.