Monday, November 21, 2011

Bread, Bread, Bread...The Staple Of Life

First off, I would like to take a few minutes to talk about wheat allergies.  This is the subject of much fear in the prepper community, and I’m not really sure why. First of all, if you are allergic to wheat, you probably already know it.  Secondly, most of us eat a fair amount of wheat in our day to day diets already.  Muffins, or cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, dinner rolls at suppertime.  Wheat is a huge part of our lives already.  If you plan on storing wheat berries by the bucketful, and then shoveling them down your gully 3 to 4 times a day, 365 days a year, then you will likely suffer from digestive problems, and this should not be confused with wheat allergies.  It would happen if you did this with rice for example.  A major dietary change especially one that has you eating much larger amounts of anything that you normally eat day to day, but in moderation will lead to upset stomach, constipation, diarrhea, or any number of rejection methods your body can come up with.  Just to reiterate, store what you eat, and eat what you store.

Storing flour does work for quite a while.  Many people will tell you that the shelf life of plain old white flour is way too limited to consider storing it for any amount of time.  Freeze your flour for a couple of days, then store it in a cool, dark place in airtight containers and it will last long enough to be used when proper rotation practices are observed...first in, first out.  I have used flour a year old, and guess what, it still made bread.

Think for a minute how much bread you eat right now.  When you consider baked goods such as muffins, or other bread products like pancakes, pita, and the like, well you will find that you eat quite a bit of bread.  So, whether you store flour, or plan on grinding your own from wheat berries, diversity will be key to avoiding appetite fatigue.  There are many ways you can prepare bread and just because you are living off of food storage, doesn’t mean your choices are limited.
Basic bread is quite simple to make. The recipe is really very simple.  This should work for either conventional or bread machines.  As a side note, regular yeast works in bread machines.  Forget what the instruction book says, trust me, I do it, it works.
Basic white bread
I spent some time trying to pick the perfect recipe for demonstration, but figured that everyone has their own favorite, so I’ll skip that part.  There are basic ingredients to bread.
Liquid (water or milk)
Fat (butter or oil)
Sweetener (sugar, honey)
Salt as a yeast starter
Of course, your recipe may require an egg or some other ingredient, but let’s stick to these ingredients for now.
This is how it works...yeast is a fungus, a living organism.  In it store bought form it is dormant.  When yeast is awakened with salt, yes, that’s what the salt is for, it will begin to feed on sugars, producing co2 gas, which makes the batter, flour & liquid rise.  The fat helps cook the whole thing and creates the crust.
First, you want to wake up your yeast and get it feeding.  To do this add yeast to a lukewarm liquid with the salt and sugar.  Stir and wait for it to bubble up and get nice and foamy...your yeast is now ready to use.  Add your fat to this and then start mixing it with the flour.  It will get nice and sticky and begin to take on an elastic consistency.  You can adjust the flour or liquid as needed...practice will give you the experience to know when it is just right.  Cover the mixing bowl with a clean towel and let the yeast work it’s magic.  Keep your dough warm, in a kitchen with the oven on for example. Don’t make it hot by putting it on the stove, this will kill the yeast.  When the dough has doubled in size, punch it will literally deflate.  Place the dough into a loaf pan and let it double up again.  Bake it until golden brown and it sounds hollow when tapped.  See you favourite recipe for exact time and temp.

After a disaster, there will be so much to do that you won’t find the time to knead out a loaf of bread, and likely, you won’t have an oven working to bake it in.  Here is a great way to have fresh bread for the family without spending all that time kneading. 
The first thing you will need is a good dutch oven and a fire to cook in it with.
Here is the recipe...
  • 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon of active dry yeast
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 5/8 cups of warm water
Here’s how it’s done...
  • Whisk the dry ingredients together thoroughly. Add the water and stir until a wet dough forms. Continue stirring until the dough incorporates all the loose flour in the bowl, about 60 seconds in total.
  • Cover the bowl with a towel and rest in a warm place for 12 to 18 hours. It will double in size, bubble and long gluten strands will form. Lightly flour your hands and the work surface then remove the dough from the bowl. Quickly form it into a ball. Thoroughly flour a cotton towel and rest the dough on it. Cover it with another floured cotton towel.
  • Rest the dough a second time. In 2 to 3 hours it will rise again and double in size once more.
  • When the dough has fully risen slide your hand under the towel and quickly invert the delicate dough into the dutch oven. Shake the pot a bit to settle it then place the lid on the pot and place it on hot coals and place a few coals on top.  Bread bakes at about 450 so you will want quite a few coals.
  • Bake for 30 minutes with the lid then remove it and bake for 15 minutes more.
This is a great way to make bread when time doesn’t allow for a lot of kneading.  Put together the dough right after diner and you should have a fresh loaf for the next evening’s meal.
Bannok for Bug Out...
If you need to bug out or want to have something for the get home bag, look to bannok.  Bannok is an old native bread that needs no rising time and is simple to mix up on the go.
Try this recipe...
·         2 cups flour
·         2 tablespoons baking powder
·         2 tablespoons sugar
·         2 pinches salt
Mix the dry ingredients well and then slowly mix in some warm water until you get a dough.  That’s it.  To bake, use the dutch oven method, fry in a pan or wrap around a stick & cook over an open fire.  As you can see, the dry ingredients can be premixed in a baggie and tucked into the bug out bag.
Other alternatives to traditional bread loaves include baking powder biscuits, muffins (lots of just add water mixes out there), pitas, and tortillas.  Recipes for all of these can be found on the internet. Find some that fit your food storage well.

So what happens when SHTF and you run out of yeast?  Well there is yeast in the air we breathe all around us.  All you need to do is set out a bowl of food to capture it.  This is called sourdough.  To make sourdough bread, you need a sourdough starter. 
Here is what you will need...
A glass bowl to keep it in...clear glass with a lid will be best as you can use this to keep your starter in.
Yup, that’s it.
In your bowl, mix
·         ½ cup flour
·         ½ cup water
Day 1
Combine the flour and water in the container until all the flour has been absorbed and there are no more dry particles. It will look like a sticky, thick dough. Scrape down the sides and cover. Put the container somewhere with a consistent room temperature (like the top of the refrigerator) and let sit for 24 hours.
Day 2
·         ½ cup flour
·         ½ cup water

Your starter should be fairly thick and soupy. You may see a few small bubbles here and there. This is good! The bubbles mean that wild yeast from the air and the flour itself have started making themselves at home in your starter. They will eat the sugars in the the flour and release carbon dioxide (the bubbles) and alcohol. They will also increase the acidity of the mixture, preventing other 'bad' microbes from growing.
Add the fresh water and flour. Stir vigorously to combine everything and incorporate more oxygen into the mixture. Scrape down the sides, cover, and let it sit for 24 hours.
Day 3
·         ½ cup flour
·         ½ cup water

By day three, your starter should be getting nice and bubbly (see below), be the consistency of pancake batter, and have roughly doubled in size. If you taste a little (Go on! Try it!), the mixture should make your mouth pucker with sour and vinegar flavors. It will also smell musty and fermented, a bit like grain alcohol.
Go ahead and mix in the fresh ingredients as with Day 2, cover, and let sit for 24-hours.
Day 4
Repeat day 3.
Day 5
By day 5 (or even day 4) your starter will be ripe and ready to use. The surface will look frothy and fermented (see below), and if you've been using a clear container, you can see an intricate network of bubbles when you hold it up. It will smell and taste very pungent and tangy like, well, concentrated sourdough!
At this point, your sourdough is ready to be used, or you can cover and store it in the fridge for up to one week. After a week, you'll need to refresh the starter by taking out a cup or so of starter (to use or discard) and then "feeding" it with 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of filtered water. Likewise, after using some of your starter in a recipe, you can replenish what's left with equal parts flour and water.
Starter will keep indefinitely as long as you feed it every week or so. Treat it like a household plant that needs to be watered and fertilized regularly. It's very hardy and will even perk back up with a few daily feedings if you've neglected it too long. If a clear liquid forms on the top, just stir it in (this is actually alcohol from the wild yeast). The only time you should throw away the starter completely is if that liquid has a pinkish hue, which indicates that the starter has spoiled.
To use your starter, simply replace ½ cup flour and ½ cup water in your favorite recipe for 1 cup of starter and forget about the yeast.  Then, replace the used starter with ½ cup four and ½ cup water to keep it up.

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