Baking Bread without Power
Bread is the staff of life, so they say, and it’s no wonder. Bread provides pure carbohydrate calories which translate into energy for the body. The density and calories in bread also make it filling, an important aspect in survival settings. Maybe just as important is the comforting aspect of bread: fresh and warm makes most things better.
It’s commonplace to store grains as part of an emergency plan or food storage. While grains like wheat kernels will store for dozens of years if kept dry, the challenge of preparing is to be able to make bread from the stored grains.
How do you use that grain if you don’t have gas or electricity in your home to cook? How do you bake bread without electricity?
Those are questions my father-in-law, Dan Weatbrook, Sr. has asked for years.
Here are some considerations:
Store flour and grains. Some advise against storing ground flour because of its short shelf life-about a year for optimal freshness and nutrition. When ground flour goes bad, it will smell and taste rancid. Whole wheat flour has an even shorter shelf life because the entire wheat kernel, which includes some oil, is ground to make whole wheat flour.
However, it’s important to store some flour. Having ground flour on hand will make the early days of a survival situation more convenient. Of course, wheat and other grains are absolutely essential to store. Wheat and other grains can have a long shelf life (30+ years) if they are kept in a relatively cool, dry area (below 70 degrees is recommended) so you can make bread when the power goes out.
Eat whole grains as part of your normal diet. If you don’t have allergies to wheat, be certain to incorporate whole wheat into your family’s regular diet. Whole wheat is more nutritious than white flour because it provides complex carbohydrates, fiber, and other nutrients.
That being said, whole wheat can be harder to digest than white flour if you aren’t used to eating it. And, children may balk at fare they’re not used to. Using your stored wheat in everyday life makes using whole wheat in an emergency situation one less uncertainty to deal with. Be it unemployment or the aftermath of a hurricane, eating familiar food makes a disaster less disastrous.
Store a hand grinder. Because whole wheat and other grains have a long shelf life, they become the backbone of your food storage preparations. Grains can be soaked and cooked to make cereals, sprouted for salads, and even toasted, but in order to turn grain into bread it needs to be milled into flour.
A hand grinder is an essential prepper tool and it’s a good idea to buy and use a hand grinder before a real need ever arises. The first time Dan made bread without electricity from stored wheat with the grandkids, it took nearly ten hours! This cooking experience was one of the experiences that led Dan to perfect his rocket stove and rocket oven!
Store leavening, salt, and vital wheat gluten. Rising agents like yeast, baking powder, and baking soda make the difference between choking down a lumpy paste of flour and water and biting into a fluffy biscuit.Yeast, baking powder, and baking soda have long shelf lives.
It doesn’t take much salt to add to a bread recipe, but the difference of a bread with and without salt is incredible. Salt also has a long shelf life.
Of course, this entire process of cooking with wheat brings shivers down the spines of people with gluten intolerances, and adding vital wheat gluten to the mix only adds insult to injury. But for the wheat-eaters out there, vital wheat gluten gives whole wheat bread the right amount of elasticity to raise and cook better.
So, How are You Going to Cook this Bread without Power?
Most preppers have made arrangements for several methods of cooking: gas grills, charcoal grills, propane stoves, camp stoves, and fire pits top the list. Luckily, bread cooking in an emergency lends itself to a variety of cooking techniques:
Griddle top. Pancakes, flatbread, and tortillas can all be easily cooked with dry heat from a griddle top. Even a hot rock in a fire would work. These are simple breads but a hot meal means everything. Griddle tops can be on rocket stoves, camp stoves, and even campfires.
Frying. Nothing beats hot scones, fry bread, or sopapillas deep fried in oil. Store oils like refined peanut, soybean and safflower oils which have high smoke points. Livestrong explains that oils will degrade if heated above their smoke points and each time an oil is reused, its smoke point lowers. Livestrong explains oil can be reused if it is stored properly.
By straining used oil into a glass jar through a cheesecloth or coffee filter and storing it in the refrigerator or freezer, it can stay good for up to a month. The oil may become cloudy in the refrigerator or freezer, explains the healthy living website, but will clear at room temperature. “Never reuse oil if it foamed or changed color during heating, or if it has an odd odor or smells like the food you cooked,” warns Livestrong, as the oils may have degraded and harbor bacteria.
Boiling. A simple pot of water over a fire or campstove can be the easiest way to cook bread without electricity. Dumplings in soup are an excellent example of bready-goodness baked without an oven. Bagels and pretzels are also cooked via boiling. They can be finished in the oven to given them a crust or fried in a little oil afterward to crisp the crust if an oven isn’t available.
Steam. Create a steam tent in your firepit and bread dough can be steamed overnight in small containers like tin cans. Your great-grandma’s famous carrot puddings were made by steaming the bread pudding in mason jars in the canner, a recipe that usually took over 4 hours to produce the wonderful results.
If you’re still uncertain about steaming bread, think Chinese stuffed buns. A bamboo steamer set in a pot of boiling water produces perfect, yummy results.
Dutch ovens. If you have charcoal, you’re all set to cook whatever you want in the dutch oven. Bread and rolls turn out incredible in the dutch oven. It’s important to start out with hot, ashen-colored coals. Use coals both on the top and bottom of the dutch oven, typically with more coals on top than on the bottom.
Dutch oven food tastes fabulous, but there is typically a learning curve to getting your bread to turn out successfully. Your family won’t mind one bit if you practice making homemade dutch oven rolls for them!
Traditional ovens (and, of course, rocket stoves!) Tandori ovens, earthen ovens, and brick ovens create the ideal environment for baking bread. These are cooking methods you’ll want to have in place before they are needed for an emergency, but the results of wood-fired bread are well-worth the preparations!
A rocket stove is a wood-burning stove with an interior elbow heating unit. Rocket stoves are very energy efficient and easy to use in situations where fossil fuel and electricity are not available. Because they burn wood or brush, the fuel is more readily available.
You can cook almost anything that requires stovetop cooking on a rocket stove. Since they easily burn twigs, leaves, and wood debris--all readily available after severe storms or earthquakes, rocket stoves are a resourceful solution to survival cooking. The Bear River Rocket Stoves are unique in that they are designed to cook for a crowd with maximum efficiency. Two of the rocket stove models even have ovens! Temperature gauges help monitor the heat of the rocket ovens, allowing for the most kitchen-like experience you can have while cooking outdoors.
Consider Your (Fuel) Source
Each of these methods of cooking bread without electricity will require an alternative fuel source. Propane, charcoal, and camp fuels can be limited. Firewood can be easier to find, especially considering storms usually produce debris that can be used as firewood. Because of the efficient air flow in rocket stoves, they use less firewood than any other wood-burning cooking method.
Learning to bake bread without power might just become your newest hobby!
There’s something well, fun, about cooking without power. Whether you plan a long weekend in the mountains to cook on a backpacking stove or over an open fire, or simply fire up the barbeque in the backyard, being able to cook off grid is definitely an adventure.
Stacie Draper Weatbrook makes a mean wood-fired pizza in the brick oven her husband, Dan Jr., built.
Sometimes, when the words emergency preparedness are uttered, we automatically think big: years of food storage, a power generator, a four-room tent, and a Bear River Rocket Stove (you can’t blame us for the shameless plug!) But really, emergency preparedness doesn’t have to be a herculean task. What we mean is: don’t put off preparing for an emergency because it sounds too hard or is more of an investment than you can afford.
Emergency preparedness isn’t always about that big earthquake, that disastrous flood, or that widespread power outage. Sometimes being prepared means you have a way to light your barbeque on your picnic, you’ve got a backup source of water when you’re out hiking, or you need to shield yourself from the rain while watching a track meet. Taking the time to gather these few supplies will help you be prepared for situations--big or small-- that require some quick thinking and a few necessities.
Knives are often an indispensable emergency preparedness item. There are many uses for knives in our everyday lives such as opening containers or preparing food. UrbanSurvivalSite gives us some ways knives would come in handy such as self defense, first aid, hunting, wood splinting, fire starter, and to path clearing.
Of course, the most extreme emergency situation for a knife would be if you were being attacked by a wild animal or for hunting if you were stranded in the woods without a gun. A knife is also good for first aid, you could use it to create a splint, or brace or even to cut cloth for bandages. You can also split wood to make a fire or build a safe shelter. In a pinch, knives can be used in place of a drill, screwdriver, or hammer (remember, safety first!)
2) Water purification tablets or a small bottle of bleach:
Water is crucial to survival. In a life or death situation, having clean water is vital. If you don’t clean your water you are likely to drink water that contains harmful bacteria. If you’re not close to medical care, drinking contaminated water could be deadly. So a good thing to have is a way to purify water. If you have a way to clean water, like bleach or chlorine tablets, you can just about get water anywhere: lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, etc. This link gives helpful information on how to treat and clean water with bleach. It’s best not to use any water with things floating in it and to also remove as much dirt as possible.
While you may not have a water filter yet, it’s a good item to save up for. In the meantime, it’s worth spending a few dollars to have chlorine tablets available for an emergency.
3) Metal Cup:
When you think of surviving in a sticky situation, a cup may not come to mind as one of the most important emergency survival items, but while it’s just a cup, it can impact the turnout positively. It’s a great way to hold, carry, and share water. It can also hold your food that way your food can still be clean when you eat it. If your cup is metal, you can use it to boil water (especially useful if you have no other way to purify your water). A metal cup is also useful for cooking. Banging on your cup with a rock or other hard object is a handy way to signal to others.
There are many practical uses for a lighter. Really, if you have a lighter you can pretty much start a fire wherever there is fuel, a definite bonus in an emergency situation. As a member of the human race, you don’t need to be reminded the benefits of fire: cooking, warmth, light, signals, and safety. You may never need it, but if you are ever in a situation where you do, you’ll be glad you spent a few bucks to have a lighter in your car, pack, or purse.
While it’s sometimes difficult to know if your lighter has fluid left in it, matches, if kept dry, are a sure-fire emergency solution. We recommend having both a lighter and matches, just in case. (After all, that’s what emergency preparedness is based on: ‘just in case!’) In addition to starting fires, matches act as tinder (albeit a very small amount). Burnt matches also make an excellent make-shift writing tool.
6) Fire Starter:
A fire starter helps keep a small flame burning long after matches would have gone out. While there are several commercial fire starters out there, the best one we’ve found is dryer lint stuffed in a egg carton, covered in candle wax. The individual sections can be ripped apart and used to start a fire.
Three of the nine essential emergency survival items on our list have to do with fire. We realize we’re pretty obsessed with starting and keeping a fire. After all, Bear River Rocket Stoves run entirely on fire!
7) Chocolates and Candy:
While the body can survive a few days without food, in a rough situation, candy can be a perfect pick-me-up. While hard candy stores well (practically forever), chocolate bars, even if they are melted, would be a welcome reprieve in an emergency situation. The extra calories in chocolates or candies can soothe dry mouths, boost spirits, and even be essential for someone with low blood sugar.
8) Emergency Blanket:
There are so many uses for an emergency blanket such as providing warmth, adding an extra layer in sleeping bag, or using it as a signal device. These compact emergency blankets cost only a few dollars and are usually made of mylar. They can be used to melt snow, to catch water, or to make a small rain shelter. Emergency blankets can be used as rope material, a pack to carry items, a sling or a compression bandage, a net for fishing, a tablecover or ground cover, or a sun shield.
These emergency preparedness blankets aren’t limited to emergencies. Emergency blankets come in handy as table covers for picnics, rain covers at games, or even picnic blankets. Keep several in your car--chances are a situation might arise where it comes in handy!
When thinking disaster survival, probably thoughts of rappelling, constructing a raft, building a shelter, or completing a daring rescue are the first situations that come to mind. Of course, these situations would need a good rope--and the knot-tying-know-how.
A length of paracord can be used to tie a splint, secure a bandage, make a snare, pull heavy loads, dry clothes, or tie food up to keep animals away. Internal strands of rope or cord can be could also be used for fishing. Like an emergency blanket, cord or rope has a variety of uses in an emergency survival situation. When paired with your emergency blanket, the uses are nearly innumerable.
Here, we’re talking about nine simple emergency preparedness items to be kept in your car, briefcase, purse, or hiking pack. Most of these emergency preparedness articles are probably lying around your house already. Why not take 10 minutes to gather theses articles together in a bag to keep handy?