SHTF DIY 101: How to make your own bread

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First, I’m going to hit you with a weird storage hack. “Bread in a can” as made famous on Saturday nights by New England moms who serve this with hotdogs and beans! Available in most grocery stores, this is exactly what it says: bread in a can. All ready to go. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!

Baking from scratch

You’re going to need bread during a national emergency, but it won’t be as simple as running down the street to the local grocery store. Fortunately you can make your own bread with both a wood or conventional oven. It’s a bit complicated, but it will be crucial to your survival.

You’ll need several ingredients to make a basic loaf of bread. You may want to stock up on these items now while you still can.

  • 3 cups of flour
  • 3 teaspoons of sugar
  • 1 ½ cakes of yeast, dissolved in 2 tablespoons of warm water (make sure the water is warm not hot)
  • ½ cup of milk (don’t use skim milk)
  • ½ cup of water
  • 3 tablespoons of butter or margarine

NOTE: These are the minimum ingredients for any loaf of bread you’re making with yeast. As you’ll see later, other recipes call for other ingredients, such as honey, that aren’t listed here.

Start out by sifting the flour into a large mixing bowl along with the sugar and salt. 

Next take a second mixing bowl and combine the yeast mixture with the milk and water. Let this sit for 2-3 minutes. The mixture should start to bubble. If you’ve done it properly, you should see a foam-like substance form.

Gently and slowly stir the two bowls together. With proper care, the mixture should come to resemble smooth dough.

Next sprinkle some flour on your hands and start to knead the dough. This is the most difficult step about making the bread, so use caution. To properly knead, use the heel of your hand to push the dough away from you, elongating it. Then fold it back over itself. Rotate the dough (very slightly!) and do this again. You’re done kneading when it takes on what looks like a sheen. Another test is to press your finger into the dough. If the indentation remains, it’s ready to rise.

Once you’re done kneading, cover the dough in the bowl with a towel and let it set for 15 minutes.

Time for round two of kneading. The professionals recommend that you spend exactly 10 minutes kneading the dough. Make sure you once again put flour on your hands.

After 10 minutes, form the dough into a loaf shape and place it in a greased 5 X 10 inch bread pan. Let the dough sit for one hour.

Finally, bake the dough for 40 minutes at around 375 degrees in your oven. Once it’s done, give it ten minutes to cool.

Unfortunately, not everyone has yeast lying around the house. Fortunately you can still make a loaf of bread. Here is a very simple recipe for unleavened (without yeast) bread.

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2/3 cup of water

Mix the flour and water together in your mixing bowl until doughy. Knead the dough for 10 minutes, using the technique described above.

Next cut the dough into 16 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and flatten with a rolling piece. Each piece should be about 6 inches in diameter. Pierce each disk with a fork at one-inch intervals.

Place the pieces on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake them in your oven for 7 minutes at 425 degrees. Each disk should lightly colored and crisp.

Both of these recipes will give you a very simple loaf of bread. Depending on how long an emergency lasts, you might want to expand out into different varieties of bread. All breads are made differently and, as stated earlier, you may need to pick up some additional ingredients. Below are a couple essential recipes for the bread baker.

SIMPLE WHOLE WHEAT BREAD

Ingredients

3 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)

2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast

1/3 cup honey

5 cups bread flour

3 tablespoons butter, melted

1/3 cup honey

1 tablespoon salt

3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

2 tablespoons butter, melted

Directions

In a large bowl, mix warm water, yeast, and 1/3 cup honey. Add 5 cups white bread flour, and stir to combine. Let set for 30 minutes, or until big and bubbly.

Mix in 3 tablespoons melted butter, 1/3 cup honey, and salt. Stir in 2 cups whole wheat flour. Flour a flat surface and knead with whole wheat flour until not real sticky – just pulling away from the counter, but still sticky to touch. This may take an additional 2 to 4 cups of whole wheat flour. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to coat the surface of the dough. Cover with a dishtowel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled.

Punch down, and divide into 3 loaves. Place in greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pans, and allow to rise until dough has topped the pans by one inch.

Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 25 to 30 minutes; do not overbake. Lightly brush the tops of loaves with 2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine when done to prevent crust from getting hard. Cool completely.

PITA BREAD

INGREDIENTS

3 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 Tablespoon sugar or honey

1 packet yeast (2-1/4 tsp)

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups water, roughly at room temperature

2 tablespoons olive oil, vegetable oil, butter, or shortening

DIRECTIONS

Mix the yeast in with the flour, salt, and sugar. Add the olive oil and 1 1/4 cup water and stir together with a wooden spoon. All of the ingredients should form a ball. If some of the flour will not stick to the ball, add more water.

Once all of the ingredients form a ball, place the ball on a work surface, such as a cutting board, and knead the dough for approximately 10 minutes. If you are using an electric mixer, mix it at low speed for 10 minutes.

When you are done kneading the dough, place it in a bowl that has been lightly coated with oil. Form a ball out of the dough and place it into the bowl, rolling the ball of dough around in the bowl so that it has a light coat of oil on all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and set aside to rise until it has doubled in size, approximately 90 minutes.

When it has doubled in size, punch the dough down to release some of the trapped gases and divide it into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, cover the balls with a damp kitchen towel, and let them rest for 20 minutes. This step allows the dough to relax so that it’ll be easier to shape.

While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. If you have a baking stone, put it in the oven to preheat as well. If you do not have a baking stone, turn a cookie sheet upside down and place it on the middle rack of the oven while you are preheating the oven. This will be the surface on which you bake your pitas.

After the dough has relaxed for 20 minutes, spread a light coating of flour on a work surface and place one of the balls of dough there. Sprinkle a little bit of flour on top of the dough and use a rolling pin or your hands to stretch and flatten the dough. You should be able to roll it out to between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick – 6 inches in diameter. If the dough does not stretch sufficiently you can cover it with the damp towel and let it rest 5 to 10 minutes before trying again.

Place discs on a lightly greased baking sheet and let rise, uncovered, until barely doubled in thickness, about 30-45 minutes.

Open the oven and place as many pitas as you can fit on the hot baking surface They should be baked through and puffy after 3 minutes.