This is the second of two articles from James Mandeville. In this article we cover making the dough, baking the bread and different types of outdoor oven. In the first part we looked at the ways flour can be extracted in a survival situation and some information on history and types of bread. Part 1
Making the dough
In bread making, flour is always stated as 100%, and the rest of the ingredients are a percentage of that amount by weight. It helps to add some salt if you have any; it is best to add salt once you have made the bread dough and after it has rested for 20 minutes.
For unleavened bread, use 50% water, for leavened bread, use 60 to 75% water by weight. If you cannot weigh the ingredients, add water to the flour and work it with your fingers until it is firm but not sticky. Add more water or flour until you have a firm, soft ball of dough.
If you don’t have a bowl to work in, use a flat plank of clean wood, pile the flour into a heap, make a hole in the center of the heap, pour in a little water and work the flour from the edges to the center, adding more water or flour as needed.
Once you have a firm, pliable ball of dough, pound it down on your work surface and work it back into a ball a few times.
If it sticks to the surface, dust the surface with a little flour. If you want to add seeds, chopped nuts, fruit, etc., do it at this stage and work them well into your ball of dough.
Adding 3% by weight of fat to the dough (butter, margarine, animal fat, etc.) will help the leavened bread to rise, make unleavened bread less chewy and help the bread to last longer.
If you want to make leavened bread, cover the dough and leave it for a few hours to rise in a warm place as the yeast multiplies in the dough.
It makes better bread if you pound it back into a ball a couple of times during this process and leave it to rise again.
Whether you make leavened or unleavened bread, it is best in a survival situation to bake buns, biscuits or small loaves. This ensures they cook right through and if you spoil them in the baking, you haven’t lost all your precious dough.
Damper is a very traditional and unique style of unleavened bread, which was baked in the hot coals of a cooling camp fire. The name comes from the way the dough was placed in coals of the camp fire after it had been dampened a bit.
Originally, damper was a very simple mixture consisting of flour and water, with salt added for flavor. These ingredients were mixed into a dough and because cooking pans were an extra burden to carry, the dough was normally placed directly upon the hot coals of an open fire place, being turned over when the first side was cooked.
A variation is to wrap the dough around a stick and then cook over an open fire.
During the early days of colonization of Australia, damper bread was a staple food in the bush and a favorite of swagmen and drovers because the dry ingredients could be easily carried and they only needed to add water to the mix.
Balls of bread dough can also be dropped into boiling water and cooked this way as dumplings.
There are various ways bread can be baked in a survival situation. In the above photo, unleavened bread dough is being baked on a hot metal plate placed directly over the cooking fire. Greasing the plate improves the bread but do not use too much fat or oil as this then turns into a frying process.
A hot, flat rock could be used instead, but take great care when heating any type of stone as the water content in certain stones will expand in the heat causing the stone to explode, sending hot shards of stone flying everywhere.
If you heat up a stone, first prove it by lighting a fire under it, leaving it to heat up and then cool down a few times without being anywhere remotely nearby.