Emergency Bread

Emergency Bread

June 19, 2024

Just three ingredients (two if you don’t count water) and hundreds of variations that could save your life.

In this post, we’ll show you how to make emergency bread. Unleavened bread, made with just flour, salt, and water, is incredibly simple and essential in times of crisis. This versatile recipe can be cooked over open flames or portable stoves, providing crucial sustenance when traditional baking isn’t possible. I’ll take you step-by-step through the process anyone can do, but stick around to the end, and I’ll tell you about countless variations that can make each batch unique.

What You Need:

This emergency bread is a life-saver in its simplicity. You need only three ingredients (two if you don’t count water as an ingredient. For our batch, you will need: 

2 cups of flour (any type)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of water

Instructions:

Combine Flour & Salt: Reserve a small amount of the flour for later use. Combine the salt and most of the flour in a mixing bowl.

Add Water: Add the water to the flour, stirring until the mixture becomes crumbly or begins to clump together. Start with the specified amount of water and add more as needed. Different flours like whole wheat, rye, sorghum, barley, or stone ground may require more water to get the same dough ball consistency and elasticity. I use a spatula to start the process of mixing the ingredients.

Knead the Dough: Knead the dough with your hands against the bottom of the bowl until it feels smooth and elastic (3-5 minutes). Add more flour if the dough feels sticky. Add more water by the Tablespoon if you can’t get it to clump together.

Let It Rest: Cover the dough and let it rest for 15-30 minutes to allow the gluten to relax.

Heat the Pan: Start heating your flat cast iron pan over your heat source. My preference is a flat cast iron skillet, but any solid cooking surface will do. Traditionally, people have used anything from shovels to rocks that can withstand the heat of an open fire.

Shape the Dough: Divide the dough into walnut-sized lumps or slightly smaller pieces. That would be a ball that is approximately 2 inches round or less. Roll the balls between your hands to make them round and eliminate creases. Squeezing them slightly will help pull the dough together. You should get 8-10 dough pieces with two cups of flour.

Sprinkle a pinch of the flour you previously set aside on a flat surface (countertop or large wooden cutting board) and press one lump of dough into a flat circle using your hands.  Shape the dough into a thin circle by pressing and stretching with your hands. Aim for it to be as thin as possible without tearing the dough. If you have a rolling pin or dowel, you could use that. If you have a tortilla press, you could use that. You can even just mash it and press it as flat as you can between two flat surfaces. The thinness allows you to cook it fast and all the way through.

Cook the Flatbread: Check the temperature of your pan by dropping a small amount of water on it. It should sizzle and evaporate quickly. You want the pan to be as hot as possible to facilitate the swift cooking.

Once the pan is hot enough, transfer the flattened dough onto it. Cook the flatbread, keeping a close eye on it. Flip it when the edges start to curl up or appear dry. You can use a spatula, fork, tongs, or even quick fingers to flip it. Continue cooking until the bread browns slightly on each side. Undercooking it will just give you a doughier textured bread. Overcooking it will make it drier and crispier. A little burn on it actually imparts a little flavor to it.

Serve Warm: Once cooked, transfer the flatbread to a plate covered with a hand towel or cloth napkin to keep it warm and soft. Repeat the process with the remaining dough pieces.

Variations: If you add just one ingredient—a handful of herbs, some wild yeast, or seeds you gathered—or even change the cooking method by frying the dough in oil or dropping it into salted boiling water, you have a completely different bread. The variations of ingredients and cooking methods are limitless.

Rising Version: You need an agent, either yeast pulled from the air as we did in another video or a combination of leavening agents like baking soda and an acid. Here’s the same recipe, but I added a  1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, a 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice, and then the water. I could substitute the same amount of vinegar for the lemon juice. That small amount of lemon juice does impart just a hint of flavor to the bread. If that bothers you, you could use a different acid, like the equivalent amount of vinegar. I can set the dough aside for about 20 minutes, and when I cook it, the bread will have a little rise. It won’t be as flat.

Nutritious Version: Add partially ground seeds to the dough. Note that seeds may affect the texture of the final bread. Many types of seeds and grains can be foraged from nature or your garden: amaranth, Chia, Buckwheat, Sorghum, Barley, Sunflower Seeds, or Millet. Here, I am partially grinding up some Buckwheat and Chia seeds and simply working them into the dough. I can cook it in any of the same ways to get a little more flavor and nutrition from the bread.

Fry Bread Version: When it comes to cooking variations for different styles of bread, this basic recipe isn’t too different from traditional fried bread. Consider adding a leavening agent, lightly salting, or dusting the hot fried bread with cinnamon and sugar. Replace the flat cast iron pan with a frying pan. Use any available cooking oil, butter, or tallow to fry the bread instead of dry-cooking it. Here, I use bacon grease. Adjust the heat as needed to prevent burning. Fry until the bread is golden on the outside.

Boiled Version: If you divide the 2-inch round pieces into quarters, you can drop each into a boiling pot of salted water for about two minutes. When you take them out, lightly salt them and eat them as they are, or put them on your hot, flat cooking surface to brown them slightly. Cooking them in this way will change the gluten structures and result in your emergency bread tasting more like a pretzel or bagel.

Changing it with any of these variations or variations of your own will keep you from suffering food fatigue if you ever have to survive solely on these emergency breads. These recipes will give you a baseline to which you can add your own unique twists and additions. Consider using your finished flatbread as you do other breads. Eat it alone or use it as a carrier for other foods: dip it in hummus, put meat in it like a taco, spread peanut butter on it, or whatever else you can imagine. Remember, knowing how to make this emergency flatbread is a valuable survival skill, especially when traditional baking methods are unavailable.

As always, stay safe out there.

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Michael
Michael
25 days ago

Thank you for putting this together!!

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