Three Letters Re: The Disaster Field Bakery

In reference to the article on – The Disaster Field Bakery, by JIR, here is a free downloadable PDF copy of the Manual for Army Bakers from 1917 from Google.

It contains over a hundred pages of old fashioned “how to” baking wisdom in a reliable military format. It’s contains detailed instruction on bread baking, including yeast and yeast recipes, and bread ingredients and recipes. The manual also includes a description of the equipment used by a field bakery company. This would be a good manual for a church, charity, or large group who have wheat stored and can no longer rely on buying Wonder Bread at the supermarket. – Jack V.

Mr. Editor:
We are preparing a summer kitchen behind the casa. We purchased a Montgomery Wards wood-burning cookstove the other day, which has four burners, and a grill. Quite fancy! It also has a large oven. Along with a pizza oven and smoker, we can cook large meals. Also we give eggs as tithes to those who are in need. Charity starts in the home and the heart. God Bless, – Maggie

Mr. Rawles,
I just discovered your blog site and have been reading furiously to catch up. I am a physician with a good deal of third world experience and an “end of the world” medical kit in my closet, and am confidant that I could run a decent post-disaster trauma clinic. I am also studying and growing medicinal herbs and preparations for longer term needs. I have been slightly dismayed at how far behind I am in all the other non-medical areas of preparation, but am working to close that gap as well. On to the topic at hand:

Just a thought on post-disaster baking. In most of the third world, you will not find a true oven and hence true “bread” as we know it, because ovens as we know them are a luxury reserved for the wealthy. You can look to some of those cultures for ways to deal with raw materials such as grains. What comes to mind immediately are tortillas and steamed buns.
Tortillas require only a hot flat surface (a rock will do in a pinch), corn prepared as masa and water. Recipes abound (I am a huge fan of Alton Brown and would recommend his recipes for simplicity as well as for beginning from raw ingredients rather than packaged.) We live in an area where field corn is a huge crop and would be abundant, for a while at least, pretty much any time of year. With that in mind, it is very important in a TEOTWAWKI situation to remember what happened to Europeans who adopted corn as a primary grain without nixtamalization (a topic for another time). Hint: Look up pellagra and kwashiorkor!

Steamed buns are a little more complicated in the preparation, but closer to what we think of as “bread.” Here again, many recipes are out there. My favorite came from Momofuku, but there are many. Major advantage to having a steamer in your kitchen is that it is a huge multitasker (can double as a sterilizer in a pinch!), and any heat source will run the beast. The buns steam in only 10 min and can be eaten immediately.
While there may be reasons to have a true Western style oven in your preparations, I tend to think more along the lines of biggest bang for the buck/bulk/weight, and in those terms it just doesn’t pass muster. – Chris A., MD