Skill Set: Baking Bread

Hey all, so in the heading of this blog I promised to write about food and I think it’s about time to fulfill that. One of the most fundamental foods people have is bread. I grew up eating whatever we could afford so it was white bread or wheat bread from the supermarket pressed into a rectangle with the taste and nutritional value of a dish sponge. I always wondered how people actually lived off of it, then I baked my own for the first time 5 years ago and I understood everything. Real home baked bread is dense in calorie value and nutrition. Even basic bread (which we’ll be going over today) with plain AP flour is something else entirely and it’s actually super easy to make. This is great news for when society collapses and we have to go back to making these things ourselves.

Here’s our ingredients:
20 oz Flour (could be any type, just remember different flours have different properties I’ll go into this further below)
12 oz water
1 tsp yeast
2 tsp kosher salt
1 to 2 tb of something sugary (I use honey in this example)

Now take note I’m using weight to measure the flour. This is because volumetric measurements are relative and with baking it’s all about getting the proper ratio of your base ingredients. If you don’t have a scale, get one, if you can’t get a scale, then 20 oz flour translates to roughly 4 cups.

Before doing anything you’re going to want to activate your yeast. If you’re using instant you don’t need to do this step but it’s good to anyway just to make sure your little burp monsters are awake. To do this we first take a cup and put the yeast and sugary substance in it (yeast eats sugar, it’ll give them a little boost)

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Next we add water. If you have your own well under your house or your reading this in the charred remains of society, you should be able to use whatever you have (though for the people living in the charred remains you should probably boil that first and let it cool) for people who use city water you’re going to want to make sure your water is run through a filter as the chlorine will kill your yeast and we don’t want that. Make sure the water is around body temp to allow for optimum efficiency of the yeast. Hot water will kill the yeast, cold water will keep them asleep. Mix that around into a nice frothy mixture and set aside.

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Next we’re going to want to weigh out our dry ingredients. Take out a nice mixing bowl and zero out your scale. Add the flour and match 20 oz or 1lb 4 oz.

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In this batch I ended up using both AP flour and Rye flour. Now if I was a douche I’d say “yes, the addition of the rye flour adds depth and character to an otherwise bland starting project” yea, no, I’m not her, SHE gets paid for this. I mixed the flours because I ran out of the AP flour and all I had left was Rye. That said it did end up adding something a little extra. This same concept can be used with any flours actually as the ratio of flour is important and not necessarily what type. Mix and match, mess around with them, it’s a lot of fun. One thing you need to remember though is flours have different characteristics. I map some of the ones I’ve come across below for your convenience.

AP / All Purpose – Very glutinous and stretchy but still breaks easily if thrown around too much. You know how in Super Mario Kart (the classic SNES one of course) Mario and Luigi were the all around players? That’s AP, it’s Mario and Luigi.

Whole Wheat – Tough stuff, very glutinous and perfect for types of bread that need stretching and need to hold a shape (naan and roti, pita, pizza dough, etc, a couple of these I’m sure I’ll visit in future posts). Has a nice savory flavor when used correctly in stews as a thickening agent.

Rye – This stuff is weird. The flavor is of course far different than the other two and it’s very very resistant to stretching. Any time I’ve made a loaf of bread that only uses rye it comes out dense as lead but still really tasty and a little goes a long way. Going back to the Mario Kart analogy, Rye is Bowser.

Any combination of these flours are going to give you varying results. I like to have fun mixing and matching these because as long as I stay with those 20 oz the ratios of what kinds of flours doesn’t matter in the overall process.

Since I had to use rye anyway I also threw in some ground pepper and some fennel, sesame, caraway and nigellum (also known as “black caraway” it’s very very bitter but has a nice compliment to the fennel) seeds in there for good measure.

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After you add your salt and mix your dry stuff, you can start to add the yeast, water and sugar. You’re going to want to add this in a couple batches and not all at once. If you do it all at once you’re making soup and the dough becomes very difficult to work with very quickly, especially if you’re using one of the more glutinous flours. Just add about a third of the mixture, stir thoroughly, and repeat when your proto-dough doesn’t look sticky.

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When you’re done with that, mix the dough with a spatula thoroughly. When the liquid is all absorbed switch to your hands. Obviously make sure they’re clean, especially for our readers in the future after this nation’s collapse. You don’t have hospitals anymore and the pharmacies are nearly wiped out I’m sure so don’t get yourself or others sick.

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When everything is nice and worked in and your dough ball is an actual ball, clear the counter of anything that could potentially fall or break and punch the dough like it’s a nazi.

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Fold it a bit then punch it again to knead. When you’re all done, roll it into a ball and set the dough aside for a bit to let it rise. I like to cover it with a towel and stick it on the stove next to a stock pot of boiling water and broken dreams (normal water works just fine) because the yeast prefer a warm and humid climate to thrive in.

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Let this sit for at least an hour, you’re going to want to have the dough rise to about double its size before baking. In the mean time set the oven to 450 degrees and start to drink. If you’re at the end of this country’s life because the rich have sucked the land and people who lived on it dry, think about a better time if you can remember it. For those of us still at the brink of it, crack open a beer and think of a better time if you can remember it.

So after an hour or so your dough should be looking a bit bigger.

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This size in comparison is looking pretty good so you should be able to press firmly and hear some air escape. What you’re going to want to do now is collapse it then place it on a cutting board with some flour or corn meal on it to bench proof for a couple more minutes. This is just a way of saying let it rise a bit more out in the open to let the yeast get a couple nice breathes out.

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Lets talk cooking vessel. I use a dutch oven I’ve had for about 8 years. These things are sturdy AF provided you take care of them. This one was about $50 but it’s lasted me so long and I’ve cooked so much in this thing that it’s redonk.

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All you need to do now is shape your dough ball and place it in the pot. Cut two slits in the top to allow for growth and steam to escape. Put it in your oven with the lid on at first and bake for 30 minutes. After the 30 minutes are up take the lid off and bake it again. As far as time goes it’s tough to say as everyone’s oven is different. Books will tell you an additional 15 minutes but anytime I’ve done that I’ve burnt the crap out of the bottom of my loaf. I set my timer for 12 minutes but ultimately just go by my sense of smell. If it smells like baked bread in my house, it’s done.
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After 30 min
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Only took another 7 min. to finish up

You can also temp your bread as a sanity check. You’re looking for 200 degrees and the probe shouldn’t have any stick dough on it when you pull it from the loaf.

and that’s it. Take it out of the vessel and put it on the counter to cool a bit before digging in. For our friends at the end of this nation’s life you should probably just go ahead and eat it now before people or animals steal it. Just blow on it first to cool it off but not too much or else you’ll spread the scent and attract the biker mutants that live upstream but unfortunately down wind.

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