“Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat. In our mad rush for progress and modern improvements let's be sure we take along with us all the old-fashioned things worth while.” Laura Ingalls Wilder

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Off Grid Baking

So you want to be prepared for feeding your family should the power go out.  If you have a wood heat stove and a cast iron Dutch oven, you're in luck.  It just takes careful practice.  You have to time the rise of your yeast bread with the glow of wood coals.  If you use a bread recipe such as this one for no knead bread, your window of opportunity to bake is more dependent on coals than timing the dough. 

This means that I start my loaf the night before I want to bake it .. at the very least ... making it early in the morning and baking before bed; I prefer making it the night before baking.  You only need one bowl .. mix up the dough .. cover  .. and set aside for 12-18 hours.  I've even let the dough go 24 hours which gives it a little extra punch in sour flavor.  Bread with a long ferment period is supposed to be more nutritious and easier to digest.  Believe me, when you have lost the ability to cook conveniently you are more apt to eat what is available in your emergency supplies.  Hunger takes precedence to proper diet.

So .. the planning part comes into play usually after dinner and my dough has been fermenting nearly 18 hours.  This dough has just been sitting in the mixing bowl covered with a plastic bag and a dish towel to stay moist .. usually starting off by the wood stove .. and if that gets too warm, I move it to the kitchen counter.

My wood stove would have been burning all day and our home toasty warm.  About 2 hours prior to actually baking the bread, I remove the dough from the bowl, shape it briefly on a floured surface and place it in a ball on a greased piece of parchment paper placed inside a glass pie pan or med. size skillet.  It's covered loosely with the plastic wrap and clean dish towel .. left to rise in a warm spot for 2 hours.  The coals in the wood stove will be glowing read and pushed to the sides and back of the stove. 
Red glowing coals get broken apart with ash shovel and arranged along both sides and back of wood stove.

A few canning rings will be carefully placed in the ashes of the stove floor to support the Dutch oven.
Several canning rings are placed in center of wood stove's floor to support Dutch Oven.

 About a half hour before bake time, with the fire out .. and embers are glowing red, the empty Dutch (D.O.) oven is carefully placed on the canning rings to preheat.. door shut .. and timed for approx. 30 minutes.  I use heavy leather gloves to handle the D.O. After 30 minutes the D.O. is removed and placed on a trivet on top of the stove.  The lid is carefully removed .. and a little smoke should come out.

Raised round loaf is placed inside hot Dutch oven using parchment as a sling.

 Dough is lifted carefully with parchment paper and settled in the D.O.  The top of dough is snipped and dusted with a little flour.  Lid is placed on pan .. and carefully placed on the canning rings .. door gets shut.
A little fire is OK .. but watch carefully .. you really just need a medium amount of red coals.

 If the stove seems too cool a few pieces of kindling can be tossed in to keep the stove heated.

Small pieces of kindling may be added to coals if the oven temp seems too low.  Getting a feel for the temp with your hand is a developed skill.

 It doesn't take much kindling .. if any.  You don't want a big fire .. but a little flame is OK if pushed away from the D.O.  Door needs to remain shut.  Let the bread bake for 30 minutes .. rotating the pan every 10 minutes for even baking.

 After 30 minutes carefully remove the D.O. and place on trivet. 

I've only burned one loaf from too high of temp (from flames).  This one came out perfect!

Remove lid.  bread should be brown and well raised.  Carefully slide an additional metal canning ring under the parchment to lift the bread off the bottom of the D.O.  and cautiously place the pan back in the oven where it will bake for 10-15 additional minutes without the lid.

This bread is full of holes and has a crispy crust.  Slices easily too.

 Carefully remove pan at end of baking time transferring baked bread to a wire cooling rack for approx. 2 hours before slicing.  Store cooled bread in a plastic bag. 

If you try this baking method, be extra careful. 


Dani said...

Yummy - I can smell it, and almost taste it...

Me - even though I'm baking bread in my solar oven, I can't wait for winter so that I can use "Rosie" again :)

Sandy said...

Mrs. Mac,

Your bread looks delicious.

Great way of baking!!