What homesteading kitchen is complete without baking? For many, cookies, pastries, and cakes come to mind. While these are fun treats, they aren't usually the healthiest, and not a basic staple in the everyday diet. Something that is a basic staple, is bread.
If you have the land, you may want to grow your own grain, and process it yourself, into flour. Other people prefer to buy their grains in bulk, and then grind it with their own electric or hand grinder. Still, others keep it simple, and just run down to the store, and buy flour. Don't feel bad if you buy your flour at the store. There is nothing wrong with that. What matters is what you do with that flour.
I know there are some people out there who really want to experience a more complete from scratch bread. Perhaps for some of them, buying bulk grain and grinding it will work, but for others, they want to take it further. If you are one of these people, but you are unable to grow your own grain at the time, don't despair, nature may have the answer for you.
There is likely many things growing in the wild near you, which you can use to make into earthy, natural breads. Below is just a peek into the world of wild breads:
If you have an oak tree, or one grows in a park near you, you can make acorn bread. Acorns from all types of oak trees are edible. If you are lucky to get acorns from a white oak, you won't have to soak or process them as much. If you have a red oak, or are not sure that type of oak, then make sure you follow all of the processing directions below:
1. Pick a lot of acorns.
2. Shell them. You can use a rock about the size of your fist, and pound the acorns open.
3. Pound the acorn meat into small pieces.
4. Bring two large pots of water to a boil, at the same time. In one of the pots, put in all the acorn meat. Boil for ten minutes, and then remove the acorn meat to the other pot of boiling water, and pour out the brown water from the first pot. Rinse the first pot, and then put in fresh water, and bring it back to a boil. Meanwhile, let the acorn meat boil in the second pot for ten minutes, and then switch them to the first boiling pot, while you change out the water, and bring that pot back to a boil. The acorns should be boiled a total of 40 minutes, switching pots and changing out water every ten minutes. It is important that when you switch the acorn meat to the next pot, that the water is boiling before you put the meat in. If the water is cold, it will lock in a bitter taste.
5. Lay the acorn meats onto a clean towel, and let them dry. Then, crush (or use a blender/food processor) them into powder. You now have Acorn Flour.
Using Homemade Acorn Flour to Make Acorn Bread
First, a note - If you use only Acorn Flour, without mixing with another flour, you will get a crumbly bread. If you don't want the bread to be so crumbly, then consider using another type of flour, with gluten in it, with the acorn flour in the bread. If you want to make another wild flour to compliment the acorn flour, you can make cattail flour - which contains gluten, and works perfectly in acorn bread. Here's how to make cattail flour:
1. From early fall to spring, you can go out and collect the roots from cattail plants.
2. Wash and peel the roots.
3. In a bowl of water, hold a root under the water, and break it up into several small pieces. Do this in the same large bowl of water, with each root. The starchy, glutinous flour will begin to separate from the fibers.
4. Keep breaking up the roots, until all the fibers are separated. Continue doing this under the water in a bowl, not above the water.
5. Remove the fibers and throw them away, or store them for a future use. There will be a wet flour slurry in the bottom of the bowl. Carefully pour off the excess water, until you only have a wet slurry left in the bottom of the bowl.
6. Spread the slurry on a clean towel, and lay it out in the sun to dry. Now you have cattail flour.
And now... The Recipe
- 1 cup acorn flour
- 1 cup cattail flour (or other flour with gluten)
- 2 Tablespoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 3 Tablespoons of honey, agave nectar, or pure maple syrup
- 2 omega three eggs (or regular) beaten
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 3 tablespoons olive, grape seed, or coconut oil
BASIC ACORN BREAD
1. Mix all of the ingredients together
2. Pour into a greased loaf pan
3. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes
Acorn Fry Bread
1. Mix together the ingredients for the above recipe.
2. Instead of baking, heat up a skillet, and put grape seed oil in it.
3. Roll the sticky dough into little balls, and fry them in the oil.
Basic Breads with More Traditional Flours
Perhaps you grow your own grain, and/or grind your own grain, or perhaps you buy your flour from the store. Perhaps you have never made bread, or you have, and are looking for a new recipe. The below recipes are for you...
- 3-5 cups flour of your choice (white, wheat, or spelt) I suggest spelt
- 1 and 1/4 cups of water
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 and 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- Two tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
LET'S MAKE BASIC BREAD
1. Mix all of the above together, except for the flour.
2. Start mixing in the flour. Keep adding flour, until the mixture becomes a sticky dough.
3. Coat your hands with olive oil, and knead the dough for ten minutes. You can knead the dough in the bowl. Just push it down, roll it over, turn the bowl a quarter turn, push the dough down, roll it over, turn the bowl a quarter turn, etc.
4. Place the kneaded dough into a greased loaf pan. Set a clean towel over the top, and leave it to rise for one hour.
5. Bake the risen dough at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes.
If you make a sourdough starter, then you will not have to buy dry active yeast anymore. You'll save money, and sourdough bread is much healthier for you.
To make a starter, you only need two ingredients - flour, and water. Use a flour such as white, wheat, spelt, or rye. The water should be spring water, or very filtered. Mix a cup of water and a cup of flour. Leave this batter in a container in a dark area of your counter or in a cabinet. Leave it alone for a few days.
Then, add another cup of flour and another cup of water. Mix well. Leave it alone for another few days. Add another cup of flour, and another cup of water. Don't forget to mix well. Leave the mixture alone for a week, and then mix it, and use some. Keep the unused portion in the fridge, in a container with a small hole in the lid. Store in thick plastic, pottery, or glass, but not in metal. Feed the starter each week, by mixing in equal parts of flour and water.
Flour and Water Bread
You can make a fully risen loaf of bread, using nothing but flour and water - it's true. :-)
1. Grab some of your sourdough starter (straight from the fridge, or warm from the counter is fine). Remember, sourdough starter is made just from flour and water.
2. In a bowl, put in one cup of your starter, and then add in 1 and 1/4 cup of water. Mix.
3. Start adding in flour, and mixing, until the mixture turns into a sticky dough. Form the sticky dough into a ball, and place it on a baking sheet, or cookie sheet. Let it rise for about a dozen hours. If your starter leavens quick (the older the starter, the better it does) then you can let it rise for only seven hours or so.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes.
Delicious Sourdough Bread
This recipe can be made with white, wheat, or spelt flour. I personally suggest spelt or wheat.
- one cup of sourdough starter (straight from the fridge, or warm from the counter is fine)
- 1 and 1/4 cups water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 cup sourdough starter
- 3-5 cups of flour
MAKE THIS BREAD
1. Mix all of the above ingredients together, except for the flour
2. Mix in flour, and keep adding more, until the mixture forms into a very thick, sticky batter, or almost into a dough.
3. You don't have to knead. Put the mixture into a greased loaf pan.
4. Let it rise for 7-12 hours. If it is fully risen (about double in bulk) by 7 hours, then you can bake it. Else, give it more time. The older the starter, the quicker the bread will rise, and the more delicious it will be.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes.
Other Things to Bake
From time to time, and for special occasions, you'll probably want to make cookies and cakes. Many cookie recipes do well with using wheat flour in the place of white flour. This is especially true of traditional chocolate chip cookies. Also, many people use homemade cattail flour in their cookies, and they say it's the only way to go.
Granola is another healthy staple that can be made on a regular basis. Even though this article is about baking, let me first introduce you to raw granola, and then to baked.
How to Make Raw Granola
This is a great granola to make if you are in a hurry, or if you want something different.
To make this granola - wing it. Throw a lot of raw old fashioned oats into a bowl, then pour in some honey, sliced almonds, raisins, shredded coconut, and a generous amount of peanut butter, or almond butter. Mix it all together. If the mixture is too wet, add more oats. If it is too dry, put in a bit more nut butter and/or honey. It should be very clumpy. This raw granola is great to eat by itself, or with milk, like cereal.
Delicious Baked Granola
In a very large bowl, mix together all of the following: 8 cups of oats, 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon, a pinch of sea salt, 1/2 cup of coconut oil, 1 cup of honey, 4 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract.
Spread the mixture in a large roasting pan (or any baking pan large enough to really spread this around) and bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes. Take the mixture out of the oven every five minutes to mix it, so that it bakes evenly and doesn't burn.
Then, transfer the mixture back to your very large bowl, and mix in: 3 cups of raisins, 1 cup of shredded coconut, and a good handful or two of sliced almonds. Let the granola cool completely, then store it in a sealed container on the counter or in a cabinet. This makes a fabulous cereal with milk.
1. Find some good cookbooks with some great baking recipes in them
2. Try making an acorn flour, and/or cattail flour - even if you only do it once in your lifetime, just try it, as a new skill.
3. Bake some bread, and enjoy