Emergency Bread: Can you Bake Bread Without an Oven?

What would you eat if you were stranded without power? It could happen; it does happen. A natural disaster, a breakdown in the delivery system as the Northeast experienced recently, or a terrorist strike against the infrastructure could leave you without power. Don't despair. You probably have a source of heat-a camp stove, a barbeque grill, a fireplace, or a place to build a fire to cook with. (Never use a grill or camp stove in an enclosed room.) In most cases, you can find a way to eat your daily bread--even without an oven.

Fry it. Those indulgent raised, glazed donuts are fried. You can do the same with any dough. Serve them hot with a little butter and syrup or honey and you will have a treat that the kids will clamor for-even without an emergency. Simply mix the bread as instructed and let the dough rise. Instead of forming loaves, roll or pat the dough on a counter until it is about 1/2-inch thick. Slice the dough into wedges, separate the pieces, and let them rise again until twice as thick. Heat a pan of oil until hot and slip the dough pieces two or three at a time into the hot oil. When one side is browned, turn the dough over. If the oil is hot enough, the dough should absorb little oil. When done, drain the fried bread on paper towels.

Boil it. Bagels are boiled. Actually, they are boiled and then baked. You can form your dough into a bagel shape, let it rise, and then gently slip it into a large pan of rapidly boiling water. Once the bread is firm, remove it with a slotted spoon, let dry, and then fry each side in a lightly greased skillet to create a crust and finish the cooking. The advantage in this technique is that you can use much less oil (and oil may be limited in an emergency) than deep frying.

Bake it. That's right-even without an oven you can bake bread. It's easy to do on most outdoor grills. (Be prepared. Always have extra propane or charcoal on hand but never use an outdoor grill indoors.) Baking requires heat from both above and below. If your grill doesn't have a cover, use a bucket or tub to capture the heat and direct it down onto the bread. (You want as much heat coming from above as below.) If the bread is too close to the heat-as it likely is-stick something under the bread pan to raise it-a couple empty tuna cans, an old brick-almost anything will work as long as it doesn't insulate the bread from the heat.

You can use a Dutch oven to bake bread. Line the Dutch oven with aluminum foil and place the dough on the foil or lay the bread pan in the Dutch oven. Stack hot coals on the lid.

You can bake bread over an open fire with two pans. Two pie tins will work for biscuits. To form a makeshift oven, put a large heavy pan on warm coals, a lid or baking sheet over the top, and stack on hot coals. Remember, you are trying to get as much heat from above as below. (The tendency is to have too much heat at the bottom.)

A good place to practice these techniques is on your next camping trip. You can become a real pro at making unconventional bread while enjoying the treat of fresh bread while camping. We guarantee that fresh bread over an open fire will make you the envy of the campground.

With a little imagination, you can bake almost any bread without an oven. If you want to try frying bread, most white or wheat bread recipes are nearly foolproof. Even without the emergency, it won't go to waste.

We can hope that disaster never strikes but it's nice to know that those bread fixin's in the pantry can be used in an emergency.

See the Emergency Bread printable version and photo

This is an excerpt from The Prepared Pantry's Emergency and Outdoor Bread Manual which is available free for download.

2004, The Prepared Pantry

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