Survival food and life skills during crisis
In this time and place it helps the psyche to return to the basics, to the everyday things we do to make life worthwhile. Moneywise will return to discussions of financial matters in a few weeks. Right now we all just have to get through this unprecedented and tragic disruption from normal.
“A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou! Lots of butter added, too.” Whoever made that serendipitous quote exuberantly linked bread, wine and life in the same serendipitous scenario.
More than 15,000 years ago our ancients discovered a wild wheat called emmer. Gradually domesticated over thousands of years, the hard winter wheats of today, planted last autumn around the world (Russia and US are the largest producers) will be ready in the summer.
Hard winter wheat, the most common bread ingredient, has the highest gluten protein content compared to other wheats. It provides the best flour for successful yeast bread products.
Bread, which is composed of flour, water, yeast, and salt, can be hard, soft, crusted and crunchy, and with unique leavening qualities from its origins in the distant past. The derivations evolved from ethnicities, crops, growing conditions, and cultures.
According to the Fleischmann's World of Bread website, ancient Egyptians were the first to actually make bread using yeast as the fermentation catalyst. Archeologists have found grinding stones, baking chambers and actual sketches of 4,000-year-old bakeries and breweries.
Modern bread bakers have no claim on innovation. The Egyptians experimented with different types of grains, while adding other scintillating ingredients: honey, eggs, seeds, spices, and dates. We can certainly surmise that not only did these early pioneer bread makers understand nutrition, but they enjoyed a good party.
Louis Pasteur, the chemist who developed the pasteurisation of milk, formalised the living yeast organisms process of feeding on the starches in flour, producing carbon dioxide that rises the gluten proteins in the flour dough. A decade after Pasteur's biological work, in 1869, Fleischmann's Yeast company was founded. There is a link at the end of this article to their wonderful step-by-step breadmaking videos and education series.
Breadmaking is not difficult, but it does take time. The process is truly a hands-on, do-it-yourself accomplishment that cannot be duplicated. Breadmaking machines can be used, but the actual hand-mixing, touching, kneading and rising by taking a sticky mess of ingredients in a bowl, to the warm scent of home-baked bread has no equal, particularly if you can share the entire process with children and the family.
Breadmaking aficionados run the gambit. Whether using store bought flour, or grinding wheat berries — an incredible chore if using a hand grinding machine - all have one common unique trait, and that is experiencing the wonderful satisfaction of creating inexpensive, nutritious, homemade bread.
The finishing touch, a slice of life still warm with butter, jam or honey, is simply superb. No one can resist this treat.
The whole process is an educational teaching moment when we reflect on the survival existence of pioneer settlers' lives, whose every day involved intensive manual labour just to put food on the table.
Flat breads made without yeast
Every culture has its own unique breads: flat breads, tortillas, naan, roti, pita, matzah, focaccia, lavash, chapatti, ryebreads, etc. Made simply, the ingredients are measured, mixed with liquid, kneaded until smooth, rested, rolled thin, cooked quickly on stove top, griddle, or in less developed societies on outdoor fires, rocks, and steel plates.
Boosting protein content
Bread ingredient choices are unlimited after the basics. Have a picky eater, and need to boost the protein content? Substitute eggs, yoghurt, cottage cheese (beaten), apple sauce, milk, soy milk, orange juice, etc, for same amount of water. Add whole dry milk, plain whey powder, rolled oats, other flours, such as coconut, almond, ground nuts, seeds, dried fruit (soaked first) and so on, keeping in mind that the majority ingredient must be bread flour.
Superior breadmaking success story
Meet Lucinda Worrell-Stowe. Moneywise had the privilege of meeting Lucinda, a cancer survivor and an energy whirlwind, who after work each Friday afternoon starts her breadmaking: mixing, kneading, rolling and baking all through the night in her three huge ovens. She turns out more than 150 loaves of homemade bread fresh for purchase on Saturdays at the Bermuda Farmer's Market. Incredibly popular, Lucinda's Bread variations abound; she even produced prickly-pear combination — without the prickers, of course. Her products also extend to beans, chilli, and other specialities, all homemade. That's devotion!
Breadmaking and cooking good, inexpensive nutritious meals is a passion that she has employed for many years, while building lasting relationships with at-risk young people in her role as an ARISE life skills instructor. She also conducts cooking classes for children from ages four years and upwards, including their families in the process.
Cooking with basic, budget-friendly ingredients is a wonderful life skill. It is fun and promotes self-confidence involving many decision-making steps without the stress of failure.
Lucinda suggested that while sheltering, this is a great time for parents to bond with their children in the kitchen cooking not only bread, but meals that are inexpensive and nutritious. Plus, as Lucinda will say with a smile: “You know exactly what you are eating, because you know what you put in the mixture!”
Try Lucinda's bread recipe for yourself.
Recipe: Lucinda's Basic White Bread
Ingredients (makes two loaves)
2½ cups hot water (not boiled)
3½ tablespoons sweetener (honey, brown or white sugar, your choice)
1½ teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons shortening (butter, oil or Crisco)
6 cups white flour
2 packets Fleischmann's Yeast
1, In a large bowl put in the hot water, shortening, salt and sweetener, then stir until ingredients are all dissolved.
2, Next, in another bowl mix yeast and white flour together.
3, Combine both mixtures, knead dough for about 10 minutes. If dough is sticky, add a little extra flour until smooth.
4, Rub the outside of the entire dough with shortening. Cover with a cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size. It takes about two hours.
5, Next, divide the dough into two equal pieces and knead into loaves. Place the loaves into two lightly greased 9x5in loaf pans.
6, Cover the loaves with a cloth and let rise until doubled in size for about 1½ hours.
7, Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit.
8, Bake: 330 for about 40 minutes in the middle of the oven or until the top and bottoms are golden brown.
Note: for whole wheat bread, use four cups of wheat flour and 1½ cups of white flour.
• Moneywise thanks Lucinda Worrell-Stowe for her gracious time and sharing of one of her famous bread recipes. Contact Lucinda at: email@example.com
• More about Lucinda. Lifestyle featuring Lucinda Worrell-Stowe: The healing power of bread, Jessie Moniz Hardy, December 2014 https://tinyurl.com/yd3s6xnn
• Fleischmann's Yeast Education, breadmaking instruction videos and more at https://www.breadworld.com/education/history-of-yeast/
• Wikipedia: Winter wheat
• Martha Harris Myron CPA JSM: Masters of Law — international tax and financial services. Pondstraddler Life, financial perspectives for Bermuda islanders and their globally mobile connections on the Great Atlantic Pond. All proceeds earned from this column go to The Bermuda Salvation Army. E-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org