What happens when disaster strikes and you have to stay home, but the power is out? It can take days or even weeks for everyone in a region to have their power restored after a mass outage. Some emergencies may require us to stay indoors, leaving us without access to a working stove or our usual shops. And any shops that are open would only be able to accept cash, if they stay open at all. Most homes are well enough stocked that this isn’t a problem if it lasts a few days, but it can quickly become worrisome if it continues.
So, what do you do if this happens to you? Look to what our ancestors ate, of course! I’m talking about bread. It’s one of the staples of civilization and is made in different sizes, shapes, and techniques across the globe. Bread is high in carbs and calories—perfect for a quick energy boost or to add bulk to proteins, fruits, and vegetables. Plus, who doesn’t love bread? (Okay, some people can’t eat bread—but they’d probably like it if they could!)
Find Your Basic Bread Ingredients
The most basic bread recipes involve just flour and water. Salt is excellent to add some flavour, but in an emergency it can be left out as needed. Wheat flour is easiest and (in my experience) creates the best results, but you can use cornmeal in a pinch or for a gluten-free diet.
If your oven is working and you’re just getting low on foodstuffs—or you just want some excellent bread—here is my favourite bread recipe of all time. For this article, however, we’re going to assume that you have: flour, water, and access to your kitchen, but not your oven.
Including a bit of yeast generally makes for nicer, fluffier breads, and you don’t need to buy it from the grocery store. In an emergency (or if you are making sourdough) you can actually capture yeast from the air by mixing water, flour, and a pinch of sugar or a few drops of honey, and leaving the mixture covered at room temperature for at least 24 hours. This isn’t necessary but can lead to a more enjoyable result.
How to Make Bread Without Power
We’re going to avoid measured recipes for this post for two reasons: 1) You might not have measuring cups on hand, and 2) precision is not as important for emergency bread – we’re going for calories, not artisanal awards.
Begin by adding your flour to a bowl. If you’re not confident about eyeballing the amount, 2 cups, or 2 coffee mugs is a great place to start. Slowly add water a little at a time, mixing as you go. For emergency bread, you’re aiming for a thick, clumping dough – which in most cases uses only 1/4 as much water as there was flour. If you have salt, add a generous pinch.
Knead your dough for 5 minutes, and then leave it covered for 25 minutes. Once it’s had a chance to rest, separate your dough into walnut-sized balls. Sprinkle flour on a clean, flat surface and use a rolling pin to flatten each ball as thin as you can make it.
Making sure you’re in a well-ventilated area, use a camp stove, barbeque, or open fire to heat a pan and cook your emergency bread one piece at a time. Cook the bread on both sides. Continue until it forms blisters and/or it curls up at the edges. It may inflate and become balloon-like, which is fine. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn. Depending on your cooking time, the end result may be crispy and crackerlike. This is totally fine! Just make sure you have water with it because it might be a little dry.
Cultural Names for Bread
While I know this bread as ‘emergency bread’, in writing this article, I have discovered that it is also known as chapati and is a common staple in the Indian sub-continent. While technique and ingredients can vary somewhat, similar breads are known as roti, rotli, safati, sabaati, phulka, and roshi.
If you have flour, water, and heat, you can feed yourself in an emergency. That being said, for those of us that don’t want to worry about finding food in an emergency, there are lots of solutions to add to our emergency kits, including self-heating options, and food with 25 year shelf lives. Check out all our emergency foods out here!
This article was written by Zenia Platten – Author and emergency preparedness professional.