I frequently hear preppers say, “I don’t store wheat because I will never use it.” Oh, my friends, you are seriously missing out on one of life’s great pleasures. Let me introduce you to no-knead sourdough and natural yeast bread.
Is it possible to make delicious bread with only wheat, water, and salt? You can create incredible bread using only basic ingredients of ground wheat, salt, and water. I do it on a regular basis. I use the ancient method known as sourdough or natural yeast to leaven the bread.
Mix in just a few other delicious ingredients and your menu possibilities are literally endless.
Knowledge is power, and I’m about to share with you something that took me years to discover. You can master this skill in a few short months and your diet will be healthier and your taste buds much happier.
Instant Yeast Isn’t the Only, Nor the Best, Leavening Solution for Bread
For years, I made a delicious homemade whole wheat bread with instant yeast and added additional gluten to improve the texture. I worried that when times get tough I might not have the instant yeast that my recipe required. My original breadmaking method was costly and not sustainable.
As I began to explore my options, I had one lingering question. How did our ancestors make bread without yeast?
I discovered a way to make delicious, light and fluffy bread using a fermentation process. This process is traditionally referred to as sourdough but some call it natural or wild yeast fermentation. It takes more time to make bread using this process, however, I have found that it actually requires much less work overall.
I simply mix up the dough and allow it to rest overnight. I then shape it and let it rise for 2-3 more hours. I prefer the artisan bread so I bake it in a Dutch oven inside of my oven to create a thick, crispy crust. Wow! The result is amazing even using freshly ground whole wheat flour.
The traditional loaf of San Francisco sourdough simply requires water, flour, and salt. The leavening or yeast in the start is obtained from the air around us.
The modern method of baking bread using quick rising yeasts can lead to digestive disorders and nutritional issues. Using wild or natural yeast, we utilize a slow growth process which breaks down harmful enzymes in the grain and creates a bread that digests easily and doesn’t cause spikes in blood sugar.
White Flour Has a Short Shelf-Life
Bread made with natural yeast is much more nutritious and absolutely delicious once you get the hang of it. The best part is that you can create it using 30-year-old storage wheat.
While white flour may not be nutritious, it sure can make bread tasty when mixed with whole grains to create a lighter bread. The big problem with white flour is that it has a short shelf life (about 5 years) and can’t be stored for long term with your survival food supply.
The survival bread recipes below are created using whole wheat flour that we ground fresh in our kitchen. If you are truly in survival mode, you are much more likely to have wheat than white flour to work with.
Depending on what cooking options you have available to you during a crisis, you may only be able to fry bread. No problem, you can still make nutritious flatbread by frying these on a hot surface.
Sourdough Survival Pan Bread
This is my recipe for basic survival pan bread. It is incredibly simple.
Sourdough starter (ground wheat and water)
Mix the ingredients together to create a thin batter. Pour out the batter onto a hot oiled surface and cook on both sides. Adding a little bit of oil to this batter will improve the taste and texture.
You can make a similar product by simply mixing flour, water, and salt. However, the sourdough start makes it easier to digest and improves the flavor.
If you make a thicker dough, you can shape it into balls, roll it out, and fry it like a tortilla. I like to save time and just use a thin batter.
Sourdough Survival Raised Bread
This is my basic survival bread recipe which uses freshly ground whole wheat flour, water, and salt.
Basic Survival Bread Recipe
This recipe makes 2 loaves of delicious sourdough bread. The basic ingredients for it can be stored in your survival food supply for over 30 years.
2 cups FRESH, healthy sourdough start
3 cups warm non-chlorinated water
1 Tablespoon sea salt
7-10 cups freshly ground wheat flour
In a large glass mixing bowl, combine start, water, salt, and 4 cups of flour together. Continue adding flour a little at a time until the dough holds shape nicely but is not too thick.
It is better to err on the side of too little flour than too much flour. Too much flour will create dense, heavy loaves. Cover with plastic wrap, dishcloth or loosely fitting lid and let sit in a warm location at room temperature for 10-18 hours.
Divide the dough in half and use a little bit more flour to help shape the loaves into round boules or into traditional loaves. Place baking parchment paper in the bottom of a bowl or baking dish and place the dough on top. Cut the top of the dough with a sharp knife to provide places for the bread to split as it bakes. Cover and let rise until doubled (1-3 hours).
Place two Dutch ovens inside of the oven and preheat to 425°. Slide the parchment paper with the dough on it into the Dutch ovens and replace the lids. Bake for 40-45 minutes until the internal temperature is 195°- 200°. Allow bread to cool completely before slicing. This usually only works for the second loaf in our house.
Survival Bread Tips
A little bit of coconut oil or potato (potato water, flakes, starch … whatever you have) will soften the dough and result in a lighter end product.
If you like a stronger sourdough taste, let the start go longer between feeding. Feed the start more frequently for a milder taste.
Once you have this recipe down, the sky is the limit. You can create thousands of delicious variations. Try some of these variations by simply adding the additional ingredients when you initially mix up the bread.
- Basic Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread – I add powdered milk, honey, coconut oil, and a few potato flakes to the dough. Instead of shaping it into balls, I simply proof it in bread pans.
- Jalapeno Bread – Add 1 small can of jalapeno peppers. Sprinkle the top of the finished dough with sesame seeds and smoked paprika before baking.
- Cinnamon Raisin Bread – Add honey, powdered milk, coconut oil, cinnamon, and raisins. Sprinkle top of the finished dough with cinnamon sugar just before baking.
- Garlic Parmesan Bread – I use mostly white flour in this recipe. Sauté red peppers with a clove of chopped fresh garlic. Add to the dough along with a generous handful of shredded parmesan cheese. Top dough with parmesan cheese and paprika just before baking.
- Rosemary and Asiago Cheese Bread – Try adding fresh rosemary, asiago cheese, garlic, and Kalamata olives to the dough. Before baking sprinkle smoked paprika on the top of the dough.
- Natural Yeast Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins – I mix up a “sponge” the night before that contains the pumpkin, starter, sugar, flour, salt, and milk. In the morning, I add eggs, baking soda, oil, chocolate chips, and spices and pop them in the oven. They are a welcomed breakfast treat at our house.
- Sourdough Pancakes – Super simple and delicious. I freshen the starter with flour and water the night before. In the morning, I add honey, melted butter, salt, baking soda, and just the right amount of milk to make the batter perfect.
The Secret to Fantastic Bread is the Sourdough Starter
Now that you know you can make fantastic bread with just a few basic ingredients, I bet you have a few questions about the magic ingredient that makes this all possible.
What is Natural Yeast or Sourdough Start?
A natural yeast or sourdough start is a living colony of healthy probiotic bacteria. This friendly bacteria grows and multiplies rapidly making it the perfect leavening agent for bread.
The sourdough start is alive and must be fed with equal parts of non-chlorinated water and flour. Chlorine may kill the bacteria. A warm environment speeds up growth while a cool environment slows the growth of the bacteria.
I always use whole wheat flour in my starter but if you prefer to use white flour it will work nicely.
What is the Best Container to Store a Sourdough Start?
Glass Containers are Ideal for the Storage of Sourdough Start
Remember that a natural yeast or sourdough start is a living breathing friend. The container must allow it to breathe. I personally store my start in a quart mason jar with a plastic lid. The lid has several small holes drilled into the top which allows for adequate oxygen.
One of my friends puts a canning lid on her start but she places the lid upside down to prevent it from sealing and doesn’t screw the ring down tightly. Another friend just sets a cap on top but doesn’t secure it.
I was teaching a class and brought my natural yeast along in a jar. I had secured the lid for safety during transport. The car was warm, which made the yeast very happy. I brought the box containing the natural yeast jar into the presentation room and set it on the table. Before I had a chance to take it out of the box it literally exploded out of the jar. There was natural yeast everywhere! It was an interesting learning moment.
A plastic lid with little holes drilled in it has been the perfect inexpensive answer for me. Occasionally I might get a little bit of leakage out the top but I have never had this one explode.
Stoneware Crocks are Perfect for the Storage of Sourdough Start
Ceramic or stoneware crocks are a traditional container for keeping a sourdough start happy. They are uniquely designed to allow the start to breathe and insulate it from temperature changes.
Avoid Storing Sourdough Starts in Metal or Plastic
Avoid storing your sourdough start or allowing the bread to rise in metal containers because the start is acidic. It will break down metals and give the start a metallic taste. Stainless steel seems to work fine.
I will sometimes let my dough rise in my stainless steel Kitchen Aid bowl if I have mixed it up in there to start with. Saves on dishes.
The same recommendation applies to plastic. I don’t want the plastic leaching into my delicious healthy bread. I like to stick with glass for both storing my starter and when proofing my bread.
What is FRESH Starter?
It is important that you make sure your starter is “fresh” or in other words active and bubbly. I keep my starter in the refrigerator and feed it twice a week … once if I get lazy. A fresh start means that it has been recently fed.
I take my start out of the refrigerator and add 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water and leave it at room temperature the day before I want to bake bread to make sure that it is happy. The happier the start, the more bubbles, the lighter and fluffier my bread will be.
How Do I FEED my Start?
There are two ways to keep a start. It can be kept on the counter or in the refrigerator.
Feeding a Sourdough Start That Lives on the Counter
It is a good idea to keep your start on the counter if you are baking daily or even every other day. It will store well in a glass jar or ceramic crock.
The start that is kept at room temperature must be fed daily. Mix in equal amounts of water and flour. Remember a healthy start will double in size so you should probably take out part of the start and either use it or dispose of it to prevent it from outgrowing the container.
Feeding a Sourdough Start That Lives in the Refrigerator
My start lives in the refrigerator because I only bake a couple of times each week. I find that it is too much work to make sure that I feed the starter every day. Theoretically, I should feed my refrigerated starter twice a week but realistically it gets fed once a week or when I make bread, pancakes, crepes, or muffins.
What is the Dark Liquid on the Top of the Sourdough Starter?
You may notice a dark liquid that forms at the top of your starter. This is naturally-occurring alcohol. It is also known as hooch. It is a harmless waste product and is an indicator that your start has depleted the food supply and needs to be fed. Pour it off and feed your starter.
How Do I Care for a Sourdough or Natural Yeast Starter?
You have a few options when it comes to caring for your natural yeast or sourdough starter.
- Store the start on the counter and feed it daily with equal parts of flour and water.
- Store the start in the refrigerator and feed it twice each week with equal parts of flour and water.
- Store the start in the freezer for up to one month (not in the mason jar).
- Make starter flakes and store for several years.
How Do I Obtain a Sourdough or Natural Yeast Start?
Start Asking – There are Sourdough Starts Living in Homes Near You
Ask around and you are bound to find someone who will gladly share a little bit of start with you to get you started on your adventure. You only need a few tablespoons. Mix it together with a cup of flour and a cup of non-chlorinated water and leave it on your counter.
I like to put a rubber band around the jar at the level of the start so that it is easy for me to visualize the growth of the start. If the start is happy, it will get very bubbly and will double in size within 24 hours.
Now it is your job to keep your new start happy and begin your new baking adventure. A few recipe books that may be worth reading to get you excited about baking with sourdough include:
- Artisan Sourdough Made Simple: A Beginner’s Guide to Delicious Handcrafted Bread with Minimal Kneading
- Sourdough: Recipes for Rustic Fermented Breads, Sweets, Savories, and More
- Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza
How to Create Your Own Fresh Sourdough Start
It might be easier than you think to create your very own natural yeast starter. I just finished creating a new start and it only took 6 days. This is the method that I used:
- Start with a wide mouth glass jar. I used a glass peanut butter jar.
- Mix 1 cup of non-chlorinated water with 1 cup of flour.
- Mix very well to aerate.
- Place a rubber band around the outside of the jar to mark the level of the start.
- Leave the jar open to the air. Cover lightly with a cloth to protect if needed.
- Stir 3 times each day to aerate.
After 48 hours …
- Feed by adding ½ cup non-chlorinated water and ½ cup flour
- Mix well.
Repeat this process every day by discarding ½ cup of start before mixing in the new flour and water. Move the rubber band as needed to accurately keep track of the level of the start immediately after feeding.
Your start will be ready to use when it bubbles and doubles. Enjoy your new friend and treat it well.
How to Create and Use Dried Sourdough Starter Flakes
Drying some of your healthy starter can extend the usable life of the start for several years. As a prepper, I always like to keep a bottle or two of dried starter flakes in my food storage.
You can create a fresh batch of starter but it could take a week or two. Starter flakes can help you bring a start to life in a day or two.
Drying Sourdough or Natural Yeast Flakes
Take some happy, bubbly start and smear a thin layer on a plate or piece of parchment paper. Let it air dry for a couple of days. It should be completely dry and snap into pieces when bent.
Alternatively, you could just let the messy mixing bowl you created the dough in sit out for a few days and harvest the start that has dried on the edges of the bowl.
Storing Dried Flakes
Place the completely dried flakes in a small glass jar. Label and store them in a cool, dry, dark location. I recently used some 7 year old dried flakes to make a new start and they worked well. However, they probably would have worked faster if they were fresher.
Rehydrate Sourdough Flakes to Create a Fresh Start
Create a fresh start by adding a couple of tablespoons of dried sourdough start flakes to 1 cup non-chlorinated water and 1 cup flour. Stir well.
More than Just Survival Bread
Natural yeast or sourdough breads are healthy and incredibly delicious. It is the ancient method used by our ancestors to create breads that are easily digestible and created with basic ingredients.
On a personal note, I avoid gluten in my diet for health reasons. The fermentation process digests the gluten in the wheat. Bread fermented using the traditional sourdough method does not adversely affect me. I can eat soup in a sourdough bread bowl and enjoy chocolate cake made with natural yeast.
Some people can’t consume any wheat products even with fermentation. However, in a survival situation, fermented bread products will help reduce the potential problems of eating whole wheat for many people.
Making delightful breads with basic ingredients is a great skill that can be easily developed. It will help you enjoy life today and thrive in harder times. Store the wheat, water, and salt along with a good quality wheat grinder and you will be eating like the upper crust when disaster strikes.
No matter what challenges come your way, you will be able to feed your family healthy and nutritious bread. This skill takes a bit of time to master, but if I can do it, so can you!
Thanks for being part of the solution!Jonathan and Kylene Jones