The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Makeshift Bread Baking Experiences

bobchristenson's picture

Makeshift Bread Baking Experiences

I'm currently on vacation and am finding myself with absolutely no adequate tools for making a loaf of bread, but I'm doing it anyway :)  I thought it would be fun to hear people's stories of making bread when they have none of their normal, or even acceptable, tools and hear about how it came out.  Please share!

I'm currently in a vacation home and have none of my normal 'old reliables'...I'm not going to buy a bunch of stuff just to make a few loaves while here, so, here's what I've done:

Ingredients, luckily, aren't a problem.  I don't have my starter, obviously, so I stopped by the grocery and picked up some KAF bread flour and a pack of instant yeast.  The water is undrinkable here so I also picked up some big jugs of drinking water.

The hardest park so far is being without a scale.  Without weight measurements and without memorized recipes based on volume measurements, it's been more difficult than I thought to do a bunch of conversions from measure to weight to figure out a bakers percentage.  I didn't try very hard to find a 'by volume' recipe, so it was a bit harder than it needed to be.

After googling some cups -> weight or tbs->weight conversions, I got something I thought was close.  From there, I relied on my hands to tell me when the hydration was right.

I had no bowls so I mixed and fermented my dough in a casserole dish which worked ok.  Without a baking stone, I plan on baking on a cookie sheet with a second sheet preheaded in the oven to hold the steam-creating ice cubes.  

There's nothing within 50 miles, apparently, sharp enough to score the bread without tearing it, so I found a pair of office scissors (which I washed thoroughly) and plan on making my cuts using that...we'll see.

As you can hear I'm not finished....I'm currently proofing and am about to put it in the oven.  We'll see! 

In the end, even handmade bad bread is delicious it can only go so wrong. :)  Share you're stories about your most makeshift loaf...I'd love to hear them!

ssor's picture

so I came to figure three measures of flour to one measure of water. Anything will serve as a measure, coffee cup or soup can. I have baked bread in a gas grill with the lid closed but space the pan above the heat with a heat shield between.

AnnaInMD's picture

...I have baked bread in a gas grill with the lid closed but space the pan above the heat with a heat shield between......

bet you could even put some water in for steam !  I have to try that this summer.


bobchristenson's picture

Making my second loaf now...

What you say here, ssor, about a 3:1 measure ratio is awesome and I can't believe I haven't seen it anywhere.  Its so simple to start with 3 cups flour, 1 cup water...I did that this time and then adjusted slightly by feel.

I does this scale up to larger volumes?  It seems that 3:1 shouldn't work when you multiply it up to larger amounts...should it?

ssor's picture

into a cup and weighing the results. For five cups it was consistantly 5 ounces. So by that number, about 3 cups of flour would be better with 9.5 to 10 ounces of water. Then it would scale up properly. Or you could measure out 3 cups of flour and remove a heaping tablespoonful to set aside.

EvaB's picture

to measure with, and a whiskey bottle without the lable to roll out things, and she had a perfectly good rolling pin she gave me years later so it was more she liked the bottle! She made bread in a dishpan (metal one not plastic) and used 40 year old tins to bake it. She rarely ever measured or weighted anything, and made good breads.

I unfortunately didn't get her guestimation quotient, and I have to have a recipe to work from.

Maybe next time, you need to have an emergency bread kit to pack into your suitcase, bowl, measures, and pan, along with an easy to use recipe.

bnom's picture

I first started baking bread when living in a funky cabin w/o electricity in the 70s. We grew wheat, made wine, used the yeast from the wine. . .   The tools I had then are the same ones I use now...time and touch.  It serves me well now when we're at our vacation cabin (electricity but not scales, no lame, no stone, etc). It also steers me right if I get out of whack trying to follow a formula, which happens quite often.

Here's a pic from a bake I did at the cabin last summer (I did bring my SD with me). Used a razor blade on a coffee stir stick to slash.

Enjoy your vacation and your baking!

bobchristenson's picture

Well, the bread came out...OK.  Just ok.  I took a photo but, just like the bread tools, I'm trying to improvise a USB cable to connect my camera to this computer.  That's a little tougher than improvising a recipe :)

The biggest x-factor I didn't consider is the oven itself.  The 1982 Sears oven is, what we might call, uneven (to say the least).  I think someone may have randomly marked the temp. dial with any number that occured to them at the moment :)

Pic coming soon if I can get connected...I'll try another loaf before leaving. Thanks for sharing your stories!

bobchristenson's picture

As promised here's a pic.  The oven was a little scortching, but it tasted ok...the next loaf after this one was even better, though.  I made about 3 loaves while away and they all were edible :)

clazar123's picture

I have baked by the seat of my pants for a long time and don't even plan on bringing a recipe along. The 3:1 ratio is handy and actually about what I did-back in the day, when I think about it. I did make a lot of bricks,tho. 

I am bringing about 2-3 tbsp of my starter in a clean container, along with my "3 ounces of liquid that fits comfortably in a 1 qt ziploc"  (flying rules in USA for all the non-USA readers).I now use only that amount in 1 bake by using a preferment. The plan, on arrival, is to feed and the next day, start a preferment. I am not going for 10 days without my bread! I'm already used to baking in whatever container I find available! It may be interesting!

Thanks for an interesting post! Delicious looking bread!