The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Microwave Bread???

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Microwave Bread???

Just hear me through on this. I know the idea of baking bread or I guess it would be "cooking" is never going to produce artisan loaves. But, here is the situation---

I recently sent a microwave oven to a family member that is doing his 4th tour in combat. He's in Afghanistan near Torra Borra where all the noise is being made at the moment. Normally he has been based in some remote location living in a tent far from civilization but now he is in a small FOB that has electricity. I also sent 60 boxes of MW popcorn so the guys could have a little snack between being shelled by rockets. I send him something every 3 or 4 weeks and I try to keep it interesting. His father sends toothbrushes and Twinkies which they love and things they know he will share with his buddies.

I started to think about things I could send that would work in the new oven and bread came to mind. I did a search on the net and only found old references to baking in a MW but it does seem like it should be possible to turn out something that would be passable for crumb. This is a small .8 cu ft dorm type model so no convection heater. I have a 3 cup batch in ferment now I plan to try later today as a first effort. They have water that gets trucked in with the ammo so if I can get this to somehow work I could send mixes with all the dry ingredients in the right proportions.

Does anyone have any experience baking anything in a MW oven? I was also thinking muffins might work in a silicone muffin pan. Ideas anyone?

I could just send a toaster oven I suppose but in a couple weeks he is going to get the MW and I'm trying to find creative things they can use it for.

Thanks for listening folks, I know this is a little weird.
Eric

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Thanks, those are the 2 I found and they look to be similar procedures.

I just cooked my 3 cup batch and it did rise 30% in the cooking process. I stopped the oven at 6 minutes as the top felt like it was springy and done? The internal temp was a little over 200 F and the loaf was steaming, the oven was exhausting a lot of moisture. When I dumped it out of the Pyrex bowl I cooked it in, the sides and bottom were sticky. It has become less sticky now that it has set for a few minutes.

It doesn't look bad as you can see below. The flour was rising and then steamed. It's a little chewy, like bagel crumb only maybe a little tough. I guess if you had been eating foil pack MRE's for the last 4 years it might seem pretty good. Ideas?
Eric

CrumbCrumb
Fresh off the bowlFresh off the bowl
Proofed and SlashedProofed and Slashed
Ready to ProofReady to Proof

mse1152's picture
mse1152

I don't have any more wisdom about making microwave bread, but if I were stuck out in the boonies, I'd devour anything that looked the least bit like homemade bread!  I bet if you can come up with a decent recipe, you'll have created a lifetime baker or two when those guys come home.

Did you cook it in one step?  Maybe a series of cook cycles with a rest in between will give some different results.  Or maybe some adjustment in hydration.  Would egg or milk help tenderize it?  Let us know how it all comes out.

Sue 

naschol's picture
naschol

The only thing I can contribute is that if you plan on sending mixes, perhaps you could put them in oversized zipper bags, so they can just add water and mix and knead in the bag with their hands. That way, they won't need utensils, bowls, etc. and can keep their hands clean...

I wonder if lining the bowl with parchment would help with the sogginess? Or, just put it on the bottom of the MW and make free-form loaves.

Nancy

Woz's picture
Woz

Perhaps cooking it in bursts might help with the sogginess. IE., instead of cooking in one complete session, cook it for a couple of minutes and then rest for a minute to let the steam escape, cook for another couple of minutes and let the steam escape, ... you get the idea. It would require a bit more attention but might result in a more loaf-like consistency.

Also, oiling the bowl before nuking it might get a crisper crust by slightly frying it. 

Woz 

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Microwave-English-Muffin-Bread/Detail.aspx

Take a look at the recipe. They describe proofing at 50% for a minute, then a rest for 10 minutes or so and repeating that process a couple times. You could add some powdered milk ,would that help tenderize ? Of course then, you'll have to send a toaster and peanut butter!! I did look in a microwave cookbook I have. There are yeasted & quick breads, muffins, and cake, but they all need the addition of oil and/or eggs. Good luck!! and no I don't think it's weird, I think it's very cool that you're doing this!!

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Thanks for that Paddyscake. The recipe calls for warm milk but as you say warm water and dry milk would probably substitute OK. I really wonder if it wouldn't be better to just send a toaster oven also. Then they could just bake a small loaf using normal means. Sending a couple small bottles of vegetable oil would be OK to use in the mix.

I need to make this as easy as possible, understanding that these folks are thinking about rockets first and baking maybe 10th on the list. A "just add water" approach. I plan on stopping by Penzeys Spices later this week to see what they have that might be helpful.

 Eric

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Oil could be added if needed using an additional small bag (no air pockets--expands in flight) inside the bread mix bag.  Try low protein flour and see how that works, I know that protein can get tough in the Microwave.  Brown sugar, roasted flour and toasted ingredients could also be an interesting way to add flavors.    Nuts, chocolate sprinkles, spices?  Chocolate chip micro muffins?  Halloweeen candy corn, M & M's, Reeces pieces? 

Your loaf looks really good for the Microwave, maybe the sticky surface could be dusted with something while it sets, like toasted oat flakes or a mixture of toasted rolled "quick" grains with a pinch of salt and/or butter flavored oil.     

Don't forget a pair of oven mitts & measure cup. 

Mini O

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Thank you all of you who are chiming in on this strange idea. I will tell you that the bread pictured above was edible in a humorous sort of way while it was warm. 30 min later it was still soft enough but shoe leather is easier to eat! I know there are dry versions of some things we normally use in liquid form, like honey for example. I have friends in the honey products business who make a delicious honey flavored pancake batter mix, all dry, just add water.

I suspect oil would soften up the crumb and lubricate the gluten. Mini's mention of low protein flour might be a good test. This trial was 100% Harvest King which is fairly strong flour. Another thing, this entire process only took 2 hours, start to finish and that's with 1-1/2 hours proof time. A longer ferment would soften the dough as the acid level rises.

In this particular case, the oven will live in an unheated concrete bunker and once warmed, will provide a semi stable temperature environment and the ability to ferment and proof. Boiling water will warm the oven and hold heat while being operated at the lowest power.

More experiments today.

Eric

bitbyter's picture
bitbyter

What are temperatures like in Afganastan and how much sunlight is available? They might be able to construct a solar oven. They are fairly easy to build from scavanged materials and can easily produce the tempuratures needed for baking bread and as a plus they can use it anywhere! You can find instructions for various types all over the internet. I have produced chili, lasanga and even baked a cake in a solar oven I built years ago.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Bitbyter, A Solar oven might work but they are in the mountains in a valley so there would be some shading. Also it's way up in the northern 1/3 of the country. I'm not sure how practical it would be.

A Earthen oven would actually be my first choice. I think he is coming home on leave in November for a short time. I may try to show him Kiko Denzers book to see if it's something they could build or would be interested in fooling with. I have to keep in mind these guys could be moved on a whim this afternoon and abandon everything  they can't carry.

Eric

Henry's picture
Henry

 Henry

Eric:

I’m not trying to discourage you for a second with your microwave trials, but you are going down a path that others have walked before.

Pyler, in his brute of a book:” Baking Science and Technology” baked bread in microwave to produce a crust less loaf with little flavour development.

He concluded that much of breads flavour is formed in the crust region through compounds produced by the Maillard reaction, which then finds its way into the crumb region.

From my understanding, there’s a woman working at the US Army’s Natick Research Development and Engineering Centre in Massachusetts working on providing bread to the army field personnel. Some consider her to be one of the world’s leading authorities when it comes to bread.

Dr. L Hallberg: Food Technologist, Microbiologist, Molecular biologist and Biochemical Engineer.

Wow, talk about credentials.

She’s come up with bread that can last at least three years even after the extremes of 140 f temperatures or artic freeze conditions (the cold part of the test was probably done in Canada)

I guess those are the foil pack MRE's that you mention

Apparently she’s working on a peanut butter and jam sandwich.

Regards

Baker Henry

Vancouver Canada

 

 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Henry, I appreciate the reference to the Army test facility. She does indeed have a set of credentials. All that for a PB&J sandwich. The field rations I ate in Viet Nam were delicious, for about a day. From what I hear the MRE's of today are a considerable improvement from the old days.

After only 2 test batches here in my kitchen I would have to say I am far from being able to produce anything edible in the way of a MW bread product. The steam produced seems to leave the dough with out bread flavor. Indeed somehow the crust seems to be the source of that special toasted wheat aroma and flavor. Thanks for your thoughts Henry.

Cheers,
Eric

bitbyter's picture
bitbyter

You can also bake bread in a makeshift stone oven as long as you have some large flat rocks around (one for the bottom and then construct a stone "box"). You can then build a fire in it, let it burn down and then scrap out the coals. It's far from ideal and would take a lot of practise but I know it can be done. This might be the best bet for them as they would be able to rebuild their oven with local materials where ever they are moved.

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

It's been 20 years, but I used to bake gingerbread and other quick breads in the microwave. I had a ring pan which helped, though you can also just stick a glass in the middle of the pan to keep batter out of the center.

Anyway, with powdered eggs and powdered milk, you might be able to make up pretty good quickbread mixes. As mentioned earler, the oil for each mix could go in a separate small bag in the mix. Normally I hate to store oil in plastic, but sometimes I have to make exceptions.

L_M's picture
L_M

Microwave bread instructions

 

Microwave bread instructions

Hi Eric,

I'm not sure this will be of any help but it's the only info I have - but I didn't ever try it myself but maybe some part of it will be of use. I hope the picture is clear enough...

L_M 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Thanks L_M the picture is fine. I think small sweet breads are possible in a MW. Unfortunately they don't have eggs or butter available in the field. I appreciate the thought.

If my cousin goes back to the same base after leave I've decided to send him a toaster oven and some bread kits that will be sized for the oven.

Eric

L_M's picture
L_M

Eric, I wish him the best of luck. It sounds like the conditions over there are quite a bit rougher than they are here. Our whole country is geared towards the army, so in general, during their regular army service the soldiers are well taken care of, but in the field it's always tough.

L_M 

lizard's picture
lizard

I am going into this discussion very late in the day and I have to tell you that I make fabulous bread in the microwave.  I am in South Africa, hence the names of the products may sound strange -

I use 2 cups Nutty Wheat (wholewheat flour), 1 cup Jungle Oats (rolled oats) and 1 cup ordinary white flour.  I mix these and add 2 teaspoons salt and a packet of the dried instant yeast.  I mix it to quite a slack dough so that it can be mixed with a spoon and kneading is not necessary.  The exact quantity of water will vary.  It rises to double the bulk in about 2 hours, then I mix down and put it in lightly greased MW pan or clay flower pots.  The loaves rise in 10 to 15 minutes.  I do them one a time in the MW for 11 minutes each at full power.

I let them stand in the pans for a few minutes and then turn out.  They look a bit wet and sticky when they come out and give off a lot of steam.  I let them cool on a rack and they are then perfect.  My grandchildren say this bread is better than cake and a piece with peanut butter is out of this world.  Excellent for the bowels too!!!

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Thanks Lizard. I appreciate that recipe and method. The fellow I was trying to help has since been moved to another location and had to leave the MW oven behind. However if he gets stationed where he could use it again I'll send him another. I'm going to try your recipe anyway. The flower pot sounds like fun for the daughter. Love those Peri-Peri chili's.

Eric 

Tacomagic's picture
Tacomagic

Hi,

I know you asked about using a MW to make bread, but with him moving around a lot I thought I'd let you in on the best kept backpackers secret.

First off, I'm an avid backpacker who likes to do long 1-2 week trips through the mountains.  When I first started off, I was happy enough to use those freeze dried mixes and be done with it.  However, as I grew as a backpacker, and as a cook, I realized that I could expand my culinary ability not just in the kitchen, but also on the trail.

From this growth came probably the best discovery/purchase I ever made: the "Outback Oven."  If your family member has access to a small portable stove (which may or may not be the case in Iraq), then you may want to consider picking one of these up for him.  I've made a variety of wonderful things on the trail in this little beauty on "water only" recipies, including: Bread, cake, brownies, cookies, and pizza.

The Outback Oven:
http://www.backpackerspantry.com/prodinfo.asp?number=167000

I use a small coleman gas stove similar to this (mine is a white fuel, looks similar):
http://www.amazon.com/Coleman-Exponent-Multi-Fuel-Backpacker-Stove/dp/B0009VC7QK
So if he has a small gas stove as part of his tack, then he'd be all set.

If he doesn't have the stove, then this probably won't be much use.  Otherwise, most non-oil recipes are really easy to convert to water only dry packs with the use of dried milk and dried eggs.

Cheers,
Taco

Confusion is a state of mind... or is it?

bingo's picture
bingo

I am inclined to agree that it will be difficult to "bake" in a MW, however there are pot pies on the market that brown by using a specialised metal insert in the top. That may be worth a look.


All that aside your idea to help the troops moral by helping them with better food is a GREAT! idea. Perhaps someone should suggest to Alton Brown his show "Good Eats" on the food network a show about cooking in primitive conditions with limited resources for the troops.


Anyway Good luck with your search and may God bless your efforts.


Gary

rockrunner's picture
rockrunner

Mwaving bread can't be done if u've no electric power. So, Go the Israelite way...unleavened bread cooks on hot rocks, tank tops and wagon hoods; not even any need for a fire....Mix flour with water/wine/beer to a solidish goo, maybe lightly grease the cooking area, drop on the dough and flip it at halftime, which is a few minutes. Nudge it as it cooks to stop it from sticking;it tastes fine. 


Go fancy with salt, stirred egg, sugar, spice u like, a little butter or cooking oil. it'll taste even finer ! . All the Best .


Why not try a Smoothie Lite?: fruit cordial, milk, fruit juice; yogurt, hot sauce, are optional extras. It's truly delicious.



Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I got a used one drying out now - washed it- didn't want all the added salt.  As the moisture seems to be a problem, maybe I should open both ends of the bag.  Now... heating element down or up?

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Never tried this but it might work if the loaf isn't very tall. If you put the dough in a paper baking pan there would be some energy drawn to the paper so I'd try putting the heat side up. You culd also try cutting the heating side out of another bag and putting that on the bottom. That way you would get heat from both sides.

Please Mini, do share the results!

Cheers,

Eric

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

bread machine.  Instructions, well, forget the instructions, can't read them if I tried.  I made a sponge with some water on the upper side of 100% hydration to peak and plan on mixing that with some more of the flour mix to make a dough.  So far smells pretty darn good.  I've tucked the sponge in the fridge to cool down.  I am assuming this is a rapid rise mixture and planning a siesta, so mixing final dough with cold water to slow down the fermentation.  

I don't have an oven, just a small fry pan with a lid (plan on making buns English muffin style) and was thinking about the microwave popcorn bag.  Maybe flip them over half way thru the bake.   I could also just nuke buns and toss into a hot pan to brown or do you think they would deflate?

Mini

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Haha, I think I would start to love flat breads you can cook on the stove top. Roti, pita maybe with a cover you could heat on another burner first. Crumpets or English Muffins.  I never had much luck baking in a MW. Quick breads have the best chance but it's really a steamed bread in the end.

You might get yourself a few bricks and make a small WFO if you have room and permission. Just a small thing you could dismantle when you leave.

Eric

Susan Kline's picture
Susan Kline

Years ago I attempted cake in the microwave with limited success.  It would never compare to what comes out of an oven.  Why don't you experiment with your microwave at home making bread and if you have success, you can share your method with your family member.  He is very fortunate to have you thinking of him and we are very fortunate to have him and all the other service members out there volunteering their service for us!

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Susan,
This is an old thread back when I was trying to find a way to help my cousin on the front lines of Afghanistan. Thankfully he is home now after 5 long tours on the front lines. In the end, I decided to make well soured rye bread and ship it sealed along with professionally vacu-sealed cured smoked ham. It takes 2 weeks for a package to arrive from here and I was holding my breath it would be OK to eat. Amazingly, the bread didn't mold when wrapped in a paper bag and the meat was always good.  I shipped the fixings for hot ham and cheese sandwiches every month for two years and never had a complaint.

 

Eric

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I decided to cut all the paper away from the popcorn bag so I could see what's going on when I commenced nuking.   I set a small risen bun on the popcorn heat pad still covered with the original paper and set this on a small plate for easy removal.  Set the timer for 3 minutes with full power (850W) and sat back to watch.  It rose well, and after about one minute, flipped it over -- no brown bottom.  I continued the bake and removed the bread to cool.  It cooled quickly and soon I was starring at a hockey puck.  Hard as a little brick.  I could only cut into it while warm with my scissors and discovered it was completely dried out but very nice bubble structure.   Dried out it is possible to eat, crispy like rye crisp bread but way too thick!  Aha moment.

So with the next bun I flattened it out but too impatient to wait and nuked it before it had recovered from my degassing.  So naturally it was dense. ... next time.   The other little buns I had already fried, English muffin style but the first 3 were too brown, so I nuked them each 10 seconds to bake the insides.  The last buns (3, there were 8 total) in the pan got a good steaming when they first went in and a lower dry fry temperature.  Removed the lid when I flipped them over.  

Comparing the height of the buns, the tallest is the first dried nuked one with almost a burnt inside, next were those that were fried and then nuked.  The  poperly fried Muffins came in third.   All rose,  they all tasted pretty good.  Two are already gone, oops.   (4 left for lunch)

The sponge had stood in the refrigerator overnight, hadn't gone stringy so it was in good shape.   I stirred it up with equal amounts of water and added more flour mix with a fork until a nice shaggy sticky dough formed.  Covered it and went out to the markets to buy some meat for lunch.  I just love these little towns!  Never know what's around the corner!  

I tipped the dough out after an hour onto a floured surface and did a fold and rest.  Divided the dough into 8 pieces and covered with a wet heavy duty table napkin to rise a second time.  Meanwhile made a salad for two using most of one zucchini, half an avocado, a little Spanish orange zest, cider vinegar, fresh garlic and a tad of olive oil, black pepper, salt.   I have a whole chicken breast and I think I'll whack it with a tea cup into a chicken steak.  Getting close to 2 pm (lunch time here) so gotta run...  :)

Mini

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Mini you have to show us a tour of your diggs. Those little towns are so interesting. I'm sure I am not alone in wanting to see where you are and what you are dealing with, and the breads. It sounds like you are making progress and may arrive at a combination process.

Cheers,

Eric

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

http://www.squidoo.com/reinosa

Yesterday, I photographed the convent with a stork nest on top of the convent bell tower.  I'm right in the center of town.  

aytab's picture
aytab

I've mentioned this before, cooking with vehicles, I'd bet the soldiers could find a spot in the engine bay of a tank, Humvee etc where they could bake bread in some kind of a covered dish. Put the dough in the pan, tape the lid on and strap it or tape it to a flat spot inside the engine bay. I would imagine the engine bay of an Abrams Tank gets pretty darn hot. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Quite interesting thoughts.  How about a camouflage republication or an army version of "Manifold Destiny?"  (also see TFL "X files")

Special chapters and diagrams for tankoven, humvoven, jeepoven (how to pronounce them) and reconnaissance baking tips with below-radar non-reflective alu-foil.  Also a special chapter on how to hide your mission by smelling like a local bakery/pastry shop.  (Just stretching the imagination here.)   

I was hoping the popcorn bag would brown the dough more.  Rather disappointed in that.  How many miles to brown a loaf of bread?  

aleksandra's picture
aleksandra

This would have been perfect for you to send him back then! http://www.yummly.com/recipe/external/Josey-Bakers-Adventure-Bread-573874

I think the problem with your loaves would be that you're cooking it in a sealed container / tin, because there is none of the dry heat an oven gives there will be all that steam and nowhere for it go. In my experience with cooking things in the microwave in order to dry them out you just need to cook them a little longer. What could be done perhaps is to remove the bread from its tin after it has solidified and cook it further. As far as maillard reactions and crust and all, the reason why that won't occur is probably because of moisture which will inhibit crystallisation, but that alone won't account for any lack of flavour or texture. What would have to be done is experimenting with various recipes and cooking methods. Spraying sugarwater onto the loaf at the later stages could possibly aid some sort of crust formation, just like spraying water on a loaf in the oven. All this is just ideas though, I've never tried microwave bread (just used it for proofing) but I plan to give it a shot now!

But what you really should have sent him is a rice cooker. I grew up in Thailand where they are a household staple and over the years I have cooked just about everything in them, including bread, cake, and baklava. Just about an entire kitchen can be reduced into one cheap little rice cooker.